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Best data recovery software of 2021: paid and free file recovery solutions

Person at a laptop using the best data recovery software
(Image credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash)
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The best data recovery software and services makes it simple and easy to restore deleted files and folders on your PC, Mac, Android device, or iPhone.

Ask anyone who has experienced data loss whether it’s a fun experience, and they’ll tell you that data loss, whether due to hardware or software failure, accidental deletion, or cybercrime, is a stressful experience. 

Today, businesses store so much of their essential information on hard drives or using cloud backup. You might have everything routinely saved to a USB stick or to an external hard drive as well. 

While there are a number of data backup software options, and disk cloning software that can make the process of data recovery relatively simple and easy to do, if you don't have anything like this in place then in the event of a hard drive crash or corrupted drive you will need dedicated data recovery tools to help restore your missing files and folders.

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It pays, then, to have a robust data security plan for your organization. Data recovery software or data recovery services should be an integral component of this plan.

Fortunately, there are several high-quality data recovery packages available to businesses. In the event of partial or complete data loss, these software packages enable you to recover as much data as possible and limit the negative impacts. Even if you use a data backup service, you should still have a data recovery plan in case the worst happens.  

We'll therefore list the best data recovery software, both free and paid, currently available. 

Stellar Data Recovery has been in the business of undeleting files for decades already. (Image credit: Stellar Data Recovery)

1. Stellar Data Recovery

The best file recovery software

 Recover data from full range of devices 
 Quick and deep scan options
Pricey
Slow deep scans 

Stellar Data Recovery is one of the most popular data recovery services for businesses and for good reason. The platform comes with several scan options, meaning you can tailor the scan for the type of data loss that has occurred. This saves time if you’ve deleted an important file and realized straight away, meaning there’s no need for a full system scan. 

The platform also comes with advanced search capabilities, making it easy to identify and extract the most critical data.

Another important feature of Stellar Data Recovery is its support for all file formats and drives. It is an adaptable provider that will recover data from hard drives (internal and external), memory cards, flash drives, and optical media like CDs and DVDs.

However, Stellar’s advanced features do come at a cost. The platform is not the most expensive, but it’s still somewhat pricey. 

(Image credit: EaseUS)

2. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

A neat wizard-style way to easily recover your files

Fast deep-scan function
Highly advanced data recovery tool
Mac and Windows versions are different

EaseUS isn't overstating the 'Wizard' part of this software's title – it really is 'wizard' in the sense of being good at something. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is straightforward to use, taking you step-by-step through the recovery process. Run EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro 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.

There are various pricing options, from monthly to yearly, or alternatively a Lifetime upgrades license. However, you can get 25% off any of these prices if you enter the code AFF-TECH-RAD at checkout.

Upgrading to a paid license is a little expensive, but the vast number of features you get for that investment means that in reality it represents great value for money. And, when you add to this the app's great performance, EaseUS's responsive customer support, and a tidy user interface, you have a clear winner.

(Image credit: Cleverfiles)

3. Disk Drill

A complete disk recovery solution

Easy to use
Support for a wide selection of media types and files
PRO option is expensive
Recovery vault folder names are meaningless

One of the most popular data recovery tools on macOS, Disk Drill is now available for Windows.

With a range of features and a choice of free and premium versions, Disk Drill is designed to recover data from hard disk drives, solid-state drives, USB flash drives, SD/CF cards, digital cameras, and even smartphones. Disk Drill's website boasts that any lost data file type can be recovered, from almost any data loss scenario you can think of.

Disk Drill's complete collection of features for every imaginable platform and scenario are impressive enough. It's ability to effortlessly mount and read a previously unmountable USB flash drive and to recover the data from it within a comparatively small timeframe proves that Disk Drill is a recovery tool that you should be considering.

Pricing for the PRO version isn't ideal for home users, sadly, but this aside, Disk Drill is an excellent recovery option for Windows.

(Image credit: CrashPlan)

4. CrashPlan

The best file recovery service

Combines data backup with recovery
Competitive pricing
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.

(Image credit: OnTrack)

5. OnTrack EasyRecovery

Get back on track with this powerful data recovery service

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.


Best free file recovery software

Although we've featured the best file recovery software and best file recovery services above, some home and personal users may find they offer more than they need and would rather not pay full price for unwanted features. Therefore we'll feature what we think are the best free file recovery software and service options.

