Evaluation of data recovery software

It happens that there is a great abundance of various data recovery software. And it is not surprising that a home user often has difficulty trying to choose a right product among all the variety of data recovery market.

At first glance, it may seem that the most important thing is the price – the cheaper the tool, the better. However, choosing cheapest data recovery software doesn't always work. One should take into account many different factors such as the type of device he or she is trying to recover, the cause due to which the data was lost, and many many others.

I, having 20 years of experience in data recovery, decided to create my own comparison of data recovery software. I chose what was amongst well-known and suitable for specific tasks, tested it, and represented the results of comparative testing in good-looking tables so that people looking for data recovery solutions can easily understand what they need.

There are several typical data recovery tasks. Each type has its own variations, but I figured four groups as follows.

  • General data recovery software comparison. This group includes cases associated with data recovery from single hard drive (internal or external). Typically, a user needs to unformat a device, undelete file(s), or recover data lost due to some general filesystem failure. This only applies to Windows users. Macs I have no experience with, and Linux is too fragmented as far as filesystems go.
  • NAS recovery software comparison where I have tested various software capable of recovering data from multi-disk NAS devices. In addition to regular filesystem recovery, data recovery software must be able to recover the configuration of NAS device as well.
  • RAID recovery software comparison. This category includes software designed to determine the RAID configuration of hardware or software RAID arrays. Mostly, I was thinking hardware arrays, because their parts are always aligned the same (technically, start offset is the same for all disks). Software RAID where parts can be offset from each other is much more difficult to recover. Given the current state of the art, in 2015, I'd say cases with different offsets are limited to manual recovery. There is no automatics on the open market reasonably effective against differing RAID member offsets.
  • External drive recovery software comparison. In this category I have tested various data recovery tools using my external drive.
  • Photo recovery software comparison. Here I tested software capable of recovering data (mainly multimedia formats like .jpg and .mov.) from USB thumb drives and memory cards from various cameras.

I decided not to choose a winner for each group. In data recovery every factor may turn out important, so I just highlighted strengths and weaknesses of tested data recovery tools. You can pick whatever floats your boat.

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