There is nothing more helpless than trying to rescue files from a corrupted hard drive, perhaps a large number of photos are suddenly lost or the hard drive where important documents are kept has failed. In any case, you may think of doing anything to get those files back.
Fortunately, you don't have to sell a kidney to make this happen, and data recovery software may be the only solution you need when it comes to this tricky problem. In some cases, data recovery software will produce surprising miracles, but for other cases it may be completely useless. The best software can recover files from traditional mechanical hard drives, USB flash drives, SD cards, and other portable storage devices, including smartphones. In addition, they can retrieve some or all of the data on a corrupted CD/DVD in order to recover from it.
It is important to note that there is no consumer-grade software that can recover deleted files from solid state drives (SSDs). For SSD data recovery, you need to take the drive to a professional data recovery center to try and not expect too much.
The reason for this is simple, because almost all SSDs use what is called TRIM technology, which improves efficiency and disk life by erasing unused sectors. One result of this is that even if the file system retains a historical sector record of the data, you will not be able to recover it.
Data loss can lead to financial problems and emotional depression, and you may have hundreds of wonderful photos and audio files. Usually, a reliable backup system is the best option, while data recovery software is the second best. Once you have successfully recovered your mistakenly deleted files, you should regularly back up the data on your hard drive.
- The best data backup software recommendations
- Best Internet Cloud Drive Recommendations
1. Prosoft Data Rescue: Windows
Data Rescue from Prosoft Engineering has an outstanding reputation in the field of data recovery. The latest Windows version is fast and powerful, with an interface that is ideal for technicians, or professional data recovery people who charge by the hour, but it may not be suitable for the average user who wants to get back lost files as quickly as possible.
Prosoft makes it easy to find deleted files, but it doesn't offer the option to securely delete data (a feature included in most competitors), though for software focused on recovering data, you probably don't need it.
After launching Data Rescue, a concise menu listing the current drives is displayed, and in most cases you simply select the drive you want to scan. A dialog box will ask you if you want to do a quick scan or a deep scan, and as with all the other products we've tried, a deep scan is almost certainly needed, as a quick scan is unlikely to find the files you want.
When we tested Data Rescue on a traditional mechanical drive, after deleting a batch of files and emptying the recycle bin, it immediately found all deleted files, fully usable after recovery.
We also ran similar tests on SSDs. In this regard, Data Rescue found all the deleted files as well as any other software, but after recovering them, every file was corrupted and unusable -- exactly what we expected from an SSD, since no other software could do a better job.
Note that Data Rescue's deep scan identifies the recovered DOCX file as a ZIP format, not a normal Word document, and there is no indication that it is actually a Word file. In contrast, DOCX files are correctly identified using the Quick Scan option for traditional mechanical drives.
There is only one reason for this problem: DOCX is actually a type of ZIP format. Therefore, when you intend to use Data Rescue's Deep Scan to recover lost DOCX files, you only need to change the file extension from .ZIP to .
If a drive physically fails, Data Rescue can try to clone it to another disk so you can recover files from the clone. The competitor solution is usually to just create a separate image file. Both methods can get the job done, but in most cases cloning seems less convenient.
All in all, Prosoft's data rescue technology is impressive. Technicians and users with time to spare can easily navigate through the various menus and find the functions they expect from them; but for others, the interface may be so complex that it is overwhelming.
- Excellent file recovery capabilities
- Fast and efficient scanning capabilities
- Save file scan data for use in future sessions
- The software is too complex and there are not enough hints in the interface
- Choose to create a cloned copy of the disk instead of the faster and more convenient disk image file
2. Prosoft Data Rescue: Mac
Cloud-based storage is not a panacea for protecting your data. Maybe you set up Time Machine but it hasn't been running for a long time; or, you may have rewritten the preferred version of an important document. The latest Prosoft Data Rescue is a data recovery tool designed to remedy these crises.
The macOS-based software caters to consumers, small business owners, and inexperienced parents, and even comes with chat support that connects you to a fully staffed call center for expert technical guidance.
