Free Tools to Recover lost data

Data RecoveryA little problem on a server of the community I manage caused a so much little data loss (luckily!), but it also caused bad problems for me and for a collegue of mine, recovering the lost data that was recoverable. Data recovery is one of the problems of our computer age.
Even if in my personal story I didn’t get help from them, this event made me remember how much softwares for desktop PC data recovery are important. I already appreciated features in Ontrack EasyRecovery and Active Undelete, but they’re commercial softwares (the first one is expansive, less the 2nd); there are also several, very similar, free softwares for executing the same “magical” operations: recovering lost or deleted files:

  • PC Inspector File Recovery is a german software, it’s multilanguage and well-done, even if it’s not so intuitive to use;
  • Drive Rescue comes from Italy, and it seems to share the PC Inspector engine. The application is, anyway, more light and functional;
  • Disk Investigator is a tiny app, hard to manage, that reads the disk in a deeper and physical mode, and it allows a low-level access to the data. It can be used in “extreme” cases and it can be intended for experts;
  • Ultimate Boot CD is a suite of selected softwares, grouped in a single ISO file and burnable into a CD: it can be used to boot a PC that endured a data loss. It has a lot of applications for data and settings recovery, useful if you’re in trouble for a data disaster.
  • TestDisk is good to recover entire partitions, deleted by an error. It can recover and make them bootable again.

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  1. Mike
    Posted March 4, 2006 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    The Ultimate Boot CD is an amazing tool. But for data recovery I always use SpinRite from It has never failed me once.

  2. Posted March 4, 2006 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    OK man thanks for the list.

  3. Mike
    Posted March 4, 2006 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    I have a question If I have a HD that is bad and want to recover it as an external drive which do you prefer? Thanks

  4. Jahufar
    Posted March 4, 2006 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    I think you missed out Steve Gibson’s SpinRite… the most excellent data recovery tool I’ve used to date.

  5. Joe
    Posted March 4, 2006 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Yeah Steve Gibson’s SpinRite is a great program but this focuses on free tools. Gibson’s costs about 70 bucks or so. Good list. Didn’t know about a lot of these.

  6. david
    Posted March 4, 2006 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Spinrite is not FREE guys! But I do agree, it’s a great tool, never used any of these others to date.

  7. BOB
    Posted March 4, 2006 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Well… SpinRite could be free… Depending on your definition of free…
    There’s always bit torrent.

  8. Anon
    Posted March 9, 2006 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    How about somewhere in between the two? Hiren’s Boot CD is a bootable CD that has every tool available ever on it. Great for lots of recovery and other issues memory test, etc.

  9. Posted June 11, 2006 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    hi Ricky, may I get your recover data tool for digital photography. I’ve lost my pictures on my CF cards. Thank you for your kindness.

    Best Regards,

  10. windstormer
    Posted August 28, 2006 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    This is a great short list of recovery applications. I would however like to mention the one that I use which is StompSoft’s Recover Lost Data . Although, its not free it is a great application for recovering files. It has helped me to recover images from my laptop several times now and I can’t help but to mention it, mostly because, I figured that if I like it then I’m sure someone else will too.

    best regards,


  11. 2chewy
    Posted September 11, 2006 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    It’s funny that you should mention the Recover Lost Data application by StompSoft. I bring this up because I just finished using it to recover some emails that had gone MIA on my computer and they needed to be returned ASAP. I am always amazed at how well this program has worked for me.

  12. Posted February 7, 2007 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    You can also add this software in your list:

    Stellar Phoenix Fat & NTFS – Windows Data Recovery Software
    Stellar Phoenix FAT & NTFS – is a NON-DESTRUCTIVE and READ ONLY file & partition recovery utility that helps you in recovering your all important data lost after accidental format, virus problems, software malfunction, file/directory deletion, or even a sabotage! Stellar Phoenix-is an easy to use FAT & NTFS Partition File recovery Utility that examines your inaccessible hard drives for damages and corruptions and recovers the data back.

