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Best Data Recovery Software
Can Data Recovery Software Help You?
The top performers in our review are EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, the Gold Award winner; Data Rescue PC4, the Silver Award winner; and Ontrack EasyRecovery, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing data recovery software to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
What Is Data Recovery & How Can It Help Me?
Losing vital computer data can be devastating to your business. Data loss occurs several ways, and it usually happens at unexpected times. The reasons for data loss are usually accidental, such as an employee who accidentally deletes important files. Sometimes, though, there are other factors that cause data loss: an improperly disconnected hard drive, viruses or errors in disk reading.
Even when you delete files from a computer, they remain on the hard drive (in fact, data remains on your hard drive until it's overwritten with new information) and can be recovered using data recovery software.
The first line of defense against data loss is regularly backing up data to a separate drive. And while our top picks each have a high success rate for recovering lost files, it's never guaranteed that any data recovery application can recover everything, which is why it's important to invest in data backup or disk imaging software. Data recovery software should be a last resort in reclaiming lost data.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
The top three products in our ranking – EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, Data Rescue PC4 and Ontrack EasyRecovery – all tested high in the areas of recovery rates and ease of use. They also have several features that make data recovery quick and efficient, all with minimal downtime to businesses.
We chose EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard as our top pick not only for its superb recovery results and high Ease of Use score, but for its numerous help and support channels, for which it received a perfect score. EaseUS Data Recovery has all the tools you'll need to resolve your business's data recovery issues.
Data Rescue PC4 has a simple interface so you can perform data recovery with consistent results. Granted, the application is missing some features, but it offers a straightforward experience that retrieves lost files quickly and efficiently.
Ontrack Data Recovery has lots of handy features, including hard drive diagnostics and an eraser, making it a convenient suite of computer repair tools for a business's IT manager. It lags behind our top two picks due to some inconsistent recovery results.
What We Tested, What We Found
There are different types of data recovery software. Some software focuses on different operating systems or recovering specific types of files. For this review, we focused solely on data recovery software for businesses, most of which is compatible with different server types and includes features useful to IT professionals.
Here's more about our testing of data recovery software:
We tested the recovery capabilities of each product by having it scan and recover files from a hard drive multiple times. Our testing methodology considered the two most common reasons for data loss: deletion and formatting. We filled our test hard drive with common types of files in a variety of formats: documents, images, audio and video files.
We then partitioned our test hard drive to be slightly larger than the data comprising each test. We did this so the amount of recoverable data would stay constant and would be overwritten with each new test. We also did this in the interest of speed since data scanning and recovery can be time-consuming. Recovering a full 1TB hard drive can take hours.
In recovering deleted data, nearly all of the products we tested easily recovered most lost data, with only a few exceptions where we found some files were missing. Since this is a simple procedure, we expected most of the products to recover all of the files or recover no less than 90% of the data. We found that this was the case, with only a few outliers that dipped as low as 70%.
Recovering a formatted hard drive is a more advanced issue, so we anticipated more varied results. Since formatting a drive wipes its file system and replaces it with another, recovery programs must locate the raw data in a drive. Usually, it requires applications to perform a deep scan.
Some programs were better at recovering certain file types than others. For example, Ontrack EasyRecovery recovered 100% of reformatted documents each time we tested it but struggled recovering image files.
Ease of Use
We looked at and rated each product's ease of use in the areas of installation and scanning and recovery. For installation, we rated each application, based on a scale of 0 to 100%, reflecting how easy it was to install each product onto our test computer. Straightforward installations that required only a few clicks to set up scored high; complicated applications scored lower.
When using the software to perform data recovery, we rated how easy it was for the average user, such as a manager or IT professional, to initiate a scan of the drives and subsequently recover files from the drive. While advanced options are good, we rated products based on how easily a normal user can perform data recovery.
Highly rated products reflect those applications that allowed us to quickly find the desired drive and scan it. Likewise, once scanning was complete, top-rated products displayed the recoverable files, allowed us to select them, select where they were to be copied to and initiated the recovery process with a couple of clicks.
We favorably rated products that initiated the recovery process by providing options that corresponded to specific issues like deleted files, formatted drives or damaged drives. These programs then ran the scanning and recovery process with preset options that were best for that problem. (Of course, advanced users can still customize the settings within the program.)
Before You Attempt Data Recovery …
When preparing for data recovery, there a few things you should keep in mind and steps you should take to get the best results from your data recovery software.
As soon as you realize data was accidently or mistakenly deleted from a computer or server, you need to act fast. If your business uses a network, immediately restrict access to the drive where the data was located so that no further data can be uploaded and lost files are no longer at risk of being overwritten.
Once the drive is isolated, create a disk image of the drive and contain it in a separate hard drive, which can be accomplished with disk imaging software. Cloning the drive you're recovering safeguards the hard drive from further damage and allows you to attempt recovery.
Don't save recovered data to the same hard drive you're recovering from, as it can disrupt the recovery process and damage the drive. Most data recovery programs don't allow this anyway.
If at First You Don't Succeed
After you initiate a scan for recoverable files, don't be dismayed if the file you're looking for isn't found. During testing, we found that not every scan was consistent and that we sometimes got different files if we scanned the hard drive again. You can scan a hard drive as many times as you need until you get your desired results, as long as you don't write more data onto it.
Results May Vary
While you can expect to have a high success rate using the top-ranked products on our list, it's still entirely possible that there are some files that cannot be recovered. When attempting a recovery on an advanced problem, such as a formatted disk, you will usually get files back with different names, formats and sometimes duplicates.
Certain files may come back damaged or without content. If the data you're trying to recover is vital, consider using a hard drive recovery service.
Slower Doesn't Mean More Thorough
The products we tested scan and recover files at varying speeds, with some applications performing significantly faster than others. Many programs include a quick scan option, but this feature isn't usually helpful in recovering data from advanced issues, such as formatting or a disk error. What we found during testing is that there is no correlation between the speed of the scan and the percentage of files recaptured by the software.
Data Recovery for Business
When considering a data recovery solution for a business environment, it's important to look for certain features that will help you or your IT professionals resolve these issues as they arise. Data recovery software developers usually offer different versions of their programs at varying price points.
Programs with a professional or enterprise edition usually come with features such as remote network access, which allows you to run data recovery on any hard drive connected to your local network. Other programs issue licenses that allow you to install the application on multiple computers.
Another common feature for business-oriented programs is compatibility with RAID (redundant array of independent disks) systems. While most data recovery software can work with RAID systems, since they are complex servers and can suffer from complicated issues, you may want to consider a RAID recovery service.
Data loss can happen at any moment and can be due to different factors, such as human error, hardware failure or hacking. The effects of losing your business's most critical data, financials, customer information, etc., can be disastrous for your business.
Implementing smart and consistent backup strategies is one preventative measure. In the event the worst does happen, data recovery software can help avert a devastating crisis by saving important tax documents, spreadsheets, important digital assets and more so you can quickly get back on your feet.