You can get a lot of useful features from it, including file preview built on Mac OS X Quick Look, the ability to recover data from NTFS formatted (e.g. Boot Camp) partitions, and create BootWell recovery disks. After more than a decade of business and development, Prosoft Data Rescue continues to be one of the most powerful and easy-to-use tools in the data recovery field.
To test the data recovery capabilities of this software, we chose six common file types (DOC/XLS/PDF/JPG/MP3/MP4) and two types of hard drives, SSD and HDD, as SSDs are a huge challenge for data recovery software.
The deep scan of the SSD was fast: in fact, the 35 minutes took much less time than the software predicted. the Prosoft technicians said that a deep scan usually takes about 8 hours to rip a 1TB hard drive. In the end, more than 73GB of files were recovered, and they were automatically sorted and archived in subfolders for various file types (such as archives, documents, images, movies and text).
Data Rescue centralizes some valuable features into Expert mode, and for some reason Prosoft hides the preferences. With Expert enabled, the utility will get RAID support, can use multiple scans, and display the total number of files in the selected folder.
BootWell allows you to create a basic operating environment from which to boot your system, or to perform recovery on memory cards and conventional drives, somewhat like Apple's recovery partition. In this way, you can use a USB flash drive (at least 8GB) to create a bootable drive, or purchase a drive with recovery software pre-installed.
Data Rescue is one of the top data recovery tools we tested, and the addition of BootWell makes this easy-to-use utility even more powerful.
- Excellent file recovery
- Integrated chat function
- No advanced filtering, which may make it difficult to filter the scan results
3. Stellar Data Recovery: Windows
Stellar Phoenix lives up to its name, with a top-notch interface design and powerful recovery capabilities that can bring damaged files back to life, like a phoenix in a nirvana. Of all the data recovery software we have tested, it is by far one of the best-performing options.
We tested the Pro version of it, which works with FAT, ExFAT and NTFS formatted disks; the Home version lacks the ability to make image files from the hard disk and cannot recover entire partitions.
This software offers the option to recover all data, including all files, folders, documents, emails and other content. By default, it will choose to recover all file types, but you can also narrow down the scan to suit your needs.
Like all other data recovery software, Stellar Phoenix's Deep Scan option can recover file extensions but not their original names, although it will try to provide some useful additional information in order to help you identify the original file more quickly. For example, when it detects a graphics file, it assigns a file name that includes the size of the dimensions (1326×1190-12176.png).
We first tested the software's recovery capabilities with a traditional mechanical hard drive. After deleting six files and emptying the Recycle Bin, Stellar Phoenix took only 10 seconds to find them. The software's preview window confirmed that the original files were correct, and then it was easy to recover them all to disk. For the deep scan test of the USB drive, the software suggested that it would take 44 hours to complete, but it actually took only 2 minutes and found 11 of the 12 deleted files, with only one PDF document missing.
As expected, Stellar Phoenix, like other data recovery software, is unable to recover any files from the solid state drive.
For beginners and non-technical users, Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery is probably one of the best choices, with a beautifully designed and efficient interface that makes this software even easier to use.
- Fast, comprehensive file recovery capabilities
- Very clear and useful interface
- You can create disk image files
- Recovery from CD/DVD drives is possible
- Provides secure data erasure function
- Cannot recover 100% of all lost files
4. Stellar Data Recovery: Mac
Whether you lost data from internal hard drive, removable hard drive, Windows Boot Camp partition, or Apple Time Capsule, Stellar Phoenix Mac can help recover from it.
With a large number of scanning options and extensive file support, this data recovery program can scan disks, recover lost partitions, and retrieve documents, photos, and music. Despite the absence of sophisticated tools for filtering results, it provides an easy entry point for Mac data recovery.
The interface of the software is very simple and on the main screen you can start a new scan or recover a saved scan. Scanning includes three functions: scanning drives with lost or deleted volumes; recovering photos or data from severely damaged devices; and cloning drives for later use (creating images).
We tested the first two features on the SSD, but they were not much use, and scanning for lost or deleted partitions returned no results. Next, we selected the most granular data recovery option, but again Stellar Phoenix returned with zero results. This is not surprising: data recovery software is not suitable for SSDs.
