Software

Five data recovery utilities

If your hard disk fails and you don't have a valid backup, you will have to resort to a data recovery tool. Brien Posey has five suggestions.

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I've lost count of the number of times over the years that I have had friends, family, and even clients contact me because a hard disk failed and no backup of the data exists. In these types of situations the only option is often to use a data recovery utility to try to get back some of the data. This article discusses five such utilities.

This article is also available as a TechRepublic Screenshot Gallery.

Five Apps

1. VirtualLab

VirtualLab is a utility for recovering various types of data. As you would expect, the product features file level recovery and partition level recovery. What might not be expected however is that it also has support for Macintosh partitions. The software also has dedicated functions for recovering CD / DVD ROMs, deleted E-mail messages, and photos. There is even a RAID recovery function. Best of all, the interface is very clean and easy to use.

VirtualLab sells for $39.95, but a free trial version is available for download. The trial version scans for recoverable data, but the actual recovery is disabled.

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2. File Scavenger Data Recovery Utility

File Scavenger Data Recovery Utility that is dedicated to file recovery. The utility itself is fairly simple. It scans the volume of your choosing, lets you select the file that you want to recover, and then that file is saved to a location of your choosing.

One thing that I really like about this utility is that it actively prevents recovered files from being saved to the volume where they previously resided. This is important, because writing to the volume decreases the chances of being able to recover other lost data. Although File Scavenger Data Recovery Utility is not as diverse as some of the other utilities that are available, it does one thing and does it well.

File Scavenger Data Recovery Utility sells for $49.95, but a free trial version is available for download. The trial version is limited to recovering files 64KB in size or smaller.

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3. Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery – Professional

Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery – Professional is a basic data recovery utility. It has dedicated modes that allow for the recovery of drives (and file data), CDs and DVDs, photos, and E-mail messages.

I particularly liked this utility's advanced options. It features the ability to clone a drive so that you don't risk further damaging your only copy of the data. There is also a feature that lets you create a disk image, which you can restore data from later on. A Drive Status function lets you view detailed health information for a disk.

Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery – Professional sells for $99.00, but a free trial download is available. The Save option is disabled in the free trial.

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4. MiniTool Power Data Recovery Free Edition

MiniTool Power Data Recovery Free Edition is a free tool for recovering data from a number of different sources. The software provides undelete recovery, recovery of damaged or lost partitions, digital media recovery, and CD / DVD recovery.

The best thing about MiniTool Power Data Recovery Free Edition might be the fact that you can purchase a boot disk. Having a boot disk makes it far easier to recover data from an unbootable, malware infected, or severely damaged system.

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5. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Free Edition

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Free Edition is a free tool for deleted file recovery, partition recovery, and complete system recovery. At first glance, it appears that the utility will only allow you to recover specific types of data such as pictures or E-mail messages. However, the interface does contain an Other option that you can use to recover files of any type.

The free version of this tool will allow for up to 2GB of data recovery. EaseUS also provides the option to purchase a Windows PE based boot disk for $59.95.

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35 comments
Thedatahospital
Thedatahospital

VirtualLab Data Recovery is BRILLIANT, I just recovered files from a defunct Mac PC. I realized that I will not need another software for data recovering, this one works perfect. Thanks.

michelleyoung
michelleyoung

Indeed a great review about the utility software. I usually hook up to http://sysinfotools.com/ for fulfilling my data recovery needs. I really liked the insights given in this post. Worth trying before dropping in to other solutions however I would have appreciated more if you could have added few more freewares that we can use in case of email losses. I often end up losing email files or have hard time opening them then I have to switch to a paid tool. Any recommendation?

cdorno
cdorno

I have used Kernel for Windows Data Recovery software to recover data from formatted hard drive. 

danieleaton
danieleaton

I think that Stellar Phoenix  Windows data recovery professional is a very good data recovery utility. It has dedicated modes that allow for the recovery of drives (and file data), CDs and DVDs, photos, and E-mail messages.The advanced features includes the ability to clone a drive so that we don't risk further damaging only copy of the data. There is also a feature that lets us create a disk image, which we can restore data from later on. A Drive Status function lets us view detailed health information for a disk.

