Clean Room Data Recovery: Here’s What You Should Know

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Data loss can have significant negative consequences on your business, including financial, legal, and a loss of reputation and customer trust.

It’s important to do everything you can to protect the customer’s sensitive data through prevention and data recovery.

One way to do this is to use clean room data recovery when restoring hard disk drives or during digital forensics.

7 Things To Consider For a Data Clean Room Recovery

Clean room data recovery is a specialized process used to retrieve data from damaged or corrupted storage devices in a controlled, contaminant-free environment. While it is an essential service for recovering critical data, it comes with several challenges and issues:

  1. Cost: Clean room data recovery can be expensive due to the specialized equipment and highly trained technicians required. The process often involves the use of cleanrooms (which are costly to maintain) and sophisticated data recovery tools, driving up the overall cost.
  2. Complexity and Time: The process of data recovery in a clean room is complex and time-consuming. Technicians must carefully dismantle the storage device, diagnose the problem, and use specialized techniques to recover the data. This meticulous process can take several days to weeks, depending on the extent of the damage.
  3. Success Rate: While clean room data recovery has a high success rate, it is not guaranteed. The extent of physical or logical damage to the storage device can sometimes make data recovery impossible. For example, if the storage platters in a hard drive are severely scratched or the NAND chips in an SSD are irreparably damaged, data recovery may fail.
  4. Proprietary Technologies: Storage devices often use proprietary technologies and encryption methods, which can complicate the data recovery process. Technicians may need to reverse-engineer certain components or software, adding to the complexity and duration of the recovery.
  5. Potential for Further Damage: Improper handling or attempting DIY recovery methods before bringing the device to professionals can exacerbate the damage. For instance, opening a hard drive outside of a clean room environment can introduce dust and particles, causing further harm to the sensitive internal components.
  6. Data Security and Privacy: Ensuring the security and confidentiality of the recovered data is paramount. Clients need assurance that their data is handled securely and that sensitive information remains protected throughout the recovery process. Any breach of data privacy can lead to significant legal and reputational consequences for the recovery service provider.
  7. Limited Availability: Not all data recovery service providers have clean room facilities, and those that do are often limited to major cities or regions. This can pose a challenge for individuals and businesses located in remote areas, as they might need to ship their damaged storage devices, adding time and risk to the process.

In this article, we’ll explain what a clean room is and how it helps in recovering data.

A Clean Room Data Recovery process involves the restoration of data from damaged or corrupted storage devices within a sterile, dust-free environment. This method is essential for preventing further damage to delicate components and ensuring the highest chances of successful data retrieval. Trained technicians utilize advanced tools and techniques to meticulously recover data, making clean room data recovery particularly crucial for critical or sensitive information. Understanding the importance of such controlled conditions can help organizations and individuals safeguard their valuable data and mitigate the risk of permanent data loss.

Key Takeaways

Opening the hard disk drive (unscrewing the protective enclosure) exposes an HDD to dust particles, which can damage the magnetic platters that hold the data and destroy it.

Clean rooms for data recovery are special enclosures that have a reduced concentration of particles in the air, making them ideal for HDD recovery, electronic device repairs, and digital forensics

Cleanrooms are classified by ISO 14644-1 Cleanroom Standard into 9 classes, ISO 1 to ISO 9.

Clean Room Explained

Data Clean Room Explained.jpg

A clean room is a room that is completely (or nearly) clear of all particles in the air. This is useful when trying to recover data.

An average hard disk drive (HDD) has a planned lifespan of 4 to 7 years of normal or personal use. However, when used for work, there’s a lot more wear and tear.

The older the HDD and the more you use it, the bigger the chance of failure.

In fact, in its “Drive Stats for Q2 2023” report, online backup and cloud storage service provider Backblaze reported that out of 240,940 HDDs it managed, the average failure rate (AFR) for Q2 2023 was 2.28%, or up from 1.54% in the previous quarter.

Data is more and more important, which means your HDDs see more use, and the more you use an HDD, the greater the chance of failure.

So what happens when an HDD “dies” on you and you have important data on it? Should you just pry it open and see if you can “fix” it somehow? No.

Even the smallest dust particle (and as you’re reading this, you’ve probably inhaled millions of these tiny particles) can spell disaster for an HDD.

Let’s say a speck of dust gets into the hard disk fan.

The fan then blows the speck into even smaller particles all over the interior of your HDD. Just like around 10 percent of the world is allergic to dust mites, which can cause serious respiratory problems, your HDD is also “allergic” to dust.

This is why you should never open an HDD on the bed or floor of your room but instead use a cleanroom for data recovery.

What is a Clean Room Data Recovery?

Clean room data recovery is a type of enclosure that is used to protect sensitive equipment from temperature, humidity, or dust exposure and contamination.

Typically, a data recovery cleanroom includes plastic walls, a continuous influx of dust-free air, and external lighting and is used in HDD recovery, electronic device repairs, and digital forensics.

Not every business requires a data recovery clean room, but it is essential for a business that processes sensitive data the same way a data protection officer is required.

For instance, here are some types of businesses that need a cleanroom:

Data recovery services

The first type of business that might come to your mind here is data recovery services. Often, they can repair damaged HDDs, or at the very least, recover important data from them and to do that, they need to have a cleanroom.

