Low-Cost / Maximum Cost Guarantees:  Any company that promises you a “Guaranteed” cost of $399 or $499 without ever seeing your drive. That will not get you physical recovery. When they claim that, they are hoping you send the hard drive in without trying a software solution yourself. If they get the job and the software solution works, they can charge you that amount. If the recovery does indeed require physical recovery work, they can try to re-quote you or send it back and say they weren’t able to recover it. You may want to check to see what their return shipping costs are, to make sure they aren’t trying to make money off of that as well. They might also contact you and say that “they” can’t get the data back for you (at that guaranteed low cost), but they can pass the drive onto a partner who can (no guaranteed cost). It’s the old bait-and-switch technique to be careful of.

Cleanroom or Kindacleanroom: Make sure the company has a cleanroom—Sure, they may say they do on their website, but we all know the web really isn’t policed. If they have a cleanroom, they would be proud of it and show it off with a picture or two on their website. If someone opens your hard drive in a non-cleanroom environment, your drive will likely suffer damage that will either make the data unrecoverable (due to scoring caused by particles) or will make it more difficult and more expensive for the eventual recovery. Do not trust that they have a cleanroom just because they say they do, require some proof.

Virtual Recovery Shops: Make sure the company actually exists and does the work themselves. Many people are setting up websites with great stock photos, industry keywords and a phone number or email address. They get you to send the drive to them but in reality they don’t do any of the work themselves. What they will do is send your drive to a few shops, seeking out the best price. Then they contact you back and give you an inflated price. If the shop can do it for $1000, they might contact you and say it’s $3000… You might say you can’t afford that, but you then negotiate down to $2000, thinking you’re getting a great deal. In reality, you just paid double what it would’ve cost you if you contacted the legit place by yourself.

Trustworthy/Background Checks: The last thing you want to do is send your computer hard drive to someone you can’t trust. Personal photos, banking information and other personal data should be entrusted only to a professional company. You don’t want your personal pictures posted online or your financial information rifled through. Make sure all their employees undergo a background check and make sure the company itself has a good standing with a service like the Better Business Bureau or similar consumer protection agency.