Data Recovery Software Review

March 23, 2012



In this second part of a two part article I will talk about recovering lost data which you never made backups of. Your situation may be one of several: perhaps you accidentally deleted a file or formatted a partition containing the file; may be you deleted something you thought you did not need and then days later decided you made a mistake; or in the rare case, your files simply disappeared for some unknown reason. Well, you can either pay a company to recover your data for you, which can be expensive or you can use a data recovery software and retrieve it yourself. Data recovery is a tedious and time-consuming process and not always guaranteed to work. Ask yourself, what is your data worth and based your decision on how to proceed. The rest of this article will be for the "do it yourself crowd."

For data recovery to have a good chance of success you need to prevent the deleted data from being permanently overwritten with new data. This means you need to remove the harddrive or memory card from your devices and connect it to a computer that will do the actual recovery right away. Usually, when a file is deleted, accidentally or not, the actual bits of data making up the file still reside in the storage device for a while until it gets overwritten by the operating system. You have no control of when it gets overwritten. When it does it is gone for good for the most part. Lost data due to hardware failure is beyond the scope of this article.

I've used data recovery software before and recently my smartphone decided it did not want to be smart anymore and deleted all my pictures and music after a system update. To this day I still don't know what happened. I probably elected to reformat the memory card during the update when I should not have. Regardless, I needed my data back. I had several hundred pictures and about a gigabyte worth of mp3 files I wanted to recover. I tried four data recovery software, listed below, to see which did a better job.

I inserted my phones memory card to a media reader on my computer and began my forensic investigation. Each software employed proprietary algorithms to analyze bits of data found in order to assemble a complete file. The assembled files are not always correct and you may end up with half a song joined to another song, or a picture that has been assembled from two different pictures or you may get a completely unreadable file. The softwares simply make a best guess in what constituted the original file. The painstaking manual inspection of all files found afterwards is very tedious and can take hours. You can narrow the search by specifying specific file types and other options. Also, the original file names are usually unrecoverable, which makes the job even harder. Each file found is given a generic name instead.

I found R-Studio and Undelete to have the best user interface of the lot. They provide a lot of customizations tailored to someone who likes to tinker with things. Some may be overwhelmed with all the settings. Easeus and GetDataBack on the other hand guides the user to what they want to do. The user interfaces are simple. Too simple if you ask me. In the end I was impressed with Easeus as it found the most relevant files of the four softwares. I was very surprised by it. Due to the differences in the searching algorithm each of the four softwares found different number of files. Ultimately, the combination of all four softwares recovered most of my files. Not one of them stood on its own unfortunately. Based on my experience it is hard to recommend just one data recovery software. If anything I recommend using as many as you can. It is important that I mention that Easeus offers a freeware version which allows you to recover one gigabyte worth of data before the trial ends. The search for the ultimate data recovery software remains elusive for now.


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