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The Best File Recovery Software for Windows - Review 2020

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.

  • 2020
  • 2019
  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014

Do-It-Yourself File Recovery Software Tested and Evaluated in 2020

For the 2020 update of our DIY file recovery software comparison, we kept the scope of our tests the same as for 2019, 2018, and 2017.

We renewed the list of products as follows:

Recuva (ver. 2.5.0.0)

Recuva

Reviewed Version: 2.5.0.0

Prices: Free, Pro: US$19.95

Host operating systems: Windows 7/8/1010/8/7/Vista/XP (both 32 and 64 bit)

Support for data recovery hardware: No

This is still the most popular file recovery program on the Internet. We tested this program in 2018 with quite average results, but considered the possibility that performance may have improved.

Disk Drill for Windows (ver. 2.6.1100.16880)

Disk Drill for Windows

Reviewed Version: 2.6.1100.16880

Prices: Pro: US$ 89.00 (+ US$ 29.00 for lifetime upgrade), Enterprise: US$ 499.00 (+ US$ 99.00 for lifetime upgrade).

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

Support for data recovery hardware: No

We tested the Mac version of this program in 2019, and it showed a quite good performance, so we decided to include its Windows version in our review.

Ontrack EasyRecovery (ver. 13.0.0.0)

Ontrack EasyRecovery

Reviewed Version: 13.0.0.0

Prices: Home: US$ 79.00 (the annual license, Professional: US$ 139.00, Technician: US$ 499.00)

Host operating systems: Windows 10, and all previous Windows versions starting from Windows 95

Support for data recovery hardware: No

We also continued to test and evaluate the programs which were included in our 2019 annual review:

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard (ver. Version 12.8)

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

Reviewed Version: Version 12.8

Prices: Pro: US$ 69.95 (1 month subscription), US$ 99.95 (1 year subscription), US$ 149.95 (lifetime license). Technician: US$ 299.00 (1 year subscription), US$ 399.00 (2 year subscription), US$ 499.00 (lifetime license).

Host operating systems: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10, Windows Server 2003/2008/2012/2016/2019

Support for data recovery hardware: No

R-Undelete (ver. 6.6 build  175721)

R-Undelete

Reviewed Version: 6.6 build 175721

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. 10.2 build 822021)

Restorer Ultimate

Reviewed Version: 10.2 build 822021

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. 6.22)

Raise Data Recovery

Reviewed Version: 6.22

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

Host operating systems: Windows XP SP3/Vista/7/8/8.1/10 (32/64 bit)

Support for data recovery hardware: No

Premium Recovery Software (ver. 3.7)

Premium Recovery Software

Reviewed Version: 3.7

Prices: €85.54

Host operating systems: Windows 7/8/10

Support for data recovery hardware: No

This program is a rebranding of Seagate File Recovery we tested in years 2019, 2018, and 2016. It scored #3 in 2016, but showed quite unimpressive results in 2018 and 2019. Seagate Technology PLC is a well-known hard drive manufacturer and has all the capabilities to strongly improve its performance, so we decided to give it one more chance.

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-Undelete4.56.05.75.56.0
Restorer Ultimate5.85.05.74.06.0
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard2.74.55.85.55.0
Ontrack EasyRecovery3.44.55.35.05.0
Recuva3.35.06.05.53.0
Disk Drill for Windows4.14.54.35.04.5
Raise Data Recovery3.15.55.54.04.0
Premium Recovery Software3.44.53.53.04.0
File recovery performance Ratings
Product Deleted files Emptied Recycle Bin Disk re-format Damaged partition Deleted partition
Restorer Ultimate5.76.05.66.06.0
R-Undelete5.76.05.66.06.0
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard5.35.85.55.66.0
Raise Data Recovery5.53.85.05.66.0
Disk Drill for Windows4.55.04.25.15.0
Ontrack EasyRecovery4.85.54.82.36.0
Premium Recovery Software4.32.33.73.64.8
Recuva4.55.04.30.00.0

For our 2020 DIY file recovery program review, we added three programs: Disk Drill because we tested this program for Mac, and it showed quite good results, Recuva, as the most popular file recovery on the internet, and Ontrack EasyRecovery Professional. The first one showed quite decent results. R-Undelete greatly improves its recovery performance and remains the top-rated product as it was in 2019, 2018 and 2017. Then follow Restorer Ultimate, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, Raise Data Recovery, and the rest. Seagate Recovery Suite was rebranded as Premium Recovery Software, so we decided to give the program one more chance to improve its performance, however unfortunately our expectations again fell short.