More success was obtained on mechanical drives. To produce the most results, we ran Stellar Phoenix's Advanced Scan, a scan that maximizes file searches even when the drive has been formatted. In the end, the utility was able to retrieve about 66GB of files, which is similar to Data Rescue (73GB).
The software supports recovery from encrypted disks, Time Machine backups (including Apple's Time Capsule) and Boot Camp partitions. Similar to Data Rescue, Stellar Phoenix emphasizes the cloning feature, which allows you to perform further analysis of cloned disks. It's not a quick process, and it took us a few hours to export a 120GB copy of the SSD to an external disk. But it's a nice try, especially if the drive fails.
Stellar Phoenix does not offer sophisticated tools for filtering recovery results, nor does it rival Data Rescue's in-house recovery services. However, for those who want to extend recovery results and limit the learning curve, Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery has the most intuitive interface and provides an attractive entry point for data recovery.
- Recover more original file names than competitors
- Easy to use
- Unable to recover files on solid state drive
- Recover fewer files than Data Rescue
5. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard
EaseUS has a powerful line of data utilities that can satisfy both professional IT professionals and easy to use for the average user.
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is available for Windows and macOS systems and can also be used to access unmounted, raw or corrupted partitions. Advanced users will appreciate the ability to recover data from servers and RAID arrays. In addition, EaseUS offers recovery capabilities for iPhone and Android devices.
Once you open the software, you can choose to scan the desktop, Windows libraries, specific partitions, or external drives. If you are dealing with unmounted or deleted partitions, then the Recovery Wizard will extract information from the partition table and, unlike most other competitors, you don't need to run a full disk scan.
You can browse and preview the files as they have been recovered, or are about to be recovered, before the scan is completed. Since the files are given generic random names, the preview feature is very useful and allows you to better identify the exact original files.
Once the scan is complete, you can browse the content and search for files by file tree, file categories (images, audio, documents, video, email, etc.). The search function is very convenient and you can search for specific file types by extensions (e.g. .txt and .jpg).
During our tests, the quick scan took only a few seconds to complete, but returned fairly limited results and seemed to check only for recently deleted content to recover, while most competitors build the entire directory structure. The deep scan performs for two hours, and although this may seem long, it is actually several times faster than most competitors and has a very good ability to return all the files we are looking for.
In fact, if you are an IT professional, you will benefit from the comprehensive solutions offered by EaseUS, and Data Recovery Wizard may become an invaluable addition to your tool suite.
- Very fast scanning speed
- Powerful file search capability
- Available for Windows and macOS platforms
- Unable to recover data from CD/DVD
6. Recuva - the most affordable data recovery software
Recuva is a good low-cost file recovery software, and for the price, you probably don't care that it recovers fewer files than more expensive products.
One of the built-in features allows creating an image file from the disk with the files that will be recovered. This feature will be very useful in case of physical failure of the disk you are using.
By default, Recuva starts with a wizard interface, which helps to select the features you want and also saves you the trouble of navigating complex menus, but if you cancel the wizard, then you still have to use the options menu.
If the default search does not find the desired files, it will provide an option to perform a deep scan. As with other data recovery software, deep scanning means scanning the file signatures of the original data in order to identify the types of files that will be recovered.
During our tests with mechanical drives, after deleting files and emptying the Recycle Bin, Recuva took only a few seconds to complete a quick scan and found 5 of the 6 files -- but a slower deep scan would have found all of them. This illustrates a point: You shouldn't rely on Recuva's Quick Scan option unless you're sure it has fully recovered all the lost files.
Recuva can accurately display the extensions of recovered files (e.g. DOCX or PDF) and use any number instead of the original file name, and you can search for recovered files by extension or file name. Also, like all other data recovery software, it cannot recover deleted files from solid state drives. The only option is to send the drive to a professional data repair center, and even then, your chances are still slim.
We like Recuva's low cost, clear interface, and easy-to-use features, but it could only recover 70% of the files on our test disks, a performance that may not be good enough in crisis situations. Nevertheless, you can still download the free version to try it out, and if it solves your troubles, that's all you need.
- Cheap price
- Free version available
- Exquisite interface design
- The number of recovered files may not match that of expensive competitors