UPDATE: Apple: No, You Can't Have Your Data Back, We're Keeping It

Perhaps you recall Chris who had the “unrecoverable” hard drive that Apple wouldn’t let him keep? Chris was concerned that Apple was incorrect, and that the disk might in fact be recoverable by someone, and so he wanted it back. He asked nicely. He offered money. Sadly, nothing worked. Apple’s policy was to keep the disc. Chris could either get his new hard drive or his old one, but not both.

Chris finally had to put a hold on his repair so that he could retrieve the disc from Apple before they installed the new one. Guess what he found.

Chris writes:

Well, I got it back from them and took it to my IT friend. He hooked it up to his MacBook Pro, ran Data Rescue II (a typical consumer recovery app), and was able to not only read the drive, but also to copy virtually all of the files from the drive
(there were a few bad sectors). It even mounted to the desktop like a regular drive.

I’m doubly glad that I asked for it back before getting turning it over for the new drive. Now I both have the 2 weeks of data, and am ensuring my comfort by running a DoD-level wipe on the old drive as I write this. At least the new MacBooks have user-replaceable drives, so someday I’ll be able do this sort of thing without turning it over to them just to open the case and run the diagnostic.

Good job, Chris. Because you insisted on protecting your privacy, not only did you save your data—you kept the bad guys from getting at it.

Once again the “IT friend” saves the day. Please remember to follow proper Consumerist behavior by compensating your IT friend for providing services beyond the capability of mere “professionals.” —MEGHANN MARCO

(Photo: JohnKit)
PREVIOUSLY: Apple: No, You Can’t Have Your Data Back, We’re Keeping It


Edit Your Comment

  1. superlayne says:

    We have an IT friend. He likes to make fun of us as he cleans all the viruses off the computer.
    Then he stares in awe at my Guitar Hero skills.
    He’s cheaper than tech support.

  2. Toof_75_75 says:

    “compensating your IT friend for providing services beyond the capability of mere ‘professionals.'”

    I.E. Buy that man a beer…heck, buy him 24 of them! …At least that’s what my IT friend charges.

  3. esqdork says:

    My friends and I need an IT friend because I’m that best they can come up with and that’s just sad.

  4. tedyc03 says:

    The difference between real IT professionals and those Apple guys: real IT professionals give a shit about their customers because they know that if they piss off a customer, that customer will tell seven people about it.

    When I work on someone’s machine, I try and do it as if it was my machine…which means I’m going to try everything from data recovery software to a microscope and pencil (writing down the grooves) to get your data back…because it’s what I would do for my computer.

  5. enm4r says:

    As an “IT friend,” I too recieve payment in BEvEReges.

  6. zentec says:


    While I think the Apple people would do well to bend-over backward, I have to believe that the policy is such to prevent people from coming back into the store repeatedly to look for files. Likewise, coming into complain about files not transferred, missing data, bad data…you name it. It’s not like clueless computer users are unique to a particular brand or platform.

    Apple should just give the rejected hard drive to the customer and wish them a happy trip home. Solves the problems and gives the customer an out if they want to try to recover data on their own.

    One can never have too many IT friends. In fact, I recommend having several specializing in Windows, the Windows registry, Macs, etc. Besides, beer is a cheap price to pay for competent computer support. Geek Squad is neither competent nor in most cases, of age to consume alcohol.

  7. HearsMusic says:

    Thanks, Meghann, for making “IT Friend” gender-neutral.

    Some of us “they can fix anything” geeks are chicks!

    I usually don’t have the heart to ask my friends for any kind of payment, a heartfelt thank-you is usually enough…but I’ll never turn down a free meal!

  8. tedyc03 says:

    @zentec: You make a good point. Though Apple DOES offer data recovery services – if the drive is recoverable. Their forms say that once you sign this paperwork declining their data backup service, they are not responsible for any lost data and that you can not recover the hard drive.

    I think that they probably refurbish the drives to save money…fix them or whatever. Who knows?

    Incidentially, in California the law gives you the right back to your parts in a automobile repair…so I’m pretty sure you could make the same case for a computer. IANAL though, so don’t quote me on that.

  9. yosarian says:

    I spent a few years inside AppleCare and I know the hard drives are not let out so they can be returned to the manufacturer, who warranties them just as Apple warranties them to their customers. While there is always a chance SOMETHING could go wrong, the drives are sent back to the manufactures where they are wiped, stripped, and working parts put into refurbished service parts. So data theft is unlikely.
    While I think this makes sense,my only criticism is this doesn’t explain why customers can’t buy their bad drives from Apple. No loss to the company and the customer is happy. Although I’m not with Apple anymore, I think they did a very good job in general of having sensical policies and not maintaining policy just for policy’s sake. However, this might be a case of just that.

