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Disk Recovery Software Review
How to Choose the Best Disk Recovery Software
While many disasters can hurt a business, none can be as devastating as losing your company's data due to computer error. Not only is it not insurable and hard to plan for, but it can happen anytime, whether it's caused by user error (accidentally deleting a file), a hard drive error or a virus attack.
Fortunately, deleted items are not completely destroyed. Rather, the data itself remains on the hard drive until that space is needed and the file is overwritten. As a result, disk recovery software can find these hidden files and copy the data elsewhere, essentially finding what was lost. We tested over 15 products, losing and finding 6,000 files, from documents to videos, in order to find the best disk recovery software for your business.
No matter how excellent a disk recovery program is, it cannot replace the security and peace of mind that comes from regularly backing up your data. If you don't have backup software, then check out our backup software reviews or online data backup services reviews and get one before that important file you just saved inexplicably vanishes. Remember, hard drive recovery software is designed to be used after files are lost; backup software is a preventative measure – you save data to a secure server so you can easily retrieve it should the worst happen.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, Data Rescue PC4 and Ontrack EasyRecovery topped our rankings for their excellent data recovery rates as well as their ease of use. They also offer useful features for recovering deleted files quickly without significant downtime for your business.
EaseUS Data Recovery earned our Gold Award not only for its near-perfect data recovery capabilities, but also its strong feature set and excellent customer service.
We found Data Rescue PC4 very easy to use and highly successful in retrieving lost files. While it is not as feature-rich as other software on the list, its straightforward, intuitive interface earned it our number two slot.
Ontrack EasyRecovery, our Bronze Award winner, did not fare as well retrieving data from a reformatted drive, but it is super easy to use and has good customer support.
DoYourData had the best recovery rates of all the software we tested and was easiest to use. Its technical support offerings are not as strong as other software (it can only be reached by email), but if you are comfortable working with programs, then this option is an excellent choice.
What We Tested, What We Found
While there are many data recovery software programs on the market, we chose those that best applied to businesses. We sought out programs that offer the features that companies need. We looked for programs that were compatible with different server types and which were useful to IT professionals. We then evaluated each application to find the 10 best as far as feature set and support, and tested those.
Nobody wants to spend two weeks recovering lost data, but our testers did just that, losing and recovering files again and again with each application in order to determine which programs were the fastest, most effective and easiest to use. Here's what we considered.
The two most common ways of losing data on a hard drive are deletion and disk reformatting. Therefore, we tested all software applications under these conditions. We partitioned a test hard drive (recovering a full 1TB hard drive 90 times would have taken longer than two weeks), then added myriad documents, images, audio and video files.
First we deleted data, including emptying the recycle bin. If you thought your files were lost forever, you'll be pleased to learn that nearly all the programs we tested recovered over 90% of the data. Only R-Studio had problems recovering deleted documents.
Reformatting proved trickier. Even our number one product didn't achieve a perfect score here, and several were only able to recover between 50% and 75% of the data. We expected this, however, since reformatting is a more complicated procedure, wiping away file systems and replacing them with a new one, thus losing data locations. It takes a deeper scan to achieve the results we got.
As you evaluate which best disk recovery software to purchase, consider the files you need most. For example, Ontrack EasyRecovery, our number three product, had a perfect record recovering deleted files, but it struggled salvaging images lost due to reformatting. Secure Recovery, on the other hand, perfectly recovered nearly all files except documents lost to reformatting. Thus, if your business depends on images – such as if you are a photographer – Secure Recovery might better suit your needs.
Ease of Use
It's frustrating enough to lose valuable data; you do not want to also be fighting with the recovery program. We rated each product based on how easy it was to install as well as how easy it was to initiate scan a disk and recover files. The best installations took only a few clicks; those that were more involved scored lower.
When evaluating the software, we tested it from the point of view of the average computer user as opposed to an IT professional. We did give a nod to advanced features, but our focus remained on the basics of disk scan and recovery.
The best applications made it easy to search the hard disk and recover files from it. We favored programs that, after scanning was complete, showed what files they could recover. This way, if there's just that one vital document you need, you don't have to run a full recovery only to discover it's not there. Further, the best disk recovery software let us choose which files to recover.
The highest-rated programs offered options for specific issues, such as formatted or damaged drives, and ran preset recovery routines that best solve that particular problem. You can still customize scans as well.
What About Speed?
While we timed the speed of each program, there was not a direct correlation between how fast a program ran and how well it recovered the data. Many programs offer a quick scan, but that is a more surface-level scan. It does not find files lost due to complex issues like disk reformatting or error.
How to Recover Lost Data
If you discover you've deleted files, it's important to act quickly, especially if that computer is part of a network. Remember, data still exists on a hard drive until that space is overwritten. Here's what to do:
Step 1. Isolate the drive that held/holds the data so no one can overwrite it.
Step 2. Create an image of the drive and store it on a separate hard drive. This ensures you have a backup and safeguards the hard drive from further damage as you attempt recovery. Disk imaging software makes this process easy.
Step 3. Run the hard drive recovery software. As you recover files, however, store them on a separate disk. Putting them back on the disk you're recovering will disrupt the process. Many file recovery programs won't let you do this anyway.
Step 4. Scan and scan again. We found that not every scan pulled up every file it could recover. Therefore, if the file you desperately need does not show up, repeat the scan multiple times.
Step 5. No luck? While the highest-ranked programs had a high success rate, the results varied depending on the file type and the reason for the data loss. We also found, sometimes, that we got back files under different names or even different formats, and, of course, we sometimes got duplicate content. Some came back damaged or even without content. No disk recovery process is 100% successful every time.
If all seems lost, there is one final resort: hard drive recovery services. These are professionals who have more skills and resources for pulling data from the most stubborn drives. You can find our top 10 suggestions here.
Disk Recovery Issues for Businesses
Most disk recovery software companies offer multiple versions of their programs. Professional or enterprise versions, while pricier, have additional features that are designed specifically to help managers or IT professionals. These include:
- The ability to run data recovery via the network to another hard disk on the network
- Multiple licenses so you can install the software on several computers
- RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) compatibility. This is especially important for businesses with these kinds of servers, as data recovery can be more complex. (We've also evaluated RAID recovery services in case you have a major data loss.)
Losing data for any reason can be frustrating at best, devastating and costly at worse. Disk recovery software can help you get back all or most of the lost information due to disk reformatting, disk damage or simple accidental deletion.