Losing any amount of personal information or files from a computer can be a terrible setback for any PC owner. Thankfully, there is specialized software that can scan drives for these files and recover lost data that you probably thought was gone forever. This article takes a look at low cost data recovery software (commercial & free) to highlight which uses they are best suited to.
General Purpose Options
For a home PC setup there is a wealth of low cost data recovery options. Remo Undelete has been around a number of years now and have a large enough customer base and support system in place. Both products operate in the same manner by scanning disk drives for files that have been deleted or removed and no longer appear in the Recycle Bin.
USB data recovery is possible with these tools as they do not differentiate between FAT-based internal drives and FAT-based external drives/USB key drives (see also our posts on flash card data recovery and Zip disk data recovery).
Importantly, both products do not alter the hard-drives in any way by removing data – the files recovery approach is more akin to ‘copy & paste’ than ‘cut & paste’. This reduces the chances of faults being introduced as a result of the scan.
The user interface is intuitive enough to use and resembles a simple file/folder browser with file recovery options for copying files to CD/DVD/file system/external drives.
In choosing between the two, the Remo product is updated more often, has a slicker user interface and supports more current operating systems. Both work for desktop/laptop/notebook data recovery and provide a FREE trial to allow you to complete a hard disk recovery scan and analysis – a license is then required to recover data.
- Remo Undelete – Supports all Windows platform & provides a free trial – Cost: $49 (Spring 2010)
Specialized Hard Drive Recovery Options
In general the Remo can help file recovery in most circumstances including disk crash data recovery. However there are also some specialized products, most of which are free, that can prove useful for recovering formatted or corrupt files. Data recovery experts (and some computer doctor services) will use more feature-rich tools than these (that incorporate forensic data analysis) which can unearth extra data.
- Formatted Drive:
Hard disk recovery when the drive has been formatted is possible if the data has not been wiped. CGSecurity‘s TestDisk and PhotoRec tools (both are data recovery freeware tools) are capable of scanning drives for lost/deleted files that have been de-indexed by the formatting process. TestDisk is an effective tool but the user interface leaves a lot to be desired. PhotoREC focuses on recovering photographic images from drives but can also produce good results for regular file types. Note that a data recovery after format has occurred may be unachievable if some form of evidence wiping (clearing data clusters) has occurred.
- Corrupted Drive:
In the unfortunate event of a drive becoming corrupted then some tools are capable of still scanning the disk to recover hard drive data. This is especially true with solid-state USB Flash memory where healthy portions of memory can still be easily read. The free PC Inspector’s Smart Recover application has a nice Flash based GUI that is worth trying. Corrupted hard drive recovery may prove more difficult to scan and detect files but Smart Recover or PhotoRec should both be able to detect and recover hard disk data.
If the hard drive itself has software related issues such as bad sectors or damage to the master boot record then our post on cheap hard drive recovery software options goes into further details about products like HDD Regenerator which can repair these faults.