  10. pestie says:

    I am the IT friend, but I don’t like beer. You may have to put up with me telling you how much Windows sucks, but I’ll make your computer work again, and even recover data you thought was gone for good. And while I do most computer work for friends free of charge, I should note that I’m extremely particular about who I call a friend. Heh…

  11. Falconfire says:

    Your confused by what they meant by unrecoverable here. In this instance it meant the drive was not repairable (which since it has bad sectors is right, you cant fix them, only instruct the computer to never write over them thus limiting its capacity.)

    But for most people unrecoverable means all the data is lost, which is pretty much never the case unless they did some major league damage to the disk (even junked hard drives can have some data recovered unless you multipass erase the drive.

    Consumerist seems to be going after Apple in particular, but this is still standard policy for everyone out there, that unless you backed up the data it’s self, the company doing the repair is not responsible for lost data. Even data salvage companies who’s entire job is to restore lost data make this claim since you have no way of knowing if something will really be there or not.

    As someone pointed out here, maybe a law like Cali’s car parts law (which I am pretty sure Jersey has too) is something that should be put into place for Computers. But then your talking about a major shift for all the companies, since many like Apple send dead cores back to be refurbished into new drives for cash back. My department even does this with CD-ROMs and hard drives since we can get 20-40 dollars off a drive.

  12. DCvision says:

    I too am an “IT friend”… payment is acceptable in form of M&M’s…. or frosty adult beverages… good news that the forces of good overcame evil in this instance!

  13. I’m the IT Admin for the company I work for and I’m just lucky enough that all my friends are IT people too. Anyone else is a co-worker and they get charged slightly less than the geek squad charges for computer work…you know, just to be competitive.

  14. Hedgy2136 says:

    As an “IT Friend”, the only reason I charge any of my buddies anything (other than an Ice Cold Frosty Adult Beverage), is to get them to at least try and figure it out by themselves before thay call on me. I don’t mind helping, but the same ones calling and asking the same questions over and over, or getting eaten up with viri and spyware in spite of the fact that I’ve installed software and showed them (over and over) how to use it, gets on me nerves.

  15. mantari says:

    I bought my IT friend some cologne because he was ‘smelly’, but he did NOT seem appreciative!

  16. Occum says:

    Why people don’t backup “extremely important data” like the above story references is beyond me.

    Buy a flash drive for $50 or so and backup your important files! Or if you’re “too busy” to manually backup that extremely important data, buy an external USB HD for ~ $150 that has a one-button backup.

    The ammount of people who are too cheap / lazy to buy a $150 device to backup “irreplaceable” data is astonishing.

  17. oldhat says:

    But did your IT friend WEAR A WRIST STRAP?!?!?

    hahaha, mostly to myself…

  18. guroth says:

    “Then he stares in awe at my Guitar Hero skills.”

    Ya because everyone knows that being good at guitar hero is way better than knowing your way around a computer.

  19. AcilletaM says:

    @oldhat: You have your wrist strapped to yourself?

    I’m also an IT friend. Payment is always appreciated, especially when you repeat the same mistakes. Also be aware, helping multiple times puts you in line for the next time I need labor to move or paint so if you don’t like that, have a 12 pack handy.

  20. Gloria says:

    I date my IT (boy)friend. He’s cute, and it saves on beer money.

  21. Charles Duffy says:

    I have friends who get free IT support. They’re people who know how to hang drywall, wire a new light fixture or fix my car — and can lend a hand (or some tools) and give advice if I want to try doing any of those myself.

    Pizza and other consumables made a big difference when I was in college — but the whole house-and-spouse thing has altered that significantly.

  22. James Marino says:

    I went through a similar problem with Apple two years ago. I had a PowerBook G4 and the drive was not user accessible without voiding my AppleCare. I asked a number of time, verbally and in writing, to have the drive returned to me. Unfortunately, they “lost” my hard drive and I could not recover the data.

    I am a life-long Apple user and make purchasing decisions for my company. They almost lost my business over this event.

    Remember, there are two types of users: those who back up and those who lose their data. Every hard drive fails eventually.

  23. Gino says:

    They have to send back a drive to the factory. So he got back his old one. All he has to do now is take it back in (with hard drive reinstalled) and they’ll fix it. They did it for me. I took it to a recovery place that was not apple and returned my computer to apple and they replaced the drive. this article is bullshit.

  24. AcidReign says:

    …..Heh. I should have been charging all these years? I was always afraid that I wouldn’t succeed in getting friend and family data back. “No guarantees.” “Might work, might not.” As long as they haven’t let Microsoft Chkdisk go nuts on the drive, it’s probably mostly still there. I’ve found Testdisk and Spinrite to be the tools of choice for hard drive rescue.

