How many times have you searched for a file only to find that it’s gone from your computer? Your fault, my fault, nobody’s fault… it doesn’t matter. When a file you need is gone, all you really want to do is get it back: as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Deleted by accident? Formatted by mistake? Drive corrupted by the latest attempt at quadruple-booting? Plugged in the power to a non-hot swappable drive? Dragged a DVD across the gravel parking lot? Ran the USB key through the wash?
Really doesn’t matter since all that you want is your data. Well, that’s where data recovery tools can help. Let’s take a look at what these data recovery tools are and what they can do for you?
What is data recovery?
Data recovery is the process of recovering data that has been accidentally or willfully lost. In a corporate environment, it could also include data that has been made inaccessible. While in some cases it may be possible to search for the document you want through multiple locations including the recycle bin, in most cases, you need a tool that can do this job for you.
The obvious advantage of using a tool for data recovery is that it is fast, searches thoroughly, and can recover data from inaccessible or sometimes even deleted places. The only catch is that the drive should be physically working. That’s it! These tools will handle the rest for you.
Now that you have an idea of what data recovery tools can do for you, the next big question is how can you choose the right tool given the many options (both free and paid) that are available today.
How to choose the best data recovery tool?
The choice is not easy considering the many options you have. Here are some aspects to consider while choosing a data recovery tool.
One of the most important considerations is the feature set. What does a tool offer and will this fix your problem? If the answer is yes, go for it. Else, look for other options.
Before deciding the features, make a list of the capabilities you’d like to see in a data recovery tool. This should be a good starting point as all that you’ll have to do is compare your list with what each tool offers. When there is a good match, it means that the tool is the most ideal one for you.
The company behind the tool
There is a company behind every tool and it is important to ensure that this company is reliable and experienced. Make sure to read the online reviews of the tools.
The credibility of the company is essential because fraudulent companies tend to use their tools as a way to steal valuable information from your computer. In other words, some tools are malicious and you should stay away from them. Checking the background of the software vendor is essential.
Preview and format options
The recovery tool you choose should allow you to preview your corrupted files, so you know you’re recovering the right one. This saves a ton of time and effort for you. Likewise, the tool should support different file formats, so you can recover not just your documents, but also your audio, video, and even image files.
Also, the tool should be able to retrieve documents from any media, storage, or electronic device to give you the utmost flexibility.
Check the system requirements of the software and see if your system meets these requirements. This match will ensure that the tool can perform at its maximum potential, otherwise you may have a substandard user experience or worse, the tool may not work at all.
Cost is another consideration. There are many free tools available today and in fact, this post will have a long list of free tools when you scroll down. While these tools are good, you can also go for paid alternatives, especially if you’re looking for a very specific capability. In addition, paid tools come from reputed companies, so you can rest assured about their safety.
Top 23 free data recovery tools
As mentioned earlier, here are 23 data recovery tools that come loaded with features and are free to use. Though you may have heard or tried a few tools, we’re sure this list will give you fresh options geared to address your specific problem.
With both free and pay editions, Recuva is an incredibly powerful tool for recovering data from Linux and Window partitions. With support for all Windows versions from XP through Windows 8.1, this is a great tool to bring dead data back to life. It is one tool that has saved me multiple times over the years.
- Optimizes secure overwrite on Windows 10
- Detects drives and partitions
- Recovers commonly-used file types
- Comes with an advanced deep scan mode to look for any traces.
With a free version for recovering data from secondary drives, and a pay version you can put on a USB key to recover an operating system drive, Pandora Recovery has a versatile offering that can bring back most data without issue.
- Scans and recovers all known file formats through a native scan.
- Comes with many advanced algorithms for quick scanning, deep scanning, and reconstructing lost partitions.
- Supports all major file systems.
3. PC INSPECTOR File Recovery
Completely free, PC INSPECTOR File Recovery is a great recovery tool for Windows systems. It can recognize data types even when the header is missing, so you can recover from deletions, formatting, or even total volume loss.
- Finds partitions automatically, even if the boot sector is erased or damaged.
- Saves recovered files on network drives.
- Recovers files with the original time and date stamp.
4. PC INSPECTOR Smart Recovery
Also free, Smart Recovery is a tool focused on recovery files from external media, like flash drives and SD cards. It’s a bit older than File Recovery, but still works great and can handle proprietary file formats.
- Works on many devices such as IBM microdrive, SONY memory stick, secure digital card, and more.
- Quickly and reliably reconstructs the lost data
- Comes with many digital cameras as well.
The name of this tool from OfficeRecovery says it all. It’s free for personal use, and it undeletes files that you have deleted, even if you SHIFT-DEL or empty the Recycle Bin. What it lacks in fancy features it more than makes up for in efficiency and simplicity.
- Restores deleted files, even those removed from Windows recycle bin
- Saves the recovered files in a new user-defined location to avoid overwrites.
- Supports most commonly-used filesystems.
This suite of tools includes undelete, copy, raw copy, imaging, and boot sector repair.
- Supports many drives and file formats.
- Uses a simple GUI, thereby making it ideal for novices as well.
- Gives you complete control over all actions related to recovery.
NTFS.com Data Recovery Software Tools include several standalone products that can handle almost any data recovery scenario. In addition to the free versions, there are pay versions with even more features. You can download a free trial of a bootable ISO with all of the tools on one image from http://www.boot-disk.com. Make sure you look closely at each tool’s free version, as they include a lot when you get into the details. The set includes…
This is probably the first tool to try, as it can handle undeletes, deletes that bypass the Recycle Bin, formatted or corrupted files, lost partitions, and more.