    Data Recovery Software – by Stellar

  13. John
    Posted April 8, 2007 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Knoppix is also an excellent hard drive recovery tool. maybe a bit harder to use, but way more flexible!

  14. Posted May 3, 2007 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    I suggest you to add one more advance data recovery software by Recover Data Labs i.e. Recover Data for Windows. Software recovers deleted files, formatted partition data, deleted partition data in just easy steps.

    Visit for more data recovery software tools.

  15. jake
    Posted May 9, 2007 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    At this site you can compare data recovery quotes, I haven’t seen any other sites that does that, was very valuable in my case.

  16. Posted May 17, 2007 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Hello Riccardo,
    My name is Piotr and I represent English version of hakin9 IT Security
    Magazine, which is also available in USA (for more details, please, see

    We are preparing consumers tests on Data Recovery Tools for our upcoming
    issue. We would like to ask you for your personal opinion about specific DRT
    which you are using.
    Your opinion will be printed in next issue of our magazine.
    Beside that we are looking for someone who can write an introductory article
    about Data Recovery Tools (in a way: What we have to take into consideration
    when choosing a proper tool – for what kind of recovery process is it,
    features, advanteges &disadvantages, etc.)

    Thank you for reading this email. If you are interested, please contact me to
    discuss further details.
    I am looking forward to hearing from you. Please, do not leave me with no

    Piotr Musial
    About hakin9
    hakin9 is a bimonthly magazine covering questions of breaking into computer
    systems as well as defense and protection methods, the latest security tools
    and events.
    Our magazine is published in 7 language versions in about 20 countries!
    We have great readership in Europe and
    in September we hit the USA (available in Barnes&Noble) and Australia.
    England & South Africa are next.
    I don’t know if you are familiar with hakin9?
    If not, here’s the link to one of our archive issues:
    Piotr Musial
    + 1 917 338 3631

    Software Media LLC
    1461 A First Avenue, # 360
    New York, NY 10021-2209

  17. riccardo
    Posted May 19, 2007 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Hello Piotr,
    I contacted your magazine by mail. I wait to be contacted in private (by e-mail). Thank you for your interest!

  18. Jason
    Posted May 24, 2007 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    I’ve tried CBL’s recovery software and it worked great.

  19. Posted June 1, 2007 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Quick Recovery for Windows is also a good solution to recover data. Software is easy to use and works gr8 for me. Try it from

  20. Posted June 4, 2007 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    hello Riccardo

    What about introductory article in consumers tests for us? Are going to do that?

    take care

  21. MorganLighter
    Posted July 9, 2007 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Excellent! Very informative and useful. Also some great comments that offer sage advice. Thanks

  22. Chris
    Posted July 19, 2007 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Spinrite won’t help you if you don’t have it already loaded and your hard drive dies. … Use Knoppix

  23. stephen
    Posted August 24, 2007 at 1:31 am | Permalink

    thank you very much!

  24. danis
    Posted August 29, 2007 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Need a help for phisical crash in my hard drive ? suggestion will be highly appreciate.

  25. paul
    Posted August 29, 2007 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Hi danish, I read your comments asking about the suggestion of some good data recovery centre. In my point of view according to i heard from many people from every corner i guess HDRC ( hard disk data recovery centre ) is the best one and for a particular problem like yours there is a very good tools for physical crash like platter exchange and read write exchange tools. Though i cant help you much but i can give their website
    Best regards,

  26. Jeff
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Hello Danis,
    I know about Disk Doctors Labs. I had consulted them for RAID Recovery, when 3 hard drives out of 5, from my RAID 5 array had failed. They helped me recover all my stuffs. They offer hard drive recovery as well. See if they can help you.

