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The Best File Recovery Software for Windows - Review 2017

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.

  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014

Do-It-Yourself File Recovery Software Tested and Evaluated in 2017

For the 2017 update of our DIY file recovery software comparison, we expanded the range of products we tested to include some notable and up-and-coming releases. We kept the scope of our tests the same as last year, except that we used a much more complex folder structure and increased the number of files in our tests. As such, you may notice some slightly different ratings than our last test.

We also removed several DIY programs:

  • Seagate File Recovery was not reviewed in 2017 because it looks like its development has been discontinued.
  • Undelete360, Data Rescue PC3, MiniTool Power Data Recovery, and Systweak Advanced Disk Recovery for their low file recovery performance in previous reviews.

We also included five new programs. The following programs are being reviewed for the first time in 2017:

Raise Data Recovery (ver. 6.9.2)

Raise Data Recovery

Reviewed Version: 6.9.2

Prices: ~US$16.41 (14.95EUR), selectable during file recovery

Host operating systems: Windows XP Service Pack 3, Vista, 7,8, 8.1, 10, (32 and 64 bit).

Developer Website: http://raisedr.com

Auslogics File Recovery (ver. 7.1.1.0)

Auslogics File Recovery

Reviewed Version: 7.1.1.0

Prices: US$49.95

Host operating systems: Windows XP SP3 and Vista SP2 (32-bit only), 7, 8/8.1, 10 (32 or 64 bit)

Developer Website: https://www.auslogics.com/en/software/file-recovery/

Active@ UNDELETE (ver. 11.0.11)

Active@ UNDELETE

Reviewed Version: 11.0.11

Prices: US$19.99 (Standard)

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

Developer Website: http://www.active-undelete.com/

Ontrack® EasyRecovery™ Home (ver. 11.5.0.3)

Ontrack® EasyRecovery™ Home

Reviewed Version: 11.5.0.3

Prices: US$79.00 per year

Host operating systems: Windows

Developer Website: https://www.krollontrack.com/products/data-recovery-software

Kernel for Windows Data Recovery (ver. 14.0)

Kernel for Windows Data Recovery

Reviewed Version: 14.0

Prices: US$49.00

Host operating systems: Windows 95, NT, 98, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8/8.1, 10 Windows Server 2008R2, 2003R2, 2008, 2012

Developer Website: http://www.nucleustechnologies.com/Windows-Data-Recovery-Software.html

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

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard (ver. 10.8)

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

Reviewed Version: 10.8

Prices: US$69.95

Host operating systems: Windows

Developer Website: http://www.easeus.com/datarecoverywizard

R-Undelete (ver. 5.0 build 165150)

R-Undelete

Reviewed Version: 5.0 build 165150

Prices: US $54.99

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

Developer Website: http://www.r-undelete.com/

Restorer Ultimate (ver. 9.1 build 809321)

Restorer Ultimate

Reviewed Version: 9.1 build 809321

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

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

Developer Website: http://www.restorer-ultimate.com/

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-Undelete4.45.55.55.56.0
Restorer Ultimate5.74.55.54.06.0
Auslogics File Recovery2.65.05.04.54.5
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard2.65.03.56.04.0
Active@ UNDELETE3.83.54.04.55.0
Raise Data Recovery3.16.04.54.03.0
Ontrack® EasyRecovery™ Home4.15.04.03.53.0
Kernel for Windows Data Recovery2.55.04.03.54.0
File recovery performance Ratings
Product Deleted files Emptied Recycle Bin Disk re-format Damaged partition Deleted partition
Restorer Ultimate5.35.35.36.05.9
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard5.54.85.25.56.0
R-Undelete5.35.35.06.05.0
Raise Data Recovery4.84.05.35.96.0
Active@ UNDELETE3.55.54.14.84.6
Ontrack® EasyRecovery™ Home4.34.83.73.35.6
Auslogics File Recovery4.02.52.84.05.9
Kernel for Windows Data Recovery2.21.82.61.41.5

This year we added five new programs to our review and used a more complex file and folder structure for our data recovery tests. We were pleased that one of the new programs we tested — Raise Data Recovery—showed quite impressive results and ranked fourth overall and for file recovery performance. Except for Kernel for Windows Data Recovery, the other new programs also performed well. Although the newcomers show promise, our old programs, R-Undelete and Restorer Ultimate remained the top-rated products. But this year R-Undelete moved to the first place while Restorer Ultimate scored second-best.

Overall Rating
Product Rating Conclusions
R-Undelete 5.4

A very good user interface coupled with a reach feature set. It includes all essential parameters, one of the best file previewers, and S.M.A.R.T. monitoring. It also has no demo mode restrictions for FAT disks (most USB sticks, memory cards, etc.) for home users. Its file recovery performance is very good, especially for damaged partitions. These strengths helped move this program to the first place in our rating. Recommended for inexperienced users who have only occasionally or never performed data recovery tasks before.

Restorer Ultimate 5.3

Restorer Ultimate has a complicated wizard interface that allows almost all file recovery parameters to be specified. While this makes Restorer Ultimate suitable for advanced users, these complex parameters can confuse inexperienced users and make file recovery more difficult for them. It also showed the best file recovery results, especially while recovering reformatted, damaged, and deleted partitions. 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 4.8

A program with a good wizard interface and very good file recovery performance (ranked second), 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. Weak points include the lack of disk imaging and S.M.A.R.T. monitoring. Also, its localization support remains poor: although several new interface languages were added since our last review, it still cannot recover Asian or Russian characters correctly.

Raise Data Recovery 4.7

The DIY version of UFS Explorer, a well-known professional data recovery program. Not surprisingly, it performed very well. The program has the best user interface and the third-best score for file recovery performance. It did especially well with deleted and damaged partitions. In addition, it has the richest file system set. However, an average set of file recovery features (a weak file previewer, few interface languages, no disk imaging and S.M.A.R.T. monitoring) moves this program to fourth place. Still, this program is definitely worth looking at.

Active@ UNDELETE 4.3

The program has an impressive user interface, but only average file recovery features. Highlights include its file previewer and support for disk images. But its file recovery performance is quite poor, mostly due to the lack of raw file search. It completely failed several file recovery tests. Still, it performed excellently in deleted partition recovery.

Ontrack® EasyRecovery™ Home 4.1

This program scored quite high in our previous review (#4 in our 2015 PRO Data Recovery Software). But this home version showed quite poor file recovery results, mostly because it crashed several times during raw file recovery. It also has very limited interface language support—it’s only available in English. Interestingly enough, its 2014 version had an outstanding interface language support. Still, it has a very good wizard interface and support for S.M.A.R.T. monitoring. It also performed excellently in two tests.

Auslogics File Recovery 4.1

The program has an impressive user interface, but only average file recovery features. Highlights include its file previewer and support for disk images. But its file recovery performance is quite poor, mostly due to the lack of raw file search. It completely failed several file recovery tests. Still, it performed excellently in deleted partition recovery.

Kernel for Windows Data Recovery 2.8

A low-scoring product, its most redeemable qualities are its user interface, versatile file search parameters, and its ability to recover all tested localized characters. However, it showed the worst file recovery performance in all tests. The only test in which the program showed excellent results was data recovery from a deleted NTFS partition.

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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