Data Recovery Digest

Free Photo Recovery Tools: Performance Showdown and Feature Comparison

results »

The Best File Recovery Software for Windows - Review 2018

To use a personal computer is to put yourself at risk of data loss. Even if you make regular backups to an external drive or the cloud, there are a number of scenarios where you may lose your files, such as system crashes, power outages, virus attacks, hardware malfunctions, and human error. The good news is that accidentally or maliciously deleted files can be recovered. The bad news is that professional data recovery services can be extremely expensive. In some cases—such as mechanical hard drive failure or physical damage—taking your hard drive to a professional is the only option. For situations where the hard drive is physically functioning, but has a logical fault, you can often get your data back at a fraction of the price by using do-it-yourself data recovery software.

The best DIY file recovery programs are not free—but they can often get you the same results as a walk-in professional data recovery service (like Geek Squad) for a much lower price and without handing your data over to a third party. Thousands of users successfully recover their data using DIY data recovery software every day. But be warned: your mileage may vary.

There are a number of factors that affect your chances for a successful DIY file recovery. The most important is the cause of your data loss. DIY file recovery software is meant for hard drives or USB drives with logical failures—corrupted file systems, accidental deletion, reformatting, etc. If your hard drive has physical damage, then DIY data recovery software will do more harm than help and may even make recovery by a professional impossible.

The second biggest factor is the software you use. When it comes to finding do-it-yourself data recovery software on the web, there is certainly no dearth of choice. There are scores of programs to choose from, with a few popular programs rising to the top of the list. These recommendations typically come from anecdotal or one-time user experiences. In many cases, the reviewers and commenters have only used one or two programs before making their recommendations.

While user reviews are important, we decided to dig deeper. We took the most popular DIY data recovery programs and ran them through a rigorous battery of tests so we could get a thorough comparison of exactly what each is capable of. Although the reviewers working in our data recovery lab are data recovery professionals by trade, this review is designed for everyday personal users. After reading our comparison, you should have a clear idea of which do-it-yourself data recovery software is best for your needs.

Tested Software

For our DIY data recovery software comparison, we established a few criteria:

  • No free file recovery software. Though attractive for obvious reasons, free software usually lacks the features and performance necessary for successful file recovery. For example, Recuva, a widely-used free file recovery program, doesn’t recover folder names and structure.
  • No intrusive file recovery programs. That is, programs that attempt to recover data by correcting errors directly on the disk where the lost files reside. Although this approach is faster and doesn’t require additional disk space to store recovered files, a failed recovery using this method seriously deteriorates chances for a successful file recovery during subsequent attempts, quite often making it impossible.
  • No professional data recovery software. The high price and steep learning curve for professional data recovery software make it unsuitable for DIY users. For home use, data recovery software shouldn’t cost more than US $50 to $70.

Our DIY file recovery software comparison is an annual review. Each year, we re-evaluate the top contenders and consider newcomers as well. We’ll also highlight features that have changed since our last review.

  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014

Do-It-Yourself File Recovery Software Tested and Evaluated in 2018

For the 2018 update of our DIY file recovery software comparison, we keep the scope of our tests the same as for the tests of 2016 and 2017.

We renewed the list of products to test in the following way:

Seagate Recovery Suite (ver. 2.5.0.0)

Seagate Recovery Suite

Reviewed Version: 2.5.0.0

Prices: Premium: US$ 99 (1 install, 24 uses per year), Technician: US$ 249.99 with a discount (US$ $299.00 regularly), (5 installs, unlimited uses per year)

Host operating systems: Windows 7/8/10

Support for data recovery hardware: No

We already tested this program in 2016, and it won the third position. In 2017, the program seemed to have been discontinued, but now its vendor, Seagate Technology PLC, has released a totally new reincarnation of the program which is certainly worth testing.