- Efficient and easy-to-use, even if your PC doesn’t boot
- Recovers NTFS, ReFS, FAT, HFS+, XFS, JFS, UFS, and BtrFS file systems
- Reconstructs deleted and damaged partitions.
This tool can help you to recover a formatted or repartitioned drive in its entirety. It can also fix lost MBR and GPTs and can read from VMware virtual disk images.
- Restores lost partitions and disks.
- Its low-level scan detects reformatted and damaged partitions.
- Creates a sector-by-sector disk image for data backup and recovery.
This tool can run on Windows and recover data from non-Windows file systems including Linux Ext#, UFS, EFS, and HFS+.
- Supports all types of storage media.
- Recovers many file formats such as docs, videos, audios, ebooks, databases, emails, and more.
- Restores deleted partitions.
Built specifically for NTFS volumes, this toolkit includes a disk editor, partition manager, and recovery tools. It also has great instructions on how to use each tool.
- Comes in manual and automatic modes for added flexibility.
- Works well in both 64-bit and 32-bit computers
- Recovers most file-formats including ONE, PUB, IBD, FRM, MYI, VDI, and BCB.
For all your external drive needs, Unformat can recover entire disks including external USB, thumb drives, and SD cards that you’ve accidentally deleted.
- Restores formatted HDD, SSD, memory cards, and USB flash drives.
- Supports all prominent file systems
- Recovers data from memory cards that were accidentally formatted.
12. Active UNERASER
This tool can be used to recover data lost due to damaged, formatted, or deleted partitions and includes several other tools including a partition manager, a disk monitor, and more.
- Recovers both 32-bit and 64-bit systems
- Restores most file extensions
- Supports all types of storage media.
Sometimes the data is not lost; it is just inaccessible because the operating system won’t boot. This tool is a bootable operating system image that can be used to gain access to the hard disk when the installed operating system won’t boot, so you can copy off data to external media before reinstalling.
- Starts even non-bootable PCs.
- Comes with a friendly Windows-like user interface
- Resets your Windows local user password and user’s account attributes.
A multitasker that includes a disk editor, imaging software, encryption and checksumming, format converter, and more. It is more targeted towards investigation and forensics than simple data recover, and has several different levels of licensing, depending upon required features. It has an evaluation version that is free to try for as long as you need.
- Provides native support for many file systems
- Imports all clipboard formats including ASCII hex values
- Edits data structures using templates to repair tables or boot sector.
Software designed to recover lost partitions or repair drives that are no longer bootable. It can repair most file systems (NTFS, FAT, EXT) and also recover data from deleted partitions. OpenSource, it can run under most versions of Windows, Linux, BSD, and Mac operating systems. It also can be deployed as a bootable image to recover from unbootable systems.
- Fixes partition tables and recovers deleted partitions.
- Rebuilds NTFS boot sector
- Copies files from deleted FAT, exFAT, and NTFS partitions.
A freeware application to recover data from hard drives and removable media. It is simple to use and fast to find data, making it an excellent choice when you need your files back quickly.
- Comes with advanced algorithms to finish scanning within the shortest time.
- Shows the possibility of recovering a file.
- Compatible with all Windows versions.
This tool can recover data that has been deleted, formatted, or from drives that have been corrupted. The free version has a 2GB cap, but often the data you are trying to save is much smaller than that, so most users can do a lot with a 2GB trial. It has both Windows and Mac versions.
- Recovers more than a 1000 file types
- Exports or imports scanning results
- Boots with a downloadable WinPE when your system fails to start
This tool offers hope for mobile devices too, with a free data recovery tool for both iOS and Android platforms. This app can recover specific data types from iOS devices and most files from Android devices.
- Supports recovery from many storage devices
- Recovers deleted, formatted, or inaccessible data.
- Supports compressed and encrypted volumes
Also from EaseUS, this tool can restore deleted files from FAT and NTFS partitions on fixed and removable media. It is a self-contained executable and runs on everything from XP through Windows 8.
- Restores deleted files from NTFS and FAT drives
- Works well on both Windows and Linux platforms
- Recognizes most storage media
This tool can read files from damaged physical media, like corrupted flash or scratched optical drives. If your operating system can show the files, then this tool will read them off, ignoring any bad sectors to recover as much usable data as possible.
- Copies entire drives when needed
- Supports drag and drop functionality
- Comes with different speed levels.
Another tool that goes after deleted files and brings them back from the dead. There is a portable version that can be put on a flashdrive or bootable disk like BartPE, and it supports both FAT and NTFS partitions.
- Comes with a powerful recovery engine
- The user interface is simple and intuitive
- Supports quick scan, full scan, and deep scan.
Designed to recover data from damaged CDs and DVDs. If they are scratched or smudged or faded, but there is still some readable data on the disk, this is a tool that can bring back as much salvageable data as possible.
- Recovers information from any CD/DVD disks
- Capable of recovering files that are larger than 4GB.
- Detects a lack of free space on the drive.
It may sound like a pay-for edition, but it is absolutely free and comes with a collection of tools for data recovery, including File Rescue, Media Recover, Deleted File Search, Emergency Disk Image, and Mail Rescue. It also has a secure file wipe utility, showing it plays both sides.
- Comes with a file rescue wizard for easy and quick recovery of deleted files.
- Mail recovery wizard helps to retrieve mail contents
- Media recover makes it easy to recover media files in just a couple of easy steps.
While all of these are great and free tools for recovering data, there are many more out there. Do you have a favorite we missed? Leave a comment and let us know which tools you like the best. Or if one of these has saved the day for you, let us know too.