Gemmy Johnson
Gemmy Johnson

I was quite fortunate to find such useful detail about how to recover files from hard drive under various circumstances. One of the other tool that I found while searching was Remo Software.


martins321
martins321

Whenever I read such posts, it recalls my old days. I recently dropped my HDD and my entire data was stored in that hard drive. Thanks to data savers for recovering everything.

http://www.datasavers.com.sg/

leelavinodh
leelavinodh

Recuva is very good. I tried it and it works well

mpatchak
mpatchak

I cut and pasted photos from a hard drive onto a flash drive and then lost the flash drive. Is the photos still on the original hard drive???

mirekturon
mirekturon

Do you guys know the way to recover data from internal memory of the Android tablet ? 

ictburton
ictburton

I've recently had reasonable success with Puran File Recovery.  I recovered 15GB from a failed USB drive.  Took about 3 days but did the job superbly and it's  free for personal use.

james
james

The pricing given for VirtualLab is misleading.  All the features listed are not available at the price shown....

gvtooker
gvtooker

Or one can also use an Ubuntu boot disk for data recovery. It's free, and it doesn't matter what OS is being used (obviously) or what condition the partitions are in since it sees the disk in raw format. I've successfully used this method to recover data off of failing hard drives and corrupted drive firmware where other data recovery software has failed.

gvtooker
gvtooker

Or you can use an Ubuntu boot disk. It's free, and it doesn't matter what operating system is being used (obviously) or what condition the partitions are in since it sees the disk in raw format. I've been able to recover data with this method where other data recovery software has failed.

admin
admin

SpinRite from GRC. It operates at the lowest level possible on the drive, and is file-system independent. If your trouble rests at the physical sector level, it's probably the tool you want, and the only tool of its kind.

GovtCheese
GovtCheese

Another vote for Recuva. It's never failed me yet

adekunlejob
adekunlejob

Is there any software that can be use to revive a damaged flash drive/external disk drive ?

macmanjim
macmanjim

Too bad that this stuff seems to be Windows only. 

adekunlejob
adekunlejob

Recuva is very good. I tried it and it works well

j.allan
j.allan

I use Easy Recovery and it has recovered lots of data for my users. It is worth paying for the full version when you consider the value placed on data by users / customers.

DCR-Mo
DCR-Mo

It may not quite qualify as a disk recovery tool, but when my son's laptop crashed and would not reboot and the windows "fix it" tool would not get things working, I used a Linux standalone boot CD to recover his data/music/etc files and save them to an external drive before we reformatted and reloaded the OS.

pgit
pgit

I also like recuva, and another free tool called photorec. It was originally designed for recovering graphics files, but you can add any file extension to the search.


The big difference between the free and non-free tools is the way you have to deal with the data once recovered. photorec can rescue your data, but the results are a serious mess. You'll find thousands of "files," many without the original file name but containing the data. You'll also likely end up with multiple copies of every file, I've seen dozens of 'duplicates' lurking in the recovered data.


It's definitely worth paying for a tool that gives you organized, easy to fathom results. I'd be interested in how each of the tools here present the recovered data...

dspernow
dspernow

Article implies these apps can recovery data from a failed hard drive. One would not be able to install these apps after the fact of a drive failure or even if planned ahead and the app was installed prior to drive failure it will be of little use since the drive failed. Best to use bootable media with a data recovery app and external USB/eSATA drive. Only the last 2 apps have options for bootable media which received no feature review.

macgvr
macgvr

I like Recuva. It seems to work really well, and it is free. It is better than some I have tried since some of those others were able to retrieve the files but without file names and some couldn't even find the files. Recuva found all the file names and that is a real time saver.

matt
matt

I always used an old program called "FinalData Premium 2.0". Not very user friendly at first but always got me out of a jam.

I have used Steller's PST recovery program before and it worked fine for me. I never tried their other recovery options however.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Tried one of Stellar's other applications once. Didn't work. Piece of dung if I base it on that application.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

What is your favorite data recovery tool?

rubertcornell
rubertcornell

@terencehoward3005 It is not a data recovery software I think. 

Hengky
Hengky

@dspernow I used Stellar Phoenix Pro to recover my valuable photos that were almost lost due to "hard disk failure". 

By hard disk failure we mean hard disk data may not even be recoverable by simply connecting it as a usb hdd drive and access the hard disk as if normal external hdd using windows explorer.

It means the hard disk partition and table probably corrupted but the data still intact.

These apps works by doing low level scanning by sectors looking for possible traces of data that are still there.

That's what data recovery utilities all about :D

bmerc
bmerc

@dspernow

And they can. 

These are not tools for a home user whose single drive has failed. You don't buy something like this and learn to use it for a single incident. These are tools that a technician or support person would use in their job.




zca
zca

You could install one of these apps on a working hard drive and connect the failing hard drive as a secondary hard drive. This can be done with IDE, SATA or a USB converter.