  27. Posted May 16, 2008 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Recover Data for Windows data recovery software recover deleted files, formatted hard disk drive, reformatted partition easily in simple few steps. So i suggest you to add this software to your data recovery software list. for more information about this software follow

  28. Posted June 21, 2008 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    By the way the site is here:, apparently you can also reach by clicking on my name…

  29. Steve Wa
    Posted July 5, 2008 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Richardo. I had backedup my files to my usb flash drive, then started to re-install windows xp pro. When it got to the part to select the partition for install, I deleted the partition on my usb drive by mistake.

    I was going to spend $70 on RecoveryData software for Windows, then I searched for reviews on their software, and I found your page.

    I tried DiskTest, but it did not find any partitions to recover.

    Then I tried Drive Rescue, and it worked beautifully – for FREE! My usb drive has an encrypted container from TrueCrypt, and Drive Rescue recovered all 1.7GB of the container without any problems. I am so happy.

    I also checked out the other recovery software, but I noticed alot of their screen captures looked similiar to Drive Rescue, so I wonder if they all use the same engine underneath?

    Anyway, you can’t beat free if it works for you. Sadly it looks like this blog comments list has turned into a bunch of promotions for paid software products. shopper beware!

  30. Graeme
    Posted September 12, 2008 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Hi, My problem is a USB hard drive that seems to have lost its index. Under XP in “Computer Management”, it showed up as empty (unallocated) and ready for formatting . PCInspector, Undelete plus, Restoration by Kato all failed to “see” the USB drive. TestDisk worked fine.

  31. Mike
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    I’m use this freeware File Recovery. Work only with hard drives

  32. Raymond
    Posted November 15, 2008 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    Hello Riccardo,
    Great info and comments to the all to often occurring problem in data loss. The only thing is that recovery is a reactive solution. I like to be proactive when possible, and online backup has gotten extremely affordable and in many cases free, offering a proactive solution to data loss. Rather than trying to recover the lost data, one could simply opt to restore, and avoid the challenge of recovery, however, many people love a good challenge.
    Also with so many great responses, have you considered adding a subscribe to “my feed” option.

  33. Nick
    Posted December 25, 2008 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Actually, most popular tools from, and none of the tools were able to recover .oct file of outlook 2007 which is located in local settings/application data/outlook. Any Ideas how to recover .oct files?

  34. Shore Slim
    Posted February 4, 2009 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Is there any tool to recover data from a formatted system and how do i get it.

  35. xxx
    Posted May 16, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    I think the best recovery soft is hdd recovery pro 2.3 its show all your files that have been formatted from disk.

    and it recover all type of file.

    But if you want to recover mp3 files, images and office doc. then download get data recover my files from given link

  36. Posted December 7, 2009 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Data recovery tools by SalvationDATA built to extract data from failed hard drives. New professional data recovery training for flash data recovery and Raid data recovery .

  37. Sara
    Posted January 5, 2010 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Do you want to recover your important files today for free? Be one of the first to try EASEUS Data Recovery Wizard 4.8 Beta – The only Free & Full Functional professional data recovery software all over the market for Windows 2000/2003/2008/XP/Vista/7!

    Totally free and with all features of the current popular Data Recovery Wizard 4.3.6, this beta test version of EASEUS Data Recovery Wizard 4.8 beta is free data recovery software do Partition Recovery, Format Recovery and Recover Deleted Files emptied from the Recycle Bin or restore data lost due to software crash, virus attack, etc. EASEUS Data Recovery Wizard 4.8 Beta provides comprehensive and easy data recovery for your Windows 7 Operating System. The latest upgrade of EASEUS Data Recovery Wizard supports Windows 2000/2003/2008/XP/Vista/7 and offers quick scan, and easier and faster data recovery.

  38. Ricky
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I am a Mac user and I like Disk Drill, which is an absolutely free Mac data recovery software.
    I want to advise it to everyone.

  39. Posted February 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Out of the recovery tools you have mentioned here, I have used PC inspector before. It is really an awesome utility for recovering lost data. And I would definitely recommend this software to all…

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