There will be no new digs to locate the graves of the so-called disappeared unless a panel of judges agrees, the government has said.
A series of searches have taken place to locate the bodies
An Independent Commission will have to rule there is a good prospect a body will be found, the British and Irish governments said on Thursday.
Nine "disappeared" were murdered by the IRA and secretly buried in the 1970s.
SAS Captain Robert Nairac, killed in 1977 after going undercover in south Armagh, is one of four other cases.
A confidential telephone and DNA tests will also be used in the searches.
DNA samples will be taken from the remaining relatives.
The governments' decision came in response to a series of recommendations made by the Independent Commission on the Location of Victims Remains after work to find the bodies of the "disappeared" was undertaken by an independent forensic expert.
In the light of a number of unsuccessful excavations in recent years, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said it was important "not to raise unrealistic expectations".
Sir Ken Bloomfield, one of the people involved in the search for the bodies, said new information about the whereabouts of the "disappeared" had been offered in the last 12 months.
"There is evidence of a greater willingness to provide information," he said.
"Now whether or not that will prove useful at the end of the day, one cannot be sure.
"After all, the expectation about the original information was that it would lead to the recovery of those nine bodies, and that proved not to be the case."
Jean McConville was abducted and murdered in 1972
The services of the forensic expert are being retained and DNA samples will be taken from the closest relatives of those victims whose bodies have yet to be recovered.
A new Post Office box number and a telephone line will be established to enable confidential information to be passed on.
The bodies of four of the "disappeared" - people abducted and murdered by the IRA - have been recovered. Five more have not been found.
So far, the remains of IRA victims Eamon Molloy, Brian McKinney, John McClory and Jean McConville have been recovered.
Among the others still missing are:
Seamus Wright from Belfast: A member of the IRA, he was accused of being a British Army agent and a member of the Military Reaction Force (MRF). He was interrogated and murdered by the IRA in 1972.
Kevin McKee from Belfast: An IRA member, he was alleged to have been an Army agent and member of the MRF. He was interrogated and murdered by the IRA in 1972.
Columba McVeigh, 17, from Donaghmore in County Tyrone: Abducted and murdered in 1975 by the IRA after allegedly confessing to being an army agent with instructions to infiltrate the IRA.
Brendan McGraw, 24, from Belfast: Allegedly confessed to being a British provocateur and MRF member in 1978.
Danny McIlhone, from Belfast: Said by the IRA to have admitted to stealing weapons in 1981
Last month, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said new levels of cooperation between the IRA, Sinn Fein and the Irish government should see the recovery of the remaining five bodies.
He also revealed that IRA members involved in the killings have visited burial sites with a forensics expert.
Other cases being investigated include those of Charles Armstrong and Gerard Evans, who disappeared from County Armagh, Seamus Ruddy who disappeared in France and whose disappearance has been attributed to the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and Captain Nairac.
Gerry Adams urged the government to move speedily
Seamus McKendry, son-in-law of Mrs McConville, said the onus was on republicans to end the pain of other families whose loved ones' bodies had not been recovered.
"In reality the only likelihood of ever retrieving another body is with the co-operation of Sinn Fein and the republican movement," he said.
"Surely the government should be thinking about penalising them in some way and pushing them until they come clean with the information they have?"
Mr Adams urged the Irish government to move speedily to ensure that, where practical, digs took place.
"The suffering of these families has gone on too long. They have been victims of a grievous injustice done by Republicans," he said.
"The IRA has acknowledged this and its engagement with the forensic expert, and the report he has now produced, is evidence of its determination to right this wrong."
Patricia Lewsley, SDLP, said the announcement was "welcome but overdue".
"Many families have been waiting over 30 years for the bodies of their loved ones," Mrs Lewsley said.
"Bureaucracy must not leave them waiting longer. There also needs to be a renewed will to find the bodies."