As IT pros, we all get those occasional phone calls from friends and family who want us to save their data after a hard drive crash. Since backups are usually nonexistent in those situations, I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about a few of the data recovery utilities that are available.

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

1: VirtualLab Data Recovery

VirtualLab Data Recovery (Figure A), which sells for $39.95, is designed to be an all-purpose data recovery utility. Besides supporting the usual FAT, FAT-32, and NTFS file systems, it supports Mac HFS / HFS+ and even NFS. In addition, it supports data recovery on devices such as USB flash drives and camera memory cards. In my opinion, its most useful feature is the ability to make a sector-by-sector copy of a failing hard drive. This allows you to focus on the recovery process without having to worry about the hard drive degrading further or failing completely in the middle of your recovery efforts.

Figure A

VirtualLab Data Recovery

2: File Scavenger – Data Recovery Utility

File Scavenger – Data Recovery Utility (Figure B) is another tool for recovering lost data. Like most disk repair utilities, File Scavenger (which sells for $49.95) can retrieve data from corrupt volumes. However, the tool’s main emphasis is on recovering data that was deleted accidentally. This includes data residing on partitions that have been deleted or on disks that have been reformatted.

Figure B

File Scavenger – Data Recovery Utility

3: BootSuite 2012

BootSuite 2012 from Spotmau (Figure C) is much more than just a disk repair utility. The utility, which retails for $99.95, does have a “super data rescue package,” but that’s just one of its eight primary features. The utility is also designed to fix boot problems, recover from blue screen errors, and reset lost Windows passwords. The company also offers a premium version called PowerSuite Golden 2012 for $150.95, which can even find your Windows and Microsoft Office product keys.

Figure C

BootSuite 2012

4: Recover My Files

Recover My Files (Figure D) is a basic disk recovery utility. However, its niche is file recovery. Recover My Files is designed to recognize more than 200 file formats. So it can look at the fragments of data that remain on a corrupt volume and use file signature data to recognize things like Word documents and JPEG images.

Figure D

Recover My Files

Recover My Files offers three versions of its software, ranging in price from $69.99 to $299.99. The lower-end version is designed for small office or home users, while the more expensive version is geared toward pros who recover data on a regular basis.

5: Kernel Data Recovery

Kernel Data Recovery offers a basic Windows Data Recovery tool (Figure E) that can recover missing, deleted, lost, and inaccessible data from FAT and NTFS volumes. It sells for $69.00. While there is nothing particularly noteworthy about this tool, the thing that caught my attention was the variety of recovery products the company offers.

Figure E

Windows Data Recovery tool

There have been plenty of occasions when someone has asked me to recover a failed hard drive, but they’re usually more interested in getting back a specific type of data (their pictures, spreadsheets, etc.). Kernel Data Recovery offers a number of niche products that are geared for specific types of data recovery. For example, there are tools for recovering email messages, corrupt PDF files, and corrupt OpenOffice documents. There is even a utility for repairing corrupt backups.

Other choices?

Do you have a favorite data recovery tool? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.