Ease of Use
Help & Support
Mac Data Recovery Software
How Can Data Recovery Software Help You?
We tested the best Mac data recovery software for over 120 hours by deleting and formatting hard drives on a desktop Mac to determine the most effective solution if you experience data loss. Data Rescue 4 is our top software pick because of its exceptional results. We haven’t tested the newest version yet, Data Rescue 5, but we will during our next update.
If you need to recover data in a business setting, we recommend R-Studio – it has plenty of business-focused features such as remote network access and support for RAID storage.
If cost is most important to you, check out our pick for best value, Cisdem DataRecovery. It had a high success rate in our data recovery test as well as the lowest price of all the software we tested.
Mac Data Recovery Software: What We Tested, What We Found
To test each data recovery program's ability to recover a range of file types, we first compiled folders of photos, documents, videos and music on a desktop Mac with a standard hard disk drive. We simulated multiple recovery scenarios and performed each test numerous times for each program, recording the average success rate.
Lost File Recovery
The most common cause of file loss is accidental deletion. To measure how well each application recovered lost files, we deleted our folders of photos, documents, videos and music and then emptied the recycle bin. Next, we scanned the drive and recovered the data using each Mac recovery program. After the data was recovered, we compared the original folders to the recovered data to determine the recovery percentage.
In many cases, recovered files didn’t work right. For example, some recovered videos we opened simply displayed a black screen with no audio. Interestingly, with music files it was common to find dozens 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 attach an external hard drive to your Mac and you format the drive. Similar to deleted or lost file recovery, the files are still on the reformatted 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 from a reformatted drive, we added our folders of photos, documents, video and music to the drive and reformatted it. Then we scanned the drive with each 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.
It's important to note that a 1 percent difference in the success rate is significant. For reference, 1 percent of a standard 1TB external hard drive is 10GB of data. In other words, software with a 99 percent success rate is significantly better than an application with a 98 percent success rate.
macOS High Sierra Compatibility
Apple’s newest operating system, macOS High Sierra, introduced a huge change in the way files are saved and formatted on Macs. Instead of using HFS+, the Apple file system that has been working on Macs since 1998, Apple introduced a new file system called Apple File System – abbreviated APFS. The new system promises more secure storage, an increase to the maximum number of files on a volume and better performance.
Because APFS changes the way that files are written to drives, data recovery companies have to implement big changes to their software to get it to work with the new file system. This means if you’ve updated your Mac to macOS 10.13 High Sierra, many of the third-party data recovery and backup tools you have purchased probably won’t work, or at least won’t work as well as they should.
Data recovery companies are working to update their products to be compatible with High Sierra, but if you need a backup or recovery now, wait to upgrade your Mac’s OS. If you are looking for recovery services for the future, be sure to see if the software you’re considering supports High Sierra.
How to Identify the Best Software
Ease of Use: Easy & Effective Software Is Best
The best Mac data recovery software should be intuitive. You should never have to guess what the next step is in the recovery process. We looked closely at the interface of each data recovery program and gauged how easy it was to scan, preview, sort and recover lost data.
We graded each step of the recovery process, from installation to recovery, looking for clearly labeled scan and recovery buttons. We favor interfaces that provide clear definitions under the scanning options listed in the startup 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. Our Ease of Use scores rate which programs were the most user-friendly to novices.
Scan & Recovery Speed: Faster Isn’t Always Better
Sorting through all of the data on a hard drive takes time. Some programs like Ontrack EasyRecovery can scan a standard 1TB hard drive in five hours, while the slowest program, Stellar Phoenix, can only scan 50GB per hour. 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 faster or 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, you might need features specifically suited to 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, like R-Studio.
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 you need with the best software.
Extra Tips to Ensure a Successful Recovery
Remember that deleted data is kept on the hard drive until it's overwritten, so refrain from adding any more files or applications since this can make deleted files unrecoverable.
If a data recovery program isn’t already installed on your Mac, it's best not to install recovery software on your computer directly since this could overwrite lost data. Instead, make an image of your drive so that if things go wrong during the installation of the recovery software you can try again and not lose any files.
When to See a Professional
Physical data loss occurs when the actual components of your hard drive are damaged, destroyed or simply worn out. 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. Our top pick, Data Rescue, also offers physical data recovery through a partnership with Data Rescue Center. Just be aware that 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.