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? We’ve heard, seen, and even done most of them, and along the way we have found a number of great tools to bring our data back from the dead.
These 23 free data recovery tools run the gamut. There’s bound to be a tool in this list that can bring your dead data back too. As long as the drive is not physically dead, there is a chance. Try one of these tools out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This suite of tools includes undelete, copy, raw copy, imaging, and boot sector repair.
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.
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.
This tool can run on Windows and recover data from non-Windows file systems including Linux Ext#, UFS, EFS, and HFS+.
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.
For all your external drive needs, Unformat can recover entire disks including external USB, thumb drives, and SD cards that you’ve accidentally deleted.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!