Ease of Use
Help & Support
Mac Data Recovery Software
How Can Data Recovery Software Help You?
We've reviewed the best Mac data recovery software to determine optimal software solutions to your data-loss issues. Data Rescue 4 is our top pick for its exceptional results. EaseUS offers great customer support, and R-Studio has plenty of business-focused features, such as remote network access and support for RAID. (RAID storage, or redundant array of inexpensive disks, stores your data on multiple, independent disks for faster performance or for data redundancy.)
How Can Data Recovery Software Help You?
At best, accidental data loss can be frustrating and inconvenient. At its worst, it can be devastating. Data loss comes in many forms, whether it's a folder that's accidentally been deleted with important files in it or a virus that's corrupted your computer.
Fortunately, data that's deleted from a hard drive can be easily retrieved. When you delete a file, it isn't immediately erased from your computer. You merely sever the file's connection to your interface, and it is stored in your hard drive until it is overwritten when you add more data. Data recovery software scans your hard drive for these files and retrieves them.
We've covered Mac data recovery software for seven years, testing products to determine the best programs available to resolve your data-loss problems. This year after hundreds of hours testing the latest applications, we present our list of the best Mac data recovery software applications for 2017.
Mac Data Recovery Software: Our Verdict & Recommendations
Three data recovery software programs – Data Rescue, EaseUS and R-Studio – rose above the 12 products we evaluated because of their ability to thoroughly scan and recover lost photos, documents and media files from standard or reformatted drives.
In our tests, Data Rescue 4 showed exceptional performance recovering all types of files, with few to no shortcomings in any category.
EaseUS for Mac is one of the easiest recovery software applications you can use. Initiating a data recovery search takes a few mouse clicks. It also features wonderful customer support through its website and a community page that offers helpful tips and advice from fellow software users.
R-Studio for Mac has several tools for performing data recovery in a business environment, such as support for RAID devices and the ability to recover drives remotely over a network. However, the interface is complicated and somewhat difficult to navigate. If you've never used data recovery software, this application has a moderate learning curve to master, but once you learn to navigate the complicated interface and its extensive settings, the data recovery results of this software solution are impressive.
Mac Data Recovery Software: What We Tested, What We Found
To test the success rate of each data recovery program's ability to recover a range of file types, we compiled folders of photos, documents, videos and music. Within each category, or file type (images, documents, media), we used several different formats. For example, photos consisted of JPG, TIFF, GIF, PNG and other common picture file types, whereas our test documents comprised DOCX, XLSX and PDF formats.
Each test was performed on the same desktop Mac with a standard hard disk drive. To account for variables, we performed each test multiple times so the data represented on our matrix reflects an average success rate, not just a percentage based on one attempt.
It's important to note that a 1% difference in the success rate is significant. For reference, 1% of a standard 1TB external hard drive is 10GB of data. This can represent a loss of thousands of documents and photos, hundreds of songs, and dozens of movies. In other words, software with a 99% success rate is significantly better than an application with a 98% success rate.
Below is more about the most common ways data is lost, the parameters of our testing for these scenarios and how we evaluated each software program's ease of use.
Lost File Recovery
The most common cause of file loss is simple deletion: that is, you or someone in your office accidentally deletes a critical file.
To measure how well each software application recovered lost files, we wiped a hard drive, added our folders of photos, documents, videos and music, and deleted them to the recycle bin. Then we emptied the recycle bin.
Next, we scanned the drive and recovered the data using each Mac recovery software program. After the data was recovered, we compared the original folders to the recovered data to determine the recovery percentage.
In many cases, an application would recover a file that appeared to be whole but would result in an error notice when we tried to open the file. Many of the programs recovered videos that, when played, produced a black screen with no audio. Interestingly, with music files, it was common to find dozens of more files than were originally on the drive, because the software would mistakenly cut a song into hundreds of small snippets. In each of these cases, we only considered a file successfully recovered when we could open it, compare it to the original and find no differences.
Reformatted Drive Recovery
The second most common data loss scenario occurs when you've attached an external hard drive to your Mac or transferred your hard drive to another Mac machine, but the format doesn't match the operating system. Your Mac asks you to format the drive, which you do. The problem, however, is that when you access that drive, all of the data is gone. Similar to deleted or lost file recovery, the files are still on the drive – only the paths have been removed and the format changed to the operating system's new architecture.