Recuva (ver. 1.53.1087)

Recuva

Reviewed Version: 1.53.1087

Prices: Recuva FREE, Recuva Professional ($24.95 CAD, £19.95)

Host operating systems: Windows XP/Vista/7/8 (No support for Windows 10 stated on its site, but the program worked normally under Windows 10 during our tests).

Support for data recovery hardware: No

It's a very popular and highly praised free file recovery program.

We also continue to test and evaluate the programs which were included in our 2016 annual review:

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard (ver. Version 11.8 )

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

Reviewed Version: Version 11.8

Prices: Pro: US $69.95 with a discount (US$ 89.95 regularly), Pro+ WinPE US$ 99.90 with a discount, (US$ 149.9 regularly).

Host operating systems: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10, Windows Server 2003/2008/2012/2016

Support for data recovery hardware: No

R-Undelete (ver. 6.2 build 169731)

R-Undelete

Reviewed Version: 6.2 build 169731

Prices: US $54.99

Host operating systems: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10, Windows Server 2003/2008/2012/2016

Support for data recovery hardware: No

Restorer Ultimate (ver. 9.5 build 810195)

Restorer Ultimate

Reviewed Version: 9.5 build 810195

Prices: US $29.99 (US $49.99 for the Pro version,US $69.99 for the Pro Network version)

Host operating systems: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10, Windows Server 2003/2008/2012/2016

Support for data recovery hardware: No

Raise Data Recovery (ver. 6.13)

Raise Data Recovery

Reviewed Version: 6.13

Prices: €19.95 (app. US $23.94) General License [LTS]

Host operating systems: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10

Support for data recovery hardware: No

Active@ UNDELETE (ver. 12.0.17)

Active@ UNDELETE

Reviewed Version: 12.0.17

Prices: Standard: US$ 19.99, Professional: US$ 44.95, Ultimate: US $79.95

Host operating systems: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10, Windows Server 2003/2008

Support for data recovery hardware: No

For your convenience, we consolidated the results of our evaluation and tests into an interactive table below. You can click the column title to expand the column into a full tab to see more detailed results of the evaluation or test. Some tabs also include additional test / evaluation descriptions and brief conclusions.

Interface and Features Ratings
Product File recovery features User Interface Localization Support Demo version restrictions File preview
R-Undelete4.46.05.75.56.0
Restorer Ultimate5.85.05.74.06.0
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard2.74.55.75.54.0
Recuva2.35.06.06.03.0
Raise Data Recovery3.05.55.14.03.5
Active@ UNDELETE3.53.04.64.55.0
Seagate Recovery Suite3.04.55.53.04.0
File recovery performance Ratings
Product Deleted files Emptied Recycle Bin Disk re-format Damaged partition Deleted partition
Restorer Ultimate5.75.55.36.06.0
R-Undelete5.75.55.16.06.0
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard5.55.54.65.56.0
Raise Data Recovery5.24.04.94.85.8
Active@ UNDELETE3.54.53.74.95.8
Seagate Recovery Suite3.73.52.12.43.8
Recuva4.25.33.10.00.0

For our 2018 DIY file recovery program review, we removed three programs from our tests because of their poor performance and added two new ones. One of them is Seagate Recovery Suite, a reincarnation of Seagate File Recovery which we tested in 2016. The second is Recuva, a very known and often recommended free file recovery program. Unfortunately, none of them have shown good results. This may be expected from a free program, but not for software developed by one of the world’s leading technology companies. Otherwise, the score remains the same: R-Undelete remains the top-rated product as it was in 2017. Restorer Ultimate is the second-best, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is the third, and Raise Data Recovery is the forth.

