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Best data recovery software of 2020

TechRadar logo TechRadar 19/02/2020 Alex Cox
Best data recovery software © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Best data recovery software

There are few things more horrifying that losing your data due to a harddrive failure or even damage to your PC. Family photos, work documents, creative projects, can all be lost in an instant if you don't have some form of offsite backup solution in place.

Even if you have been saving to USB drives or optical media such as CDs or DVDs these can fail, too. 

Don't lose heart, however, as so long as your harddrive or other media is mostly intact it's still possible to recover most if not all of the lost data from these.

The first option you should consider is to try free data recovery software, which can be especially useful for smaller problems and challenges.

However, if you face a bigger problem and they don't work, then do consider paid-for data recovery software. If all else fails, there is still the option to send it into a lab to have the data recovered, though this tends to be the costly option.

In the meantime, here is the best data recovery software that we could find.

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Best data recovery software - at a glance

  1. OnTrack EasyRecovery
  2. GetDataBack
  3. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro
  4. Data Rescue 5
  5. Paragon Backup and Recovery
  6. MiniTool Power Data Recovery
  7. Recover My Files Professional
  8. Mac Data Recovery Guru
  9. Recuva
  10. CrashPlan
a screen shot of a computer: (Image credit: OnTrack) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: OnTrack)

1. OnTrack EasyRecovery

Get back on track with this powerful recovery solution

Powerful interface
Wide range of features
Easy file sorting
Missing some useful features

Ontrack EasyRecovery comes in a number of different options, all intended to help provide the complete recovery of data under a range of different data loss conditions.

A free version allows you to recover up to 1GB, so isn't going to be particularly helpful except as for a tester for most people. The Home edition allows for the recovery of files and folders that have been accidentally deleted, though it can also recover them after a virus infection.

The Professional edition allows you to create disk images as well as recover data from CD's and DVD's, while the Premium edition doesn't just have the ability to clone HDD's and SSD's, but can also repair corrupted photos or videos.

The Technician and Toolkit editions are even more powerful, allowing for lost or reformatted RAID volumes, but also come with commercial licensing for commercial use, working across Windows, Mac, and Linux systems.

Prices rise accordingly for the level of data recovery required, and while some of the more advanced tiers don't come cheap, we can speak from experience in saying the cost can be worth it for a successful full data recovery.

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2. GetDataBack

An easy to use solution which includes some nifty features

Powerful
Fast search feature
Includes drive cloning
No Mac or mobile options

One purchase gets you three flavors of GetDataBack: Simple, which has a streamlined interface and can be pointed at FAT, NTFS or EXT formatted drives to hunt for files, and a pair of classic versions focusing on NTFS and FAT drives specifically. The latter two have been around and updated since 2001, and while their age might suggest they may be splitting at the seams, data is still data, and they can find it.

All three packages can be run from a live CD or from within a WinPE bootable Windows environment, meaning you can fire them up without risking much destabilisation of your drives.

GetDataBack Simple is, we'd suggest, particularly useful for laypeople – if you don't know how a particular drive is formatted, or even what FAT or NTFS mean, the unintimidating interface and basic language might still be able to help you pull files back. More advanced users, though, could benefit from looking elsewhere.

a screenshot of a cell phone: (Image credit: EaseUS) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: EaseUS)

3. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro

A neat wizard-style way to easily recover your files

User-friendly
Good recovery features
Limited configuration options

EaseUS isn't overstating the 'Wizard' part of this software's title – it really is straightforward to use, taking you step-by-step through the recovery process. Run it quickly enough after disaster has occurred and it'll be able to resurrect just about everything, from inadvertently-deleted partitions to virus-ruined files.

The full package is still one of the more affordable solutions we've seen for resurrecting crashed RAID setups – certain packages hide this functionality away in their premium versions. While there are definitely more advanced recovery packages out there, and certainly some cheaper ones, this is the one we'd keep on our shelf for those not-so-special occasions.

Pricing starts at $69.95 for a one-month licence, with a one-year license costing only $99.95. A Lifetime Upgrades license is available for $149.95.

a screenshot of a cell phone: (Image credit: Data Rescue) © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. (Image credit: Data Rescue)

4. Data Rescue 5

Brimming with features including a deep forensic scan

Mac or PC
Lots of features
Comprehensive scanning options
Smart interface
Slow deep scanning

Optical media might be gasping its last breaths, but it still has uses. It's notably handy for enabling the likes of Data Rescue 5, which comes on a bootable CD so that you don't risk damaging a bad drive any further when you come to retrieve your lost files from it.

Fire up Data Rescue, follow the simple steps, hook up an external drive, and it'll do a deep forensic scan for your files and pull off the files you select, as long as they're recoverable. It'll also run as an application, grabbing your files from external discs and SD cards.

If you're in a hurry we'd look elsewhere, because the painstaking scan takes a good long while to run through, and also because you'll obviously need to get hold of this on physical media rather than in downloadable form. It does use excellent recovery routines, picking up more files than most, so it's a good option if you've exhausted all other possibilities.

Mac users lacking optical drives should look towards Data Rescue 5 for Mac instead. It is specific macOS software which comes on a bootable USB drive and can cope with Boot Camp partitions as well as regular macOS drives.

a screenshot of a cell phone: (Image credit: Paragon) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Paragon)

5. Paragon Backup and Recovery

A two-pronged tool which also has advanced backup capabilities

Easy to use interface
Backs up to virtual drive
No disk cloning

We've previously looked at Paragon Rescue Kit Free in our guide to free recovery software. Now along comes its big brother, Paragon Backup and Recovery, stomping in and demanding money. Should you acquiesce, given that there's such a powerful tool already available for free?

