If you are reading this page, you likely have just lost some critical files. Most people do not look for hard drive data recovery software until they need it. Yes, we all know that we should unfailingly back up our files and store our external drive in a separate location (or "in the cloud") just in case, but this does not always happen. After reminding yourself to be more diligent in your backup plans in the future, take some time to think about how you lost your data and settle down in the fact that there is hope. Lost data or deleted files usually remain in memory until they are written over. What is "lost" is the pathway or direct access to the data. Recovery software can help you find the data if the pathway no longer exists.
So, you have lost some files. What can you do? Data backup software can recover your files if they have not been written over and the storage device is still intact. Even if you cannot access Windows, there is still a chance you can recover your data. The best recovery software can recover data from damaged sectors, USB drives, deleted partitions and external disk drives. It can recover any data file, including images, Microsoft Office files or Outlook emails.
Data recovery software for Windows is a do-it-yourself solution that is easy to use and less expensive than hiring a data recovery service. However, there are a few precautions to keep in mind. First, do not install the software onto the compromised disk. Either install it onto a different disk or to a separate PC that you can attach to the disk drive.
Second, if you suspect a damaged sector, you may benefit from creating a disk image of that sector to pull the data from rather than directly from the disk (some of the software we reviewed includes disk imaging tools). Lastly, until you recover your data, don't change anything. Do not install other software, do not save new files onto the disk and do not reconfigure your partitions – any changes may compromise the access to your data.
We compared the most popular data recovery software to find the most flexible and easy-to-use solution. To begin the process of finding the best solution to recover your files, see our top choices – Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery, R-Studio for Windows and Data Rescue PC. To learn more about file recovery and data backup, see our articles on data recovery software.
When looking for data recovery software, you need to find a solution that can recover your files from the location where you "lost" them. Perhaps your PC suffered a virus attack or partitions reformatting. Maybe you just need to recover a few critical files that were accidentally deleted. If you lost your files, it is important that you find software that can attempt to relieve you from your specific scenario. When we looked for the best data recovery software, we compared what storage devices they can restore from and their search and restore filters, basic features and technical support to help you discover the most suitable product to solve your data-loss problem.
There are many ways to lose a file. Maybe you accidentally deleted a folder or loaned your USB thumb drive to someone who accidentally lost a few files for you. Because there are many ways to lose data, we looked for software that can recover your files from a variety of storage failures. Most file recovery software can recover deleted files or files emptied from the recycle bin. However, the best data recovery software can also find and restore data from altered partitions, damaged sectors and external drives. Top recovery applications also recover data from a variety of external disk drives and common items like USB drives and discs.
Though most recovery tools have all basic features, we compared them side-by-side to help you make a better choice about which software solution will work best to solve your data loss problem. Most software supports FAT (a variety of types) and NTFS type file systems. However, some sell FAT or NTFS separately or both types in one product. If you are unsure, select one that offers both.
Beyond basic recovery features, a few applications provide the ability to launch the file search regardless of whether you can access Windows. This is a good option if you want to attempt to recover files without having to disconnect your suspect disk drive and attach it to a PC that can run Windows.
Another option that some software includes is disk imaging. A disk image is an exact image or mirror backup. Disk imaging is useful for making an image of a damaged disk so that you can attempt to access "lost" data with less potential for error. Disk imaging can also create a backup image to prevent loss later.
Search and Recovery Options
Search, filter and sort options are also similar across products. Some will allow you to search for a specific file type during the initial search. Others will let you sort the list of discovered files. Most will let you search by file name, type (or extension), date or file size. Few recovery tools allow you to search for a specific version of a file, but most will list the files' creation, last modified and last access date. Since discovered file lists can be long and often do not contain the original file name, search tools can be quite useful. File previews are also helpful. File previews show you an image of the file or the file code to help you find the file you are hoping to restore.
Help & Support
Recovering lost or deleted files can be complicated. Although the best file recovery software should be easy to use, there should be help readily available if you need it. We verified the type of direct support each company offers, such as telephone, email and instant chat support, as well as support documentation such as user manuals and product FAQs. If you need additional assistance, some companies offer professional data recovery as an additional (but often costly) service.
If you have lost files, there is help. Unless your files have been written over or are located on a completely demolished disk, there is a chance you can recover them. With a little patience and the right data recovery software, you can recoup your losses.
At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don't Have To.™