Overall Rating
Product Rating Conclusions
R-Undelete 5.6

The program now features a completely new wizard-like user interface. It’s intuitively comprehensible and straightforward yet flexible and allows its users to change the course of actions whenever necessary. The program is still based on the renewed data recovery engine of R-Studio, a reputable professional data recovery program, and this shows the best data recovery performance in our tests, especially for deleted and damaged partitions. In addition, it has a very powerful file previewer, S.M.A.R.T. monitoring, and no demo restrictions for FAT/exFAT disks (most USB sticks, memory cards, etc.). All that makes its overall score highest in our rating. Recommended for inexperienced users who have never or only occasionally performed data recovery tasks before.

Restorer Ultimate 5.5

Restorer Ultimate is a program that balances between professional and DIY software. It always shows the top-level file recovery performance. It has a complicated wizard interface that allows almost all file recovery parameters to be specified. It also has a powerful file previewer, S.M.A.R.T. monitoring, user-defined raw file types, and a versatile disk imaging module. While all this makes Restorer Ultimate suitable for advanced users, these complex parameters and features can confuse inexperienced users and make file recovery more difficult for them. This program can effectively handle almost all file recovery tasks and rivals many professional data recovery programs. It can be used by users with any experience level, but only advanced IT professionals can fully utilize all its file recovery capabilities. Other programs are more optimized for automatic recovery without manual interference from inexperienced users.

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard 5.0

A program with a good wizard interface and very good file recovery performance (ranked third), especially for deleted partitions. Free file recovery of up to 2 GB of data is a very strong reason to pay attention to this program. It has drastically improved its localization support, which is now among the best. Weak points are the lack of disk imaging and S.M.A.R.T. monitoring.

Raise Data Recovery 4.6

The program has the second-best user interface and the forth score for file recovery performance. This is quite surprising because it’s the DIY version of Recovery Explorer, a well-known professional data recovery program. It did quite well with deleted partitions but showed quite mediocre results in file recovery from an emptied Recovery Bin. Quite disappointing, as the program had the second-best file recovery performance in 2017. Although it has the richest file system set (including Apple’s new APFS), an average set of file recovery features (a weak file previewer, no disk imaging and S.M.A.R.T. monitoring) moves this program to the forth place. Still, this program is worth looking at, especially if you need to recover files from non-Windows computers.

Active@ UNDELETE 4.2

The program has a non-wizard interface more suitable for professional software than a DIY program. Its features include the second-best file system set, a good file previewer, S.M.A.R.T. monitoring, and decent file search capabilities. However, its file recovery performance is quite average, that is why the program scores # 5 in our list.

Seagate Recovery Suite 3.5

The program looks like it has been totally redesigned and redeveloped since its 2016 version. It has now a good wizard interface, excellent S.M.A.R.T. monitoring features, and file search and mark capabilities. On the other hand, its file recovery performance is very unimpressive, considering its developer is Seagate, a very well-known hard drive manufacturing company and the old version was #3 in our 2016 tests.

Recuva 3.4

An illustrative example of why we usually don’t include free, even highly esteemed programs in our reviews. It’s free and has an excellent localization support. The rest is unsatisfactory, including the worst file previewer, the lack of raw file recovery, and poor file recovery performance. Moreover, it completely failed two file recovery scenarios: deleted and damaged partitions.

Most DIY data recovery users are facing a specific, one-off data loss situation. Our evaluation and test results are designed to help you choose a file recovery program that will meet your immediate needs. If you’re not sure which features you need, start with the top-rated program and attempt a data recovery in the demo mode for free. Each of the DIY data recovery tools we reviewed have a free demo version, so you can try as many as you’d like before making an investment. If you are a bit more experienced and know what kinds of features you need, you can take a look at our detailed test results and see which program is best-suited to the data recovery scenario you face. In our experience, some DIY programs perform very well in one area but fall short in others. Depending on your needs, a program with a middling overall rating might do the trick for you, even if the top-rated program does not.

If you are looking for a data recovery tool to purchase ahead of time, then you should check out our professional data recovery software evaluation. Professional software, while more expensive, provides more features and better file recovery performance across all the different tests we perform.

Comments

No comments yet. Sign in to add the first!