No matter how sophisticated our methods for backing up data become, mistakes always happen. Computer viruses will sadly always be with us, and human error cannot be accounted for. Even the most technologically competent of us have experienced a momentary lapse of concentration and deleted something that we really needed to hold onto. Worse than that, most of us know the pain of deleting a whole subsection of folders or files because we thought they were backed up elsewhere, or we presumed we no longer needed them, only to realize moments later that there was something vital in there which we now desperately need back. One person even managed to delete his entire business with a bad line of code in 2016!
Because of this, it’s now more important than ever to know where to look if you need to get files back after they’ve been deleted in error. You might know exactly how to do this for your phone, or your iPad, but the reality is the majority of us still use a humble PC when we’re conducting business, or storing important files. That means we should all have a good file recovery system lined up in case the worst happens – it’s better to be safe than sorry, and you’ll thank yourself for it when you’ve been a little too eager with the ‘delete’ button!
Before we get into the list, it’s important to note that while some of the data recovery tools we’re about to mention offer a free trial, the majority of them cost money. That can be annoying, but it’s better to pay a little money and know that you’re safe than risk it and come away with nothing. Think of it as a game of mobile slots – but one you know that you’re guaranteed to win. Every slots game on website like Late Casino costs money, but it’s worth it if you come away with the jackpot prize. Running a business through a PC with no recovery tools is like a mobile slots game anyway – every day you conduct business is like a spin of the reels, but with no way of safeguarding your data you’re running the risk of coming away with nothing. All mobile slots players will tell you not to gamble with money you can’t afford to lose – so don’t gamble with data you can’t afford to lose either, and make sure you’ve always got a method to get back whatever’s been lost!
Sometimes, software developers choose names for their creations that don’t seem to fit. TestDisk sounds like the sort of name you’d give to a program which checks the integrity of your hard drive, but it actually tries to rebuild lost partitions. It can be put to use repairing disks that no longer boot, too. It’s not the fastest option out there, but it does have one major feature going for it – it’s free. You’ll have to know a little bit about basic computer language to use it though – it works from a command-line prompt. If you can get to grips with it, you’ll be able to effectively undelete files from most file storage systems (including FAT and exFAT). It’s also a versatile tool – it works with any version of Windows you can think of, but will also load in Linux and even macOS. There’s almost nothing TestDisk can’t do, but it might not be a good bet for the average user.
Recuva is such a good tool that we can almost forgive it for its complete butchery of the spelling of the word ‘recover.’ Although finding deleted files on hard drives is its primary function, it can do the same on CDs and DVDs too, as well as most memory cards (so long as they come in a format that Windows recognizes). Recuva, which also allows users to access most of its functions for free, works by locating unreferenced data on hard drives and putting it back together to rebuild lost file directories. It’s even clever enough to realize when it’s encountered duplicate files, and so will change the name of one of the files to prevent overwriting errors when putting everything back together for you. It’s a Windows-only tool, but as most PCs run on Windows anyway, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Stellar isn’t free. It is, however, one of the most powerful data recovery tools currently available. Like Recuva, it works on various forms of storage devices as well as hard drives, and will even work on the majority of modern smartphones. Because it has a graphical user interface it’s easier to pick up and start using quickly than something like TestDisk, and also prides itself at recovering files faster than any other tool on the market. If you want to know whether it’s worth the money in comparison to a free option, you can trial it for a couple of weeks before deciding to part with any money. Perhaps most usefully of all, it offers users the chance to preview the files that are about to be recovered before the full recovery is attempted, thereby preventing you from wasting time on a failed attempt. Stellar works on all versions of Windows, and also on macOS.
MiniTool Power Data Recovery
The three tools we’ve mentioned so far are great for finding one file in particular, or a group of files that were deleted in haste. Sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes, you’ve lost an entire partition, and you need all of it back. That’s where MiniTool Power Recovery comes in. Although that’s quite a technical job, the user-friendly interface makes it a simple job for the average user. MiniTool can identify any and all of the missing partitions on a drive, and will provide a brief report on what level of recovery might be possible before attempting to restore all the lost data. Because it does such a specialized, PC-specific job, it can only run on Windows operating systems.
Wise Data Recovery
If MiniTool Power Data Recovery is a forensic tool, Wise Data recovery is the opposite – and we don’t mean that as a negative. Wise is built for speed, and simple jobs. If you’ve only lost a few files, and you know exactly where they were lost from, you probably don’t want to spend hours waiting for a powerful data recovery tool to finish working if there’s another way. Wise Data Recovery is that other way. You can even direct it to look for certain types of file by pointing it toward an extension – so if photo files are all you’re interested in, photo files are all it will look for. There’s no ‘deep scan’ function, and it won’t rebuild a lost partition for you, but it will do the basic jobs efficiently. All versions of Windows are supported.