IT departments

An estimated cost of downtime for a data center is $9,000 per minute, according to a report from ProSource. Many businesses have internal IT departments which use cleanrooms to recover data and reduce downtime.

Financial institutions

Banks and other financial institutions handle sensitive financial data for their customers. Any kind of data breach or data loss would be catastrophic for them, and they’re a prime target for cybercriminals. Because of this, data recovery is a top priority for financial institutions.

Just think of all the data breaches in this sector in the last 15 or so years.

Medical and healthcare facilities

Similarly, financial, medical, and health data is also classified as “sensitive personal information” by most data protection regulations, like the GDPR. If it gets into the wrong hands, this information can be used against its owner.

Because of this, medical and healthcare facilities don’t only need sterile rooms for patients but for data recovery as well.

Law enforcement, digital forensics, and cybersecurity firms

Criminal investigations in real life are rarely the same as they are on TV. Usually, they require a lot of data mining, and criminals may deliberately damage their disk drives to destroy the evidence on them.

Research & development institutions

Damaged HDDS and other digital storage devices can hold valuable research data. This is why R&D institutions often use cleanrooms to recover such data.

Government agencies

Government agencies often handle sensitive or classified data and unauthorized people might try to attack them by destroying them, so having a cleanroom is essential

Legal firms

Finally, electronic devices often contain the most important evidence for the case, so they might also use clean room data recovery.

Cleanroom Classifications

Cleanroom Classifications.jpg

Data recovery cleanrooms are classified based on the number of particles allowed per air volume.

The current global standard – ISO 14644-1, replaced the US FED STD 209E, which was used until 2001.

ISO 14644-1 Cleanroom Standard

The ISO 14644-1 Cleanroom Standard has 9 classes (ISO 1, ISO 2, ISO 3, ISO 4, ISO 5, ISO 6, ISO 7, ISO 8, and ISO 9) according to the maximum allowed particle concentration per m3 for particles ≥ (greater than or equal) than a specific size.

Particles are measured in µm (micrometers).























































In addition, ISO has three cleanroom classification standards:


At rest


An “as-built cleanroom is just that, a room with no equipment or instruments. Once these are introduced, it becomes “at rest” and finally, when people are introduced, the cleanroom becomes “operational”.

US FED STD 209E Cleanroom Standard

Before the introduction of the ISO 14644-1 standard, the US FED STD 209E standard was applied around the world. Ho

This standard has six classes (1, 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000, and 100,000), which are equivalent to ISO 3 to ISO 8 (there are no ISO 1, ISO 2, and ISO 9 equivalents).





























On 29th November, 2001, the US General Services Administration released a “Notice of Cancelation for FED-STD-209E”. In the notice, the GSA stated:

“Federal Standard 209E dated September 11, 1992, is hereby canceled and superseded by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standards. International Standards for Cleanrooms and associated controlled environments, ISO 14644-1 Part 1: Classification of air cleanliness; and ISO 14644-2 Part 2: Specifications for testing and monitoring to prove continued compliance with ISO 14644-1.”

How Much Does Clean Room Data Recovery Cost?

HDD failure is one of the main reasons behind a data loss, which can impact your business in many ways, including loss of sales, disrupted productivity, reputation, customer trust loss, fewer partnerships and opportunities, etc.

If we’re talking only about the financial side, data loss can cost your business from a few thousand to over $15 million, depending on the volume of data.

For example, losing up to 100 files can cost a business anywhere between $20,000 and $35,000, while a larger incident can cost over $15 million, according to this report.

Cleanroom services are not cheap, but compared to these costs won’t empty your pockets quite as much, even if you add the annual DPO costs to that as well.

Here are the usual costs of data recoveries with clean rooms, based on the capacity of the HDD in terabytes (TB):


HDD Capacity

Average Cost



250GB to 1TB
























Keep in mind that the prices will vary between different data recovery companies, so be sure to call them or email them for a quote.


Most businesses never recover from a data loss. A report by Truelist says that nearly 70% of small businesses close within a year of a data loss.

Your business doesn’t have to be among them, though. There is still a chance you can recover lost data and avoid financial losses or losing customer trust and reputation by using clean room data recovery.

However, be sure to regularly conduct a data risk assessment (DRA) to better prepare your business for potential data loss, data breaches, and unauthorized access. Get in touch today.


Do you need a clean room for data recovery?

No, a clean room is not always needed for data recovery, only when the hard disk drive has been damaged, and regular software recovery doesn’t work.

Want help preventing data loss and keeping your data secure? Get in touch today.

How much does a clean room in data recovery cost?

A clean room for data recovery costs will depend on the size of the hard disk drive (HDD). On average, the cost goes from $500 for 1TB HDD up to $1,600 for 18TB HDD.

Keep in mind that different data recovery companies will have different prices, so it’s important to get a quote from them first.

Learn how much a data protection officer costs here.

How do I recover data from a clean hard drive?

If a hard drive is clean (it hasn’t been exposed to outside elements like dust, heat, or humidity), you can usually recover data using data recovery software like Disk Drill Data Recovery (Windows and Mac), DiskGenius (Windows) or PhotoRec (Windows, Mac, and Linux).

Of course, if you don’t have such software on hand, you can take your HDD to a data recovery company near you.

Want to learn more about data compliance? Click here to find out more.

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