To test each program's proficiency in recovering data resulting from this type of loss, we added our folders of photos, documents, video and music to the drive and reformatted it. Then we scanned the drive with each software application to recover the files.
Some software has a specific "reformatted drive" scanning option. However, with some programs, this scanning option failed to recover much data at all. When this occurred, we scanned the drive using the deepest scanning option available with the software. In every case, this produced better results. As with our lost file tests, some of the programs returned media that didn't open or work, either partially or fully. We only counted a file as successfully restored when it was the complete file – not a fragment – and it was analogous to the original file.
Ease of Use: Easy & Effective Software Is Best
It doesn't matter if you're an IT professional or if you struggle to find the power button on your machine, the best Mac data recovery software should be intuitive. You should never have to guess what the next step is in the recovery process.
As such, we looked closely at the interface of each data recovery application and gauged how easy it was to scan, preview, sort and recover lost data. The best Mac recovery software has no learning curve.
We graded each step of the recovery process, from installation to recovery. We looked for clearly labeled scan and recovery buttons. We favored interfaces that provided clear definitions under the scanning options listed in the start-up menu. While it was relatively easy to initialize a scan with most programs, the recovery process proved to be the least-intuitive step for most products. Look to our Ease of Use scores for scanning and recovery to find which software programs were the most user friendly to novices.
It's understandable when you're in crisis mode and scrambling to find a solution, but here are some additional tips so you find the best Mac data recovery software.
Scan & Recovery Speed: Faster Doesn't Mean Better
Sorting through all of the data on a hard drive takes time. Some software can scan a standard 1TB hard drive in five hours, while the slowest scan we conducted would take days. The type of drive, the brand and how it's connected to your computer also impact scanning speed.
However, we didn't find a correlation between speed and the percentage of successfully recovered files: A slower scanning speed does not mean that the recovery will be more successful.
If you run a business or you're a self-employed IT professional, then you may need certain features from a data recovery program in order to efficiently recover files in an office environment. Depending on the size of the business, you'll want to look for features usually included in a "professional" or "enterprise" version of the software.
Some versions allow you to install the program on multiple computers with just one license or they allow you to restore other computers through an office network. And if your business uses a RAID server, you'll want a program that supports it.
Help & Support: Get Answers Fast
The best data recovery software for Macs comes with exceptional support to make the process as smooth as possible. We looked at the avenues available to you to contact customer support; specifically whether each manufacturer offers a phone number and a live chat option. We also scrutinized the resources on the developers' websites – tutorials, articles, FAQs and manuals. You should have little trouble receiving the help that you need with the best software.
For the Best Recovery
Besides purchasing optimal software to perform data recovery, there are a few steps you can take to get better results and increase the likelihood of successfully retrieving the files you're after. Remember that deleted data is kept on the hard drive until it's overwritten, so refrain from adding any more files or applications to your drive when you realize you need to recover data.
Ideally, the data recovery program is already installed on your Mac, but if it isn't, then it's best to make an image of your drive. This makes an exact clone of your hard drive's contents that you can store on a separate drive. With a cloned drive, you can perform data recovery without overwriting lost data.
When to See a Professional
Physical data loss occurs when the actual components of your hard drive are damaged, destroyed or simply worn out. Physical components of a hard drive are just like any other device – they wear out or simply stop working. If this is the case, Mac data recovery software most likely won't help you.
You'll need to send your hard drive or entire computer to a hard drive recovery service so that trained recovery technicians can open the drive in a certified cleanroom and attempt to recover your data. Physical data recoveries are costly, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
Recovery Is a Last Resort
The first line of defense against data loss is keeping a consistent backup of your data in a separate hard drive. Disk imaging software, data backup software or online backup services can prevent you from needing to use data recovery software if you keep a backup of your data. However, even backup drives fail, so it's reassuring to know that data recovery software is an avenue for salvaging lost data.
Data loss happens, and it occurs at unexpected times. When it comes to the security of your data, there's no such thing as too much protection. In addition to regularly backing up your data, having reliable data recovery software on hand can prevent disaster.