  25. foonie says:

    Two-and-a-half years ago, after my friend had to bring his iBook G3 to the Apple Store numerous times to get his logic board replaced over and over, they finally gave up fixing it, kept it, and gave him a brand new iBook G4.
    He got an email a few weeks ago asking if he was So-and-so from Chicago. Apparently, it had eventually made its way from an Apple Store in New York into the hands of a professor in Canada, who was the new owner of an iBook G3–with my friend’s data fully intact.

  26. plaidisplaid says:

    Apple doesnt preform data recovery you took it in to ahve the disk replaced. The best part is that Data Rescue II is available for purchase at any apple store. you didnt need an “IT Friend” just a little patients some common sense and the time to look around the apple store instead of just marching up to the genius bar. It always bothers me when people write articles like this complaining about their lack of knowledge and blame someone else or a company for it. Hell if he had even did a google search for data recovery and mac one of the first things that comes up is data rescue II.

  27. informer says:

    If you are concerned enough about the privacy of data on your drive to be doing a DoD-level wipe on it, maybe you should encrypt your files to begin with? This is especially important if you’ve got an easily stealable laptop.

  28. dbisping says:

    @Gloria: YES!!!

    but, Gloria, i’m gay, dammit! most of the guys i know usually buy new and don’t repair.

    it’s all so wicked and immoral.


  29. Mr. Gunn says:


    You may have to put up with me telling you how much Windows sucks

    Chris, the OP:

    someday I’ll be able do this sort of thing without turning it over to them just to open the case.


    LOL. and when that day comes, you’ll have bought a PC

  30. macguy926 says:

    you are off on so many bases its ridiculous.

    1. When you check a repair in with Apple, you are asked ahead of time to authorize an attempt data transfer. This is not a recovery. Apple tells you that if they can’t get the data, you won’t be charged, but they will move on with the repair. You signed the work authorization, you accepted that. Now the bitching starts…..

    2. Apple (who already said will attempt a transfer but not recovery) can’t get the data off. You want them to stop the repair cuz you now can’t decide what you really want. You’re whole story about offering them money is bullshit. Expensive as it is, you can buy your old drive back from them at full price, or even check it out to attempt recovery and if you don’t bring it back in 30 days they will charge you.

    3. Now you’re pissed at Apple cuz they didn’t do what they said they were not going to do, yet you’re the indecisive moron who couldn’t decide at the start if your data was worth it to you. Your “IT friend” goes beyond the scope of Apple support (which is admirable but not possible for Apple) to use a third party software that Apple can’t use to obtain the rest of your information. Great. Success. Bravo. Don’t forget to wipe that drive clean, because you really think that anyone at Apple gives a shit about your personal files? Ha! They throw the drive in a box, ship it away, and it is stacked with 1500 other drives to be zeroed, repaired and put back into refurb.

    Your logic astounds me.

    Idiot buys computer. Idiot jacks up computer. Idiot takes computer for repair. Idiot is still adiot when he signs papers. Idiot becomes more of an idiot by blaming big company for his big mistake. Idiot becomes colossial idiot when he posts his stupidity online.

    Stop blaming others for your lack of reading the fine print, lack of knowledge of the computer, and lack of logic skills to determine the fact that you in fact are the cause of all your problems.

    there….i vented.


  31. Timbojones says:

    “ensuring my comfort by running a DoD-level wipe on the old drive as I write this.”

    Doesn’t a DoD-level wipe involve pulverizing the physical drive?

  32. Trick says:

    As an “IT Friend” I don’t work for beer. I’m not the drinking type of geek…

    BBQ and Santa Maria style Tri-Tip are good forms of payment for this IT Friend!

  33. oldhat says:

    That’s the problem with the Mac community. You have too many complete computer novices…aka idiots…and a few competent ones. Apple has to deal with both and there no happy medium. Hard to cater to both crowds.

    And they are just begging for abuse calling themselves Geniuses…are they being sarcastic?

  34. bobznc says:

    Datarescue II is great, recovered my dead drive.

  35. maynard says:

    I’ve just been hit with this problem. I have a 13″ macbook that’s been out for service for nearly a month. It is a random shutdown issue, not the hard disk, and has been waiting “On Hold” for a part (they claim they’re waiting for a new motherboard). So “Customer Relations” offered me a new replacement laptop, or the old bad one, unrepaired, with my data back – but not both. Further, the Customer Relations CSR is not returning my phone calls, nor have they actually shipped anything back.

    I have no idea what to do. Apple is not the same company I bought my Apple II from so many years ago. I think it’s time to buy a Levino and stick Linux on it.

  36. ShadowFalls says:

    You know for them to say something is unrecoverable when it is proven to be show incompetence. Then try to claim user abuse in other situations, seems like they are are following the trend of Best Buy’s Geek Squad. Note to anyone, always good to have someone you can trust to look things over before other so called “techs” get their hands on it.