Overall Rating
Product Rating Conclusions
R-Undelete 5.7

The program has an easy-to-use yet flexible user interface, a very good localization support, an excellent file previewer, and good combination of file recovery features. No demo mode restrictions for file recovery from FAT/exFAT disks (most USB sticks, memory cards, etc.). The program supports file recovery from all Windows file systems and can recover files using raw file search. File recovery features include versatile file search and mark capabilities, estimation of chances for successful recovery, and disk S.M.A.R.T. monitoring. R-Undelete is based on the data recovery engine of R-Studio, a reputable professional data recovery program, which results in the excellent file recovery performance, especially from emptied Bin and deleted/damaged partitions. All of this makes its overall score highest in our rating. Recommended for inexperienced users who have never (or occasionally) performed data recovery tasks before.

Restorer Ultimate 5.6

The program has a very exhaustive wizard interface that allows almost all file recovery parameters to be specified, a very good localization support, and an excellent file previewer. Its excellent file recovery features include support for all Windows and many other file systems, user-defined raw file types, estimation of chances for successful recovery, disk S.M.A.R.T. monitoring, and a versatile disk imaging module. The program always shows the top-level file recovery performance, especially from emptied Bin and deleted/damaged partitions. While all this makes Restorer Ultimate suitable for advanced users, As a program that balances between professional and DIY software, it can effectively handle almost all file recovery tasks and rivals many professional data recovery programs, but these complex parameters and features can confuse inexperienced users and make file recovery more difficult for them. That is why only advanced IT professionals can fully take advantage of all its file recovery capabilities. Other programs are more optimized for automatic recovery without any manual adjustment. All of this together with quite strong demo restrictions moved this program to the second score.

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard 5.2

The program has a very good wizard interface, localization support, and previewer. In addition, its demo restrictions are minimum: free file recovery of up to 2 GB of data. File recovery is supported for all windows and HFS+ (Macintosh computers) file systems, and can be performed using raw file recovery. Its file search and mark capabilities are good, but it has also some weak points: the lack of disk imaging, logging, and S.M.A.R.T. monitoring. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard showed a very good file recovery performance (ranked third), especially for deleted and reformatted partitions.

Raise Data Recovery 4.8

The program has the second-best user interface, very good localization support, and a good file previewer and demo restrictions. The list of supported file systems includes almost all Windows (except ReFS), Apple’s HFS+/APFS, and many other file systems. It also supports raw file recovery. Program’s file search and mark capabilities are good, but lack of disk imaging and S.M.A.R.T. monitoring spoils the overall impression of its features. Its file recovery performance is generally good (ranking fourth), especially for deleted and damaged partitions, with one exception: file recovery from an emptied Bin, although the results of this test are much better than those in Year 2019. Nevertheless, this program is definitely worth looking into, especially if you need to recover files from non-Windows computers.

Ontrack EasyRecovery 4.7

The program has a decent wizard interface, good localization support, a very good previewer, and unrestricted file recovery for files up to 1 GB total in the free version. The list of supported file systems includes almost all Windows (except ReFS). Linux’ Ext2/3/4 and Apple’s HFS+ can be added in its Toolkit. It also supports raw file recovery with predefined and custom-specified file types. Program’s file search and mark capabilities are good, and it also supports S.M.A.R.T. monitoring. Weak points are the lack of disk imaging and logging. The program’s file recovery performance is relatively good (ranking sixth), especially for emptied Bin and deleted partitions. At the same time, it showed very poor performance for damaged partition recovery (failed to recover from damaged FAT32 and exFAT partitions).

Disk Drill for Windows 4.6

The program has a good wizard Interface, a good localization support, a good previewer, and unrestricted file recovery for files up to 0.5 GB total in the free version. The list of supported file systems includes almost all Windows (except ReFS). Linux’ Ext2/3/4 and Apple’s HFS+. It also supports raw file recovery. Program’s file search and mark capabilities are very good, and it also supports disk imaging, logging, and S.M.A.R.T. monitoring. The program’s file recovery performance is quite good (ranking fifth), especially for emptied Bin and deleted/damaged partitions.

Recuva 3.7

The program has a very good wizard interface, the best localization support, and an average previewer. Demo restrictions are very good: files can be recovered in the free version, but not the folder structure. The list of supported file systems includes all Windows file systems except ReFS. It also supports raw file recovery. Program’s file search and mark capabilities are good, and it also supports disk imaging and logging. A weak point is the lack of S.M.A.R.T. monitoring. The program’s file recovery performance is not very good (ranking seventh). It showed good results for emptied Bin, but completely failed two tests: recovery from damaged and deleted partitions.

Premium Recovery Software 3.6

The program has a good wizard interface, poor localization support (only the English interface), worst demo mode restriction, and average file previewer. The list of supported file systems includes all Windows file systems except ReFS. It also supports raw file recovery. Program’s file search and mark capabilities are good, and it also supports logging and S.M.A.R.T. monitoring. A week point is the lack of disk imaging. The program’s file recovery performance is very poor (ranking eighth, the last one). Its only test with some decent results is file recovery from deleted partitions. The rest is very unimpressive. Moreover, it could not perform file recovery from an emptied Recycle Bin on the NTFS file system. We do not recommend this program.

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.

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