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Marin Independent Journal: Novato techies offer fire victims help with data retrieval

Originally published by Marin Independent Journal at
By Mark Prado, Marin Independent Journal

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Engineers work to recover data from damaged hard drives Friday at DriveSavers in Novato. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

Victims of the North Bay fires who believe they may have lost pictures, videos or important documents on their scorched computers or smart phones can get help from a Novato data recovery company for free.
DriveSavers has recovered data from storage devices that have been destroyed by natural disasters, including Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Katrina, Southern California fires and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
Now the company has announced it is offering data recovery for residents of Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties whose computers or phones were damaged in wildfires.
“These fires have literally hit home for us,” said Scott Moyer, DriveSavers president. “With a third of our employees living in Sonoma or Napa counties, many have been displaced or had to evacuate. Some have tragically lost their homes. One of the fires is just 10 miles away.”
Fire victims need to contact DriveSavers no later than Nov. 15 by calling 800-440-1904. There is a limit of one device per business or household. DriveSavers will accept as many devices that it can, but it might limit the number of free recoveries based on workload, cost of parts and availability of personnel.
Customers in need of additional recoveries — and those with multi-disk devices — are eligible for a 50 percent discount.
“Over the years we have helped recover data from many devices that have had fire or water damage,” said John Christopher, spokesman for DriveSavers. “We have had phones run over by trucks, pulled from the bottom of a river or retrieved from floods.”
When working with a device, DriveSavers workers delve into the storage media to see what can be salvaged.

John Christopher, senior manager at DriverSavers in Novato, examines a damaged computer Friday in a display case at the company’s office. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

“It varies from job to job what we can do,” Christopher said. “There are so many variables. Part of the issue is what did the user do? How did they attempt to recover their data. Usually that’s not a good idea.” In the case of fire, the key question is how far heat worked its way into the device.
“Often the solder will melt inside,” Christopher said. “We will build a new drive from scratch and pull the data off.”
The company says anyone with a smoke-damaged or burned computer, smartphone or tablet should not attempt to power it up or clean the device. If a computer is wet from fire hoses, remove the wet hard drive — do not dry it — and place in a plastic bag with an airtight zip closure.
If it is not possible to remove the hard drive but the computer is a laptop with a removable battery, remove the battery. If the drive is “sealed” in a melted computer, leave it intact and bring in the entire system, DriveSavers advises.
DriveSavers has been around for 32 years and their customers include individuals, small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, government, health care organizations and professionals. Bank of America, Google, Lucasfilm and NASA have also used their services. Now the company wants to give back to those in need locally.
“The air outside our building is thick with smoke and ash is falling everywhere,” Moyer said. “As we’ve offered assistance in the past to victims of floods, fires and natural disasters, we are once again providing our services at no charge — this time for our neighbors in need.”
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