Technical lifeline in a time of panic

DriveSavers: A California company promises 90 percent recovery of data when a disaster strikes almost any computer memory hardware, but the fix can be expensive.

May 20, 2004|By Lauren Harner | Lauren Harner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When most computer repairmen answer the telephone only to hear a potential client claim a PC was shot with a pistol or accidentally dropped into the Amazon River, the repairmen hang up while wondering why someone would take the time to make up such a ridiculous story.

At DriveSavers, the employees smile and tell you they've seen worse.

Accidents happen, and quite often they seem to happen the night before your dissertation is due, or two days before you are scheduled to give a once-in-a-lifetime business presentation.

Enter DriveSavers (www.drivesavers.com), a California company that can promise 90 percent data recovery on nearly any piece of computer memory hardware.

No job is too large or small for DriveSavers, whose clientele have brought in everything from multidrive networks to floppy disks. The company also can work with digital cameras, CDs, DVDs and any other types of storage media.

From recovering the data off a kelp-covered computer that had found its way to the bottom of the Amazon River, to fixing common mechanical problems in personal PCs, Drive Savers has been the breath of life for tens of thousands of computer owners who've found themselves in a technological lurch.

In spite of all this, DriveSavers should not be at the top of a consumer's call list when something goes wrong, a fact that even the company agrees with.

"We're kind of the last resort, the hospital for hard drives," said John Christopher, a data recovery engineer with DriveSavers.

If you have found your way to DriveSavers, then you most likely will first talk with a former suicide-prevention counselor. The company hired the counselor to handle some of its more hysterical clients.

Once the tears have stopped and the screams have died down, a company representative will review different scenarios based on cost and time. Essentially, the company's officers say, it's a one-on-one service throughout the process rather than going through the automated answering machines that many companies force clients to deal with first.

One-on-one service seems appropriate given that having any piece of hardware fixed by DriveSavers will cost about $1,000. The price could go up, depending on the problem. Price also can depend on the brand of computer, as well as the capacity of the hard drive being fixed.

For a grand, your computer will be taken into a Class 100 Clean Room, which is a completely dust-free environment, safe from any pesky materials that might make their way into your computer and cause even more trouble.

You'll also have the comfort of knowing that the people at DriveSavers are probably familiar with your computer. Everyone from Apple to Dell has put his stamp of approval on the company, sharing knowledge with it that might be pertinent to fixing your specific brand of computer.

Once you've shipped the computer to the company, most likely it will take about a week to get your data back. But you won't have to wait for the computer to be shipped back to you. It will be available via the Web. DriveSavers provides a password that will give you access to your data on the company's Web site for downloading.

If you do choose to go the DriveSavers way, you'll be among some fairly well-known people. Celebrities such as singers Sting and Jimmy Buffett are among the rich and famous who have had DriveSavers bail them out of computer crises.

The company turns around about 1,000 drives a week.

If you are simply experiencing a technical difficulty that doesn't seem terribly tragic, try your local computer repair shop or the F1 key on your keyboard, most repair experts suggest.

If, however, you are facing the loss of a novel you've been writing for 10 years, or your family's priceless photos are in jeopardy, then $1,000 might be worth paying for recovery by DriveSavers.

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