South Charlotte

Don't make this mistake with your computer

I am not technologically savvy. I am accused by my kids of severely under-utilizing my iPhone (a crime rendered more heinous by my status as the only member of the family to own one) and I am constantly being told there is a faster and better way of doing pretty much anything I do on my 4 1/2-year-old Macbook.

I am also ignorant of how everything on my computer works, so for me the fix to any glitch is to enlist the help of on expert.

When my screen went inexplicably black a few weeks ago, I was more annoyed than alarmed. I was headed out of town so I arrived at the Apple store at SouthPark mall when it opened, hoping my fleet of experts who have solved all prior problems within minutes of my explaining the issue will be ready. Zach, the genius on duty, immediately diagnosed the problem as a failure of my hard drive. I was instructed to leave my computer with him and return in a few hours and he would work his magic to make my Macbook operational again.

When I returned, I learned that Zach was on break and that there was good news and bad news. The good news was that I was the proud owner of a brand new hard drive. The bad news? That my old hard drive was broken beyond repair, and that there was no way to restore what was on it.

This is when someone who has heeded the advice of her husband and son to back up everything stored on her computer breathes a sigh of relief and says, "Thank goodness I have copies of everything."

Unfortunately, I was not that person. For some reason, rendered completely inexplicable in retrospect, I could not be bothered to buy an external hard drive and back things up. Everything from my columns and novels to my work files to thousands of photographs to emails and addresses was gone. The loss was like a sucker punch to my gut (which, as you may recall from my columns about my ovarian cancer ordeal, was already traumatized).

It turns out, however, that the Apple genius bar is not the final stop on this hard drive express.

A little web research yielded the names of dozens of companies that specialize in hard drive recovery and data retrieval. I was desperate and eager to get my hard drive restored as quickly as possible, which usually does not translate into being a smart consumer. I went with the first company that returned my call, which had the promising name of Data Retrieval, and was located out by the airport in an office park on Tyvola Road.

I paid $110 for them to even look at my hard drive, and I was then given a quote of $1,800 to attempt to retrieve my data, with no guarantees that they would be able to do so.

My stubborn refusal to back up my files was turning out to be a costly mistake.

Fortunately, another company, ReWave Data Recovery, had called me back. Marlon Stone, the data recovery manager, convinced me to let them have a go at my hard drive. We were able to negotiate a price of $500, payable only if they were able to recover my data.

I was heartened to hear their recovery rate was in the 90th percentile and that they had a successful track record with recovering desktops, laptops (my computer), external and RAID/Servers. ReWave is headquartered in Charlotte (in the University area) and has drop off locations in Raleigh/Durham, Atlanta, New York, and Boston, with more in the works.

As Stone says, ReWave's "free evaluation and no data - no fee service make us the ideal place for all data recovery needs."

Stone, who has a bachelor's degree from UNC-Charlotte, was the lead network administrator at a large accounting firm in uptown Charlotte for nine years prior to opening ReWave.

"We started having lots of hard drives failing," he explains. "We were sending drives off and realized that there was an opportunity there."

Most hard drive failures are due to two distinct types of problems - logical and physical.

"If the drive has a logical issue it may be firmware or microcode corruption, to name a few," says Stone. "If the drive has physical issues, there is most likely something, a head or arm, that is bent or broken inside the drive. Hard drives have a lot of moving parts and sometimes they break. "

ReWave has clients in both the business world and individual users, who often provide ReWave with great recovery moments, like retrieving family photos or videos of a child's birth.

They were successful restoring my hard drive and now I even have an external hard drive.

Stone's advice is to ensure that his company's services are not needed.

"The most important thing to remember is you need to have at least one backup of all of your critical data," he advises.

It is a lesson I learned the hard way.