If there is something strange going on with your Mac, who are you going to call? Apple Support, of course. And if technical support via phone doesn't solve the problem, then you'll be invited to the closest Apple Store to talk with a Genius. This usually means you'll get a solution, but it won’t necessarily have to be to your liking.
Take hardware failure, for example. Assuming that either you have an AppleCare protection plan or Apple's limited one-year warranty is still valid, the Genius will in fact ‘solve’ the problem by replacing the failed storage medium and handing it over in a bag. Data recovery isn't part of their service package.
But actually, Apple does have all the necessary tools to recover your data and, in some scenarios, will save the content of the built-in storage medium onto an external drive. However, it doesn't officially offer data recovery services. The company has gradually moved its line of portable computers from HDD to SSD and, in 2016, computer and smartphone repair firm iFixit found a ‘surprise’: MacBook Pro models with Touch Bar had non-removable SSDs. That prompted concerns that data recovery would not be possible if the logic board fails.
Fortunately, this isn't exactly the case because Apple has a special tool allowing Genius Bars and Apple Authorized Service Providers to recover user data in cases of logic board failure. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean all recovery attempts are successful, as troubled Apple customers visiting a Genius Bar have already learned. If you read the terms and conditions of Apple's limited warranty or AppleCare protection plan, you'll discover the harsh truth: firstly, the company doesn't have to recover your data; and secondly, if your storage medium fails, it will replace it but will leave you to figure out how to get the old data onto the new drive.
Data Recovery via Software for Hardware Faults
Third-party data recovery service providers are the best option for any Mac user in such situations. Unfortunately, if Apple decides it's better to replace an internal drive that suffered a mechanical failure, then data recovery via software is impossible because these tools are designed to fix and recover data only in the case of logical failure. As always, the safest approach is to get confirmation from either the Genius or a third-party service provider that it is a mechanical failure that is the problem.
If it turns out that this is the case, the only way to get the data back is by fixing the hard disk, ‘surgery’ that requires specialist skills, tools, knowledge, and a clean environment. The challenges will be greater with an SSD diagnosed with mechanical failure. Still, data recovery professionals can perform miracles if you agree to pay the bill, which could reach thousands of dollars. It’s not worth the bother if your data is at least worth the cost.
Restoring Data With Logical Failures
Things get easier if you are dealing with a logical failure. This means that the damage is only in the file system, and the good news is that it is possible to fix it via software. Of course, every Mac user will start with the built-in doctor, Disk Utility, but there are times when even that tool cannot help. Fortunately, data recovery apps such as Disk Drill, Data Rescue, and Stellar Mac Data Recovery are designed to address this kind of situation. These apps feature powerful algorithms that will scour the whole hard disk, fix the file system, and find traces of data to put the pieces back together and restore the lost files.
In terms of cost, data recovery via software can range from free to up to $100 for a license, which is significantly less than the professional data recovery services.
By comparison, data recovery software is typically available free to scan the whole drive for recoverable data. The time it takes depends on the selected scan method and the drive's storage capacity, ranging from minutes to days. Ultimately, the software will present its findings and prompt for a license purchase only when you push the recover button. It's convenient, because this way you know what you are paying for and can actually find out if the data you need can be restored.