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Pros / Zero Assumption Recovery had one of the best recovery rates, finding all of our deleted and 99 percent of our damaged files.

Cons / The in-program help buttons link to the online user manual, which is not searchable. This could be a challenge to less-experienced users attempting complex recovery operations.

 Verdict / Zero Assumption Recovery is advanced software for advanced users that lets you use its photo recovery capabilities for free as part of previewing its extended data and RAID recovery software. It does have its challenges, but mastery of this software will pay off for advanced configuration users.

Editor's Note: This review has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it no longer ranks as a top 10 product. The original review is below, but check out our current top 10 about Photo Recovery Software here.

Zero Assumption Recovery (ZAR) was easily one of the best photo recovery software brands we have seen. It not only found all of our deleted photos, but also recovered 99 percent of the files from our reformatted 75GB device within four hours of starting the scan.

This digital image recovery software is meant for so much more than just finding your lost pictures. It has all of the essential tools you need to for full data and even Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) recovery operations. This software is fairly sophisticated. The photo recovery feature is ZAR’s free offering to get you to try the software. If your system is one that features a RAID or other type of advanced setup, then we recommend that you take ZAR up on the offer.

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Lost File & Reformatted Drive Recovery

Zero Assumption Recovery was the only photo recovery software in the top three to combine speed with recovery. It recovered 100 percent of our deleted files and 99 percent of our damaged files on a 75GB device in just four hours. At peak usage, ZAR’s Image Recovery required upward of 15 percent from our test computer’s CPU. While it wasn’t the most demanding, the photo recovery programs that took less processing power ranked lower for other reasons. High CPU usage may just be the cost of a successful recovery. Depending on your system, we might not recommend using other programs while running ZAR on your computer.

Digital Camera Recovery

The scan was amazingly thorough and short – thankfully so, as the one thing Zero Assumption Recovery lacks is a Pause button. At 18.75GB per hour, that scan would have been 53 hours on a 1TB drive, which is a long time for any computer to run uninterrupted. Beyond that, ZAR has some very interesting advanced image-recovery features, including the ability to limit the maximum size of found files and even a choice of preferred behaviors for when the software detects a file.

Ease of Use

It wasn’t long before we realized that ZAR was just showing off. The software provides visual disk mapping that shows structured files, data fragments, bad sectors and “Nothing Interesting,” which we assume are sectors with little to no useful information. While the standard progress bar is useful, the added visual information offers a better reminder to periodically launch your system’s error-checking utility and scan for bad sectors. ZAR has even more complex features further down in the program, so you would do well to read the user manual just as thoroughly as ZAR will be reading your selected drive or device.

Zero Assumption Recovery combines great photo- and data-recovery capabilities with a near-perfect ease of use. In addition to large buttons and well-defined functions, the scan results are well presented with a variety of sorting options to help you find the exact image you seek. Advanced features also give you the option to create and load disk images for later searches.

Support

It is not often in data recovery that you need help. The initial stages largely depend on set-and-forget functionality, where you start a scan and let the software hunt through your device. Recovery at the end is as simple as selecting the files you would like recovered from the returned results. Zero Assumption Recovery is simple enough to carry you through these early processes, but because it also features highly intensive scanning capabilities, ZAR has a comprehensive online user manual that answers pretty much any question you can think of. Unfortunately, it’s not easily searchable, so be prepared to do some reading. The in-program Help buttons also link back to the online user manual.

While maintaining a user manual online is useful, it’s not always convenient. In recovery situations, internet access is not always available or even advised. A separate in-program or even a downloadable user manual would go a long way, especially where the more complex functions are involved. ZAR does have an extensive online knowledgebase where you can find some short answers and email support for those tasks that might surpass your level of understanding, but nothing replaces an easily referenced user manual.

Summary

Zero Assumption Recovery is definitely digital image recovery for advanced users. The image-recovery feature is easy to use and the software offers extensive documentation, but it’s loaded with advanced features for which you might find yourself challenged to find proper instruction. Unlike other photo recovery programs, ZAR’s advanced features extend to full data and RAID recovery. For its photo recovery features, though, ZAR offers short recovery times with an incredible rate of recovery. There are not too many ways you can go wrong.

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