Perhaps. Bear in mind that this is a two-pronged tool, half of which will squirrel your data away safely while the other half concentrates on getting you back on your feet in the event of a crash. It's not meant for those moments where you've stupidly deleted your files or formatted a partition – it's more suited to those times when everything explodes.

There's support for bootable WinPE recovery media, advanced backup facilities to ensure the exact bytes you need are cared for, and when you're ready to recommit them to a new drive, Paragon Backup and Recovery even helps you get up and running on hardware which may be very different from that which you were using originally. Very handy.

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6. MiniTool Power Data Recovery

Offers some handy options including CD or DVD recovery

Impressively straightforward
Works with SD cards and CDs/DVDs gone bad
Slow with large drives

MiniTool is broken down into five distinct modules. There's 'undelete recovery' which, as you might expect, attempts to pull files back after accidental deletion. 'Digital media recovery' tries to put right SD cards or USB drives that have somehow gone bad. 'Lost partition recovery' is there to look after your boot records if one of your partitions has somehow gone missing, while 'damaged partition recovery' is the real powerhouse of the suite, pulling data off otherwise uncooperative drives.

It's the fifth tool that we're most interested in here, though: CD/DVD recovery. How many of us have made backups onto CD-Rs not realising that they're very much a temporary storage method? While crumbling discs can't all be rescued, run them through MiniTool and you may at least see some results. It's a slow process, but it could be worth it.

a screenshot of a cell phone: (Image credit: GetData) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: GetData)

7. Recover My Files Professional

Includes RAID recovery and more…

Decent feature set
Can select file type for scan
Easy sorting of recovered files
PC-only
Deep scans can be sluggish

Few of us run just a single PC these days, so it's handy that a single Recover My Files license covers two installations. It can cope with FAT, NTFS or OS X HFS-formatted drives, offering up a preview of its found files before you pick what to recover – sometimes files are deleted for a reason, and you may prefer them to stay that way...

We've plumped for the Professional version ($99.95, around £80) here mainly because of the inclusion of a hex editor and RAID recovery, features the Standard edition ($69.95, around £50) doesn't include and which it could be costly not to have.

You probably don't need to go the whole hog with the Technician edition ($349.95, around £270) unless you're administering a whole network of machines – it includes a hardware USB dongle which enables you to move your software activation to the machine that needs it, but that price is way beyond personal use.

a screenshot of a cell phone: (Image credit: Mac Data Recovery Guru) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Mac Data Recovery Guru)

8. Mac Data Recovery Guru

This recovery tool isn’t limited to the Mac, either

Mac focus
Can work with SD cards and USB sticks
Sluggish deep scans

It may be a specialised Mac recovery app, but Recovery Guru doesn't limit its talents to just Apple's file system – it's happy to seek out lost files on USB sticks, SD cards, and even Android phones. Its deep scan works very hard, not limiting itself to single sectors or traditional file system layouts but iterating through every single byte on your compromised drives and searching for patterns related to files. Slow as treacle, then, but potentially worth the wait.

When your scan's done, you'll be presented with folders full of files of specific types, which you can later sift through and sort out. This is arguably a better method than selecting the files you want to keep on-the-fly as absolutely everything that can be rescued will be rescued, and you can leave Recovery Guru to work on what could potentially be a rapidly-failing drive while you either drink tea or sort yourself out some hardware that actually works.

a screenshot of a cell phone: (Image credit: Recuva) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Recuva)

9. Recuva

An impressive full recovery toolkit

Affordably priced
Fast scan times
Windows-only
Not as many features as rivals

Recuva is a full recovery toolkit, dealing with deep scanning, retrieval of data from damaged drives, extracting files from removable devices and more. It's not the most comprehensive tool, but it's certainly powerful enough for the price, particularly given that the pro version also adds disk imaging tools for taking full backups of your drives.

Perhaps Recuva's most interesting feature is one that's contrary to its main aim: using its secure delete capability, you can completely obliterate files. Note that usually files are only ever truly deleted when they're overwritten by another occupying the same space on the drive – otherwise, it's merely the reference to their data in the OS that's removed.

By overwriting each of their bits repeatedly with zeroes, even the most advanced data forensics tool won't be able to get them back. Perfect for those highly questionable documents that absolutely need to stay deleted...

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10. CrashPlan

The solution in use at TechRadar towers

Combines data backup with recovery
Competitive pricing
Mobile access
Doesn’t back up by file type

Once the darling of free backup solutions for the home user, CrashPlan has since shifted its focus to the enterprise arena with its CrashPlan for Small Business offering.

And CrashPlan is certainly a favourite around here – in fact our official company machines here at TechRadar all run Crashplan, and it's saved our bacon on more than one occasion. It's not quite the same as the traditional file recovery apps that we've covered in this article – it's a backup service first and foremost – but it's so comprehensive that it almost counts.

Crashplan, you see, stores absolutely everything. It chugs away in the background and makes full, detailed backups of your entire machine starting with the newest files first. It then sifts everything into virtual buckets so you can get quick access to the files that matter most.

Critically, though, Crashplan even stores files you've deleted. You can switch this feature off, but we wouldn't: your backups are fully encrypted, so even those deleted files will be safe from prying eyes, and you never know when you might need to retrieve that long-discarded (or virus-removed) file.

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