- How many times have you deleted something from your hard-disk and immediately realized you made a mistake
- How many times have you shift-deleted something really important, only to bang your head on the keyboard later?
- How many times have you wished you could un-delete a file from USB drive?
I am sure many of you know about File recovery software available in the market. But do you realize the concept behind File recovery tools? Gizmo‘s explain this beautifully.
Any data on Windows system is written to the hard-disk and once you decide to delete it, all the space occupied by the data is marked for re-use. File recovery relies on the fact that when a user deletes a file the contents of the file aren’t physically wiped out on the disk, but rather the file is simply flagged as deleted. On simpler terms, the space is simply marked for reuse. This means that the older the file, the less chance there is of successful recovery because it’s more likely to have been overwritten by another newer file.
File recovery software works best when the deleted files are recovered to another drive. That’s because the very act of recovery involves writing to your drive, and you don’t want to write over other files that still need to be recovered. The other drive can be another partition of the same disk or even an external drive.
Another important thing to understand is that the Recovery programs operate more successfully if they are installed before any file recovery is attempted (If you have come to this article from Google, more likely you haven’t installed a recovery software.) Remember that recovery software cannot undelete files that have been written over.
Recovering data from physically damaged drives is also beyond the capabilities of most free recovery tools. There are some expensive commercial products which claim to recover any data completely even from a physically damaged disk. But remember, costlier doesn’t always mean better.
With this in mind, let us discuss about some of the top Data recovery tools available for free.
Related: How to Recover Permanently Deleted Google Drive Files and Folders
Best Free Data Recovery Software
File Recovery category under software used to be dominated by commercial products until recently. But now we do have some really good free alternatives. Let me introduce them to you one-by-one.
1. Recuva – Undelete, Unerase, File Recovery
Recuva comes from the makers of CCleaner, the hugely popular Windows optimization and cleaning freeware. It has a simple to use interface and also copes well with the flash memory used in digital cameras, MP3 players, or USB drives. It is considered to be the best free file recovery tool according to the masses. It has a decent track record of recovering files from damaged and formatted disks. You want to recover deleted emails? Recuva can do it for you.
2. PCInspector File Recovery
It is aimed at slightly more technically-advanced users but produces very impressive results. It neatly distinguishes between physical and logical drives, has excellent file search capabilities, and even allows you to search ranges of specific clusters. It can find and unerase deleted partitions on your hard disk even if the boot sector or file allocation table (FAT) has been deleted or damaged.
3. Disk Digger
Disk Digger is relatively a new entrant to data recovery utilities market. It can recover deleted files from any media, including USB flash drives, SD / CompactFlash / Memory Stick (etc) memory cards and hard disks. It bypasses the Windows file systems drivers and scans the hardware directly, thus allowing it to scan even systems that have bad sectors or that do not have drive letters in Windows. It can also scan certain disk image files. It operates completely in memory (RAM) so as not to overwrite any portion of lost file(s) on your hard disk. Best of all? No installation is necessary!
TestDisk is a powerful open-source tool for recovering your data. Other than basic data recovery options on FAT and NTFS systems, with TestDisk you can recover your boot sector from a backup, rebuild your boot sector, fix FAT tables, fix your MFT, locate the ext2/ext3 backup SuperBlock, copy deleted files from partitions to recovery media, and find lost partitions in dozens of formats to help you locate your lost data. Please note that it is a command line tool and hence doesn’t come with a GUI.
Pandora Recovery is another old but feature-rich and popular file recovery freeware. You can recover files based on search functionality. You can search by file name, file size, creation date and last accessed date. using Surface scan you can scan files whose file allocation table is damaged or missing. The file can be recovered as long as the space on the logical drive has not been reused by operating system.
Glary Undelete is from the makers of Glary Utilities and is a powerful file undelete solution for FAT and NTFS file systems. It will even recover files that have been deleted by bugs, crashes and viruses! It supports recover compressed, fragmented and encrypted files on NTFS. It can undelete files on removable devices.
Photorec is much similar to TestDisk but deserves a place in the list of best data recovery tools irrespective of the fact that it lacks a GUI. It is considered as a companion for TestDisk but can work on its own especially when deep disk recovery is not needed. PhotoRec focuses on file types, is operating-system agnostic, and despite its name, isn’t relegated to just photos.
CD Recovery toolbox is a free data recovery software specifically for CDs or DVDs or even BluRay discs. It can recover data from corrupted CD/DVD/HD DVD/Blu-Ray discs. Not all of the files and folders can be found – that depends on the degree and location of the damage. The tool is compatible with Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows XP SP2, Windows 2003, Windows Vista.
9. DATA Unerase Personal Edition
eDATA Unerase Personal Edition is software used to restore files that have been deleted through normal methods, including accidental deletions from the recycle bin. It recovers only deleted files located on local logical disks visible by host OS. This version will not find lost files.
FreeUndelete recovers accidentally deleted files from your hard disk, whether your hard disk has a NTFS, FAT32 or FAT16 file system.
Though some of these software are available on Mac as well as Linux, the article is aimed for Windows users only. If you are a Linux user, you can refer to this article for the best free data recovery software available for Linux platform.