Data Recovery Specialist  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotIt's a sickening feeling. Your computer refuses to open your files. Is all that work gone forever? To find out for sure, you need the help of an expert -- an expert known as a data recovery specialist.

dotComputer technicians and programmers need to retrieve lost data from time to time. There are consultants in the computer industry who make retrieving information their full-time job. And data recovery is an important part of the job for computer forensics experts.

Sometimes the specialist retrieves lost files by coaxing a broken hard drive to give up its secrets. Other times, the software has to be decoded.

A hard drive fault is called a physical problem. If the glitch is in the software, it's called a logical problem. A data recovery specialist is comfortable handling either one.

dotData recovery specialists should have a willingness to learn and do research, says Mari DeGrazia. She's a computer forensics examiner.

"The field is always changing, so you have to keep up on it," says DeGrazia.

"Even though you may know how to do something one day, something completely new may come out in another week. [Perhaps] a whole new operating system is released. So you have to be willing to expand your knowledge, to research and to learn, and kind of have a real hunger to do it."

dotSome specialists work as lone consultants who make house calls. Others work for large companies with big laboratories. Clients may send in everything from damaged hard drives to faulty disks or CD-ROMs. Occasionally, the whole computer comes in.

"I think you have to be kind of personable, and you have to be able to explain things in a non-technical sort of way," says Harry Elver. He's a computer consultant who does data recovery. "I think you have to have good empathy with people... because a lot of times they're seeing you because they're having problems."

dot Even companies that back up their data are at risk. Backup systems don't always work in an emergency.

"People are coming to you because they have a problem, not because they want to hang out with a computer guy and shoot the breeze with you," says Elver. "But it is sort of satisfying to be able to recover their data or get their network back running again."

dotData recovery is sometimes straightforward and easy. Other times, it's extremely difficult.

"There are different levels," says DeGrazia. "There are some programs that have automated the tasks. Sometimes it's as simple as pointing it to a computer and running it, and sometimes you actually have to do some research and some analysis in order to figure out how the data was stored previously on the computer before you can figure out how to recover it.

"And then sometimes you have to write your own tools to assist with that," says DeGrazia. "If you have hundreds of things that need to be recovered, you wouldn't want to go through that manually. You'd want to write some kind of a program or a script to automate the process."

dotData recovery specialists need good vision and an ability to stand or sit for long hours. They work over a disassembled computer on a work table or at a computer screen while they reconfigure scrambled data.

At a Glance

Find and save information from damaged computers

  • You need to be able to stand or sit for long hours
  • Clients may send in everything from damaged hard drives to faulty disks
  • Study computer programming or engineering