Data rescue specialist Retrodata has announced what it claims is the first device for recovering damaged hard disk platters that can be successfully used by non-experts.

Called the System P. EX (for "platter extraction system"), the 75-kilogram device uses laser-guided positioning to help it accurately extract platters from any 3.5 inch hard drive with minimal user intervention. What's unusual element is that such devices normally require highly skilled operators, whereas the System P. EX can be used by a relative novice at a data recovery company.

According to Retrodata, the benefit for corporates is that it will allow smaller data recovery companies to compete against the often expensive services offered by larger companies, which could help to drive down prices.

The UK-based company won’t release photographs of the product until it has been fully patented, but did say that it would work on any drive with up to five platters, possibly more. It would also accommodate drives with internal shock-absorption damping of a type that might physically defeat rival systems.

"Only the largest of data recovery companies have tools available that even allow this process to take place," said Retrodata’s Duncan Clarke, who also invented the machine.

The System P. EX is slated for release next month, at an approximate cost of £3,500 ($6,950) per unit. This includes a 10-year warranty excluding the cost of occasionally replacing precision components within the machine.

Asked whether hard disk recovery was really as critical as it once was, Clarke responded that the "age of ubiquitous backup" was a myth.

"Let me assure you that even multinational corporates are capable of either forgetting to back up, or their backups are corrupt. There would be no such thing as "data recovery" if everyone backed up," he said.

"Some companies willingly pay £10,000 to have critical data recovered; factor in emergency turnaround, and this figure can be doubled or trebled."

Last November, Retrodata made itself unpopular with Apple after publicising an unusually large number of failures it was encountering in Seagate 2.5 inch SATA drives found in laptops such as the MacBook or MacBook Pro.

"Apple is being utterly irresponsible and should launch a product recall," Clarke said at the time.