Best data recovery tools 2020: Restore your lost files
Deleted partitions and corrupted disks don’t need to mean irretrievable folders
To paraphrase a famous quote, three things in life are certain: Death, taxes and lost data. We’ve all experienced that sinking feeling when we boot up a laptop or plug in a hard drive, only to find that it’s corrupted and the data within is inaccessible.
Thankfully, there are a number of potential remedies to recover lost data without having to fork out for expensive forensic retrieval services or simply write it off forever. Numerous software products can help restore data your operating system can’t find, and we’ve tested some of the top examples to find the best option for retrieving missing files.
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard
EaseUS offers a free version of its software, but it’s extremely limited. In addition to the trial version of its paid-for tier – which allows you to run a scan and preview and files found, but not restore them – there’s also a freeware version with a claimed 2GB limit of data that can be restored. While this sounds generous, the actual base limit is 500MB, with a further 1.5GB unlocked by promoting the product on social media.
However, if you can stomach the price, this is a robust data recovery solution. Like most of EaseUS’ products, its Data Recovery Wizard benefits from a well-designed and modern user interface, with a good blend of simplicity and functionality. Starting a scan is quick and painless, and while the console is clean and uncluttered, advanced filtering options are mere clicks away if you need them.
Price: £59.95 exc VAT (per month, Professional)
Lazesoft Data Recovery
Lazesoft wins points right off the bat for being one of the few data recovery tools on this list to offer a genuinely useful free tier. While most will limit you to a certain (usually rather paltry) maximum quantity of data that can be restored, Lazesoft Data Recovery Free unlocks almost all its features right off the bat, only gating support for Windows Server and bootable recovery media.
The interface is a little dated, with a somewhat windows Vista-esque appearance, but functionality is solid. Using the filtration options to identify and recover specific types of data can get a little fiddly, and full drive scans aren’t as quick as some other on this list, but it’s a well-rounded system that delivers on its promise.
Minitool Power Data Recovery
Minitool’s user interface strikes just the right balance between a clear, uncluttered layout, and one that still delivers a solid amount of technical depth and flexibility. We particularly like the detailed file-explorer window for previewing recovered data, complete with indicators for whether specific files are lost or deleted.
Scans take a little longer with Minitool than with some other software, but that’s paid off by the depth of information that they return, including dates when files were last modified. Unlike other entries in this list, Minitool offers a lifetime plan for personal users, in addition to monthly and annual subscriptions, which may offer better value if you’re looking for a long-term solution.
Price: $69 exc VAT (per month)
Stellar Data Recovery Wizard
Stellar Data Recovery Wizard is among the better-looking tools in this category, with a clean, modern interface, but it suffers a little from being over-simplified. The default options are all large and clearly-labelled, but you’ll have to dig a little deeper for more granular options; as an example, the scan process doesn’t allow you to preview recovered files until you toggle an optional slider, while systems like Minitool display that info automatically.
Like the other paid-for options on this list, Stellar offers a free version of its software allowing users to recover 1GB of data without paying, but be warned – you can only recover files which are under 25MB in size. Bumping up to a paid subscription will remove these restrictions, although only the ‘Professional’ tier and above are able to recover files from lost partitions.
Price: £59.99 exc VAT (per year, Professional)
Like Lazesoft Data Recovery, UnDeleteMyFiles Pro is a genuinely free app with no strings attached, and despite its mid-2000s aesthetic, it’s a perfectly capable file recovery tool. All the functionality you’ll need is here, although the layout – with individual names and icons for different tasks – can be slightly confusing compared to more menu-driven rivals.
Get your head around the UI, though, and you’ll find a tool which offers fast and reliable recovery operations. Advanced filtration isn’t as intuitive a process as with some other tools on this list, but it does the job, and it even includes some more niche tools including email recovery and a forensic file deletion tool.
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