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Five free portable recovery tools

Undelete files, recover data, and fix damaged partitions with the help of these handy portable apps.

Sooner or later, recovery will be a necessary task for every IT administrator. People lose data, either by accidental deletion or thanks to problematic partition tables. No matter how the data gets lost, you'll need a reliable tool to get the recovery job done. But you can't always rely on an installed tool and have to make use of a portable tool. Here are five tools that can help you with partition recovery and file recovery. All these tools are free and can be placed on a flash drive for portability.

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: Portable Data Recovery

Portable Data Recovery (Figure A) is one of the Pendrive Apps and does a great job of recovering data from FAT, FAT16, FAT32, and NTFS partitions. It's less than 500K and can recover some compressed and encrypted files. Portable Data Recovery also includes a wipe tool that will allow you to permanently delete a file to protect deleted sensitive data. When you recover data, make sure you recover to a drive other than the one the data is recovered from.

Figure A

Portable Data Recovery

2: TestDisk

TestDisk (Figure B) is a partition recovery tool that can help you recover lost partitions and make bootable non-bootable drives. This is one of those tools you hope you never have to use, but when you do have to use it, you'll be glad you have it and hope it works. It does work well. However, the success of the tool depends upon how badly damaged the partitions are. TestDisk can fix a partition table, recover a deleted partition, rebuild or recover NTFS, FAT boot sectors, fix MFT, and undelete and/or copy files from NTFS, FAT, ext2, ext3 file systems.

Figure B

TestDisk

3: Recuva

Piriform's Recuva (Figure C) offers tons of features for a portable app of this nature. With it, you can undelete files, recover data from a damaged disk, recover deleted iPod music, and restore unsaved Word documents. Recuva also has an easy-to-use quick start wizard, can do deep scans, and can securely delete files.

Figure C

Recuva

4: Wise Data Recovery

Wise Data Recovery (Figure D) allows you to recover Word documents, photos, email, audio, video, archives, and much more. What is unique about Wise Data Recover is that it will indicate the condition of the file to recover. You get immediate feedback after a scan indicating whether a file is Good, Poor, Very Poor, or Lost. Obviously, if a file is Lost, you won't be able to recover that file. But if the file is Good, you'll probably get that data back. The interface for Wise Data Recovery is clean and the app a snap to use.

Figure D

Wise Data Recovery

5: Restoration

Restoration (Figure E) allows you to easily restore files that were deleted from the Recycle bin or directly deleted from Windows. It lets you quickly scan upon app startup, limit search results with search strings (or extension), and securely wipe files beyond simple recovery. Restoration works with FAT, NTFS, and SD cards. Use caution when running this app, as it "offers" to install third-party software. Pay close attention when running the executable.

Figure E

Restoration

Your picks

Data and partition recover is a tricky business. It's never a sure thing, so go into testing these apps with that in mind. Even if you're able to recover data, it's not always certain that it will be completely intact. Maybe you'll never need these tools. But if you do, it's good to know there are portable recovery apps available to use.

What portable recovery apps are in your toolkit? Share your favorite with other TechRepublic members.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

12 comments
oliverpowell
oliverpowell

Portable recovery tools will indeed helpful for us. Though, It may have slim guarantee that all of our will be restored successfully. I'd personally recommend to try and use Stellar Phoenix Partition Recovery ( http://www.stellarinfo.com/partition-recovery.htm ), which I've tested in my 3 TB WD external hard drive and successfully recovers over 90% of data intact.

Thanks for the helpful post though!!

hground
hground

I discovered that they had their 4 free apps all available in portable versions. You will have to go to the download page for each one and scroll to the bottom where there is a link to the portable version. This includes CCleaner, Defraggler, Recuva, and Speccy. Thanks Piriform!

Dirk Klassen
Dirk Klassen

Our Firewall blocks the Wise Recovery download because it found the Malware "Mal/EncPk-AAK" in it. Can anyone confirm this?

Tegal
Tegal

I have used Recova on several occasions with good results - from a flash drive to an external HD on which the MBR had gotten corrupt. It took a deep scan (which on a 500Mb drive took 24 hours) then recovery of more or less all the files (another 24 hours).

mantariz
mantariz

I've used Piriform’s Recuva or at least a year now, if not more. I've never had an issue as khiatt@... mentioned above files reporting to be excessively large. It has saved me a few times, I happily recommend it to friends as required. Additionally it too has Wise Data Recovery not so unique feature of reporting the condition of the files, visible as the Green dots in Image C, or scrolling further over to the right and viewing the column. This feature has been there since I started using the product.

khiatt
khiatt

And I see Outlook Express emails.zip as a recoverable file on my system same as your example. Trouble is, I recently restored this computer and removed Outlook Express before it ever ran. I do use Outlook 2007, so maybe it's somehow related, but when I tried to recover it, just out of curiosity, the 26 gig free space on the flash drive wasn't sufficient. It seems to think this file requires 9.22 exabytes (that's 2 commas past terabyte). That's pretty impressive considering it's on an 80gig drive. Other than that, it’s simple scan was very fast and indicated if the deleted files had over-written clusters. It had no trouble recovering a file to a network drive, or the C: drive, though it did warn that recovery to the same drive can be dangerous. However, it would not restore the file to the flash drive saying that "The filename, directory name, or volume label syntax is incorrect."

Snak
Snak

That's a lie, isn't it.

CorporateLackie
CorporateLackie

Thanks for collecting this list of tools Jack! I have been using Uneraser by DiskInternals (not a free product) for some time with good results, but recently had issues with the latest version of the product not being able to recover JPG files from an SD Flash card - something I had done previously with great success.

bhughes55
bhughes55

Why do you say that -- are they not free then?

Snak
Snak

I downloaded Portable Data Recovery and ran it. It then told me that it would identify deleted files but if I wanted to actually recover them, I'd need to pay 30-something dollars. In my book, that's not free.

sallen
sallen

I just tried it, and it restored a file no question or $$$ asked.

xfungalx
xfungalx

Perhaps I didn't play with it enough but I shift+deleted a file to test and Portable Data Recovery found and successfully restored it. I tested three of the tools listed and they all were successful in this regard. Don't get me wrong, I agree with you, if it makes me pay to actually recover then that indeed is not "free." I just didn't experience that. Oh and great article, I enjoyed it!