(Image credit: DMDE Software)

1. DMDE Free Edition

An essential file recovery tool

High success rate for recovery
Low-level disk editing
Portable app
Intimidating interface
Minor limitations on file recovery
Help file isn't very helpful

DMDE Free Edition – or, to give it its full title, DM Disk Editor and Data Recovery Software – helps you recover files from your hard drive that you have lost due to accidental deletion, hard drive problems, a virus attack or some other grave misfortune. This is the free edition of a program for which there are paid-for versions, so it should come as no surprise that there are a few limitations – but none that should put you off.

DMDE is a portable app that runs directly from a USB stick, meaning you don’t need to install it and risk overwriting data you're trying to get back. The program also goes beyond file recovery, giving you the option of search for and recovering drive and partitions that have, for one reason or another, become invisible to Windows.

If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can even venture into disk editing mode or reconstruct RAID configurations as part of your disaster recovery program.

Overall, if you can get past the unforgiving interface, this is an essential file recovery tool that could save you serious heartache.

(Image credit: Stellar Data Recovery)

2. Stellar Free Data Recovery Software

One of the best free data recovery platforms

Powerful advanced tools
Efficient, quick scans
Deep scans are slow

Stellar Data Recovery is one of the best data recovery tools we’ve used, with highly customizable searches, a huge file-type library, and deep scan abilities. However, while a number of paid plans are available, there is also a free tier available.

Stellar Free Data Recovery Software offers up to 1GB of free data recovery for both Windows and Mac users. This enables users to retrieve deleted, lost, and unavailable objects from a hard drive, USB stick, or almost any other storage device. All of the advanced data recovery tools are otherwise available.

Overall, Stellar Data Recovery is a great file retrieval tool with powerful advanced options for business. In its simplest form, it enables anyone to retrieve lost data from a computer or external storage device. Paid subscriptions are a little expensive, but the free program’s impressive performance and user-friendly interface means it's well worth using. 

The only concern would be whether 1GB of free recovery is enough for your needs, but if that's the case then one of the paid tiers would definitely be worth considering as an alternative.

(Image credit: CCleaner)

3. Recuva

An impressive full recovery toolkit

Affordably priced
Fast scan times
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. Although it does come with a paid-for version like the above, the free version is definitely worth checking out as an option.

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...

(Image credit: Softonic)

4. PC Inspector File Recovery

Recover data from lost partitions if the interface doesn't put you off

Can recover lost partitions
Can save data to a networked drive
Interface may be intimidating

PC Inspector File Recovery goes further than many data recovery tools in that it will detect partitions that have been lost, even if the boot sector or file system has been damaged or deleted. This could be a real life-saver in an emergency, potentially helping you get data back even if your hard drive is not visible within Windows.

Beginners might find the terminology and design of PC Inspector File Recovery intimidating, and even some more advanced users may find the workflow a little confusing to start with. Take some time to learn your way around it, and you'll find a powerful data recovery program – but one that seems to get better results with FAT and FAT32 drives.

(Image credit: CGSecurity)

5. TestDisk and PhotoRec

A powerful and flexible data two-part recovery toolkit

Recover partitions and files
Cross-platform
TestDisk has no graphical interface

Presented as a pair of tools rather than a single integrated solution, TestDisk and PhotoRec together can recover data from both lost partitions and files.

TestDisk takes care of the partition side of things. The fact that it's a command line tool with no graphical interface might off-putting at first. If can set this to one side though, there's help on hand to guide you through the process of working with your drives. TestDisk offers support for so many file systems, it should cater for most eventualities.

PhotoRec is the component for recovering files. It's available with a command lint interface, but unlike TestDisk there's also a GUI for less confident users. It may not be as intuitive as some of the other recovery software in this listing, but it's effective.

PhotoRec is cross-platform and can be run as a portable app from a USB stick, which means you don't have to install it on your PC and risk accidentally overwriting the data you want to recover.

(Image credit: SeriousBit)

6. UnDeleteMyFiles Pro

Choose a file type before you search for faster results

Multiple tools
Search by file type
Disk snapshot
No indication of file quality

Despite the inclusion of the word "pro" in the name, this program is still free; there is, in fact, no non-pro version.

The look of UnDeleteMyFiles Pro may not be particularly appealing, but don’t let that put you off too much as there are multiple tools included here, not just data recovery. Recovery can be a little hit and miss as there is no indication of the quality (or recoverability) of files – you just have to hope that the file that are found are in a reasonable state.

When it comes to data recovery, there aren't really all that many options other than the ability to search for particular types of files to reduce the size of the list you have to sort through.

In terms of extras you also get a disk snapshot tool which basically backs up your drive so you can recover data at your leisure, a secure file deletion tool, and email recovery. Worth checking out, even if this is not necessarily the best of the bunch.