Apple

Cleverfiles Disk Drill file recovery for the Mac

Derek Schauland tries out the Disk Drill file recovery program for the Mac. It could help make a user's day in the event of accidental deletions or corrupted files.

Being one who creates a good deal of content for publication, either on my own blog or at TechRepublic.com, keeping the content safe is something you would think I'd be quite good at. In reality, it is one of the last things I worry about because I have this habit of making assumptions that I will always be able to start over, or get the information back. I am starting to realize that this may not be the case.

About four months ago, I got a Mac. Sure, it looks nice and runs great, and the things I need to do, I have been figuring out as I go, but file recovery hadn't even dawned on me. Being a long time Windows user and a Microsoft MVP, things like backup and data availability and storage were all something I felt pretty good at on the PC, but on the Mac, I have been a bit lax.

At the recommendation of an editor, I took a look at Clever Files Disk Drill. It isn't difficult software, and I suppose that is the point, especially for the general user. As someone relatively new to the Mac, here is my experience with Disk Drill.

File recovery vs. disaster prevention

Disk Drill does one thing very, very well...it keeps files available. When you configure it, you can tell the application to protect the hard drive on your Mac, which allows files you, may accidentally delete to be recovered using a technology called Recovery Vault.

The Recovery Vault is a way to undelete files on your system. It keeps tabs on what you have worked on and can quickly recover items you may have deleted accidentally. Think of this as another layer to the Recycle Bin.

Quick Scan allows a user to quickly scan their working drive to locate files they may wish to recover.  It isn't quite as simple as Recovery Vault in that you will need to scan for files, and it is less precise in the way it locates files simply because it scans the disk to do so. The Quick Scan method is also only available on working disks.

Deep Scan can work with any mountable drive, be it a hard disk or a flash drive, or compact flash, or even the hard disk in an iPod. It looks at file signatures on this media to see what was stored there and attempts to recover it. The media just has to be mountable, not necessarily working. This is obviously the most thorough option, but it takes a long time depending on the size of the media you are scanning, see Figure A.

Figure A

Deep Scanning a 4GB flash drive

So if Disk Drill can recover files from a working or damaged drive, do I need to know much about the file I lost?

Many times when someone loses something important right now, they remember many of the details about that item, but if they have misplaced it or the item is no longer top of mind, it may not be that easy to identify its unique characteristics. For example, it is easier to recover a photo than a specific photo of Cousin Roy from the family reunion.

Disk Drill can recover several types of items:

  • Pictures
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Documents
  • Archives

Or it can look through all files. If you narrow the search to photos, when looking for a picture of cousin Roy, you will have more focused results than if you told Disk Drill to look through all files for the same picture.

Being able to narrow your results by category is something many take for granted, but because the categories are practical to file types people use, it is a great feature as far as I am concerned.

Recovering a long lost file

So scanning files is a strength, but when the rubber meets the road and a file needs to be recovered, how bad is it?

When I set out to deep scan a flash drive, the first deep scan didn't find anything that had been deleted. In the interest of seeing what might be different, I put some content on the flash drive waited a bit, deleted it, and scanned again (using the quick scan option).

The items I deleted (and emptied from the trash) were found right away as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Found Files for recovery

What if I need help?

Many application developers are doing a much better job today of providing help to the users than they did in previous releases. What struck me as nice about the Help in Disk Drill is the presentation; Figure C shows the blueprint approach. The idea here is to keep the help simple for the user to avoid discouraging them with more than they need.

Figure C

Help in the form of Blueprints

You will need some patience, or have something else to do while waiting for a deep scan to finish; although the scan referenced earlier did speed up as it went along since there was some free space on the drive, the scan time was still around 40 minutes.

Do you think Disk Drill would be a good addition to your Mac toolset? Let us know in the comments.

About

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

3 comments
Robert Graham
Robert Graham

Using "Time Machine" I can go back from today, to February 8, 2011. Using Apple's "Search Box" I can find any file between now and then. You're not using a PC anymore, this is the world of Apple's Macintosh!

capeltz
capeltz

Good article. However it's not "Recycle Bin" it's "Trash". Your PC colors are showing.

flashnam
flashnam

Anyone can accidentally delete an important file and then you need the right tool to get that file back. The fact that the application is not difficult to use is a plus. I will definitely try this one...

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