Download3k Recommends: The Top 7 Free Data Recovery Software for Windows
Whether you've accidentally deleted a single file or an entire folder, or simply forgot to backup your files before formatting your computer's hard drive, chances are you want your data back as soon as possible.
It is somewhat surprising that many computer users are under the impression that once data has left the recycle bin you can never get it back. That simply isn't true, as every byte of data that is deleted from your computer isn't truly erased – it is overwritten/scrambled and can be recovered rather simply with the use of a user-friendly data recovery application.
To help you get back those important files in the easiest and most effective way possible, we've listed the top 7 free data recovery software for Windows below. But before we introduce the top solutions, here are a few tips you should follow when conducting data recovery with any software:
Never save the recovered files to the hard drive that you're recovering the data from.
Do not install the data recovery software onto the device or external hard drive that you're trying to recover the data from.
Do not use the partition or device that you're trying to recover data from while the data software is working; any activity that creates new data on the same drive could accidentally overwrite the data you're attempting to recover.
1. PC Inspector
This software specializes in recovering data from NTFS and FAT partitions, and includes search options that let you search for specific kinds of media and file types, including photos, videos, audio files, and archives. You can also choose to scan a specific area of the hard drive using the 'Cluster' scanner – this is helpful when you know the approximate location of the files on the drive, as you wouldn't have to wait for the entire drive to be scanned.
Recuva is brought to you by the developers of CCleaner and is designed to provide a simplistic solution for recovering deleted files. This program can recover data from all types of NFTS, FAT, and exFAT formatted drives. 'Deep Scan' mode improves your chances of recovering data that has been overwritten multiple times. “Scan for non-deleted files” mode lets you use Recuva to recover lost data from formatted or damaged partitions. Recuva also includes a secure erase feature that lets you get rid of data permanently so that it can never be recovered, even by Recuva itself.
LazeSoft was designed to be simplistic yet efficient. It features two main recovery modes – finding and restoring deleted files from an intact drive, or recovering data from a damaged or formatted partition. It can be used to recover data from standard FAT and NTFS hard drives as well as external memory cards, USB devices, MP3 players, phones, and even RAID arrays. You can also finetune your search for lost data by file type.
This program is rather simple, can search NTFS or FAT formats, and comes with three recovery modes – Quick Scan (searches through the main filesystem only), Deep Scan (searches through all free space on the drive), and Full Scan (searches the entire device). The 'Find lost files' button lets you recover data from a damaged or formatted partition. You also have the option of creating a custom scan list to improve the accuracy of your data recovery efforts.
FreeUndelete can recover deleted files and folders from all major hard drive types including FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, NFTS 1, and NTFS2 filesystems. Scanning for lost data only takes a few minutes but the depth of the scan is moderate in comparison to some of the more robust data recovery tools available. After the data you're looking to recover has been found you can easily multiselect and restore multiple files simultaneously by holding the 'Ctrl' key while clicking the file names. If you're recovering data from your main partition (i.e. - the C: drive) it would be wise to change the “Undelete selected file(s) to” destination to a different drive to avoid accidental re-overwriting during recovery.
This recovery tool features a detailed search function and a unique preview window that lets you get a sneak peek at text and image files before restoring them. If you're trying to recover lost data from a reformatted/damaged partition or corrupt file allocation table, then using the 'Surface Scan' mode would be your best option. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of this software is that it includes a convenient setup wizard that guides you through the data recovery process.
Although we placed this one last on the list, the truth is that Wise Data Recovery is one of the most efficient and fastest data recovery tools around. However, the self-explanatory user-friendly interface and the super-speedy recovery times come at a price – there is no Deep Scan mode, so it is unlikely that you'll be able to find and restore badly overwritten files with this software. Still, this app is a good choice if you're just trying to recover recently deleted files or folders.
Bonus: If you're looking for the opposite, here's our guide on How To Delete Securely And Permanently Files And Data, With No Chance Of Recovery.