Best Hard Drive Recovery Software

I tested 42 products and found EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard to be the best data recovery application for hard drives.

This article will focus on the older style of spinning hard drives (both internal and external), not SSDs (Solid State Drives). We cover data recovery from SSDs here.

I’ve been work in the tech industry for the last few decades and regularly help people with computer disasters, including lost data.

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is the best data recovery tool for hard drives because it offers a winning combination. It’s easy to use, scans quickly, and is highly effective.

But every situation is different. So I’ve also reviewed the best data recovery application in every category.

Let’s get started.

6 Best Data Recovery Tools for Hard Drives

Here are six applications that effectively recover data from internal and external hard drives.

1. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard (Best Overall with Fast Scans)

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard has the winning combination of being fast, easy to use, and effective at simple and complex recovery jobs. Read my full review.

  • Platforms: Windows, Mac
  • Windows file systems: NTFS, FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, exFAT, ReFS
  • Mac file systems: APFS, HFS+
  • File types: Popular document, image, video, audio, email, and archive formats, and more

This wizard-based application is easy to use and suitable for non-technical users. You recover data in three simple steps by following easy-to-understand prompts.

It’s also useful for both simple and difficult cases, such as when you accidentally format the wrong drive and is quite fast. For example, scanning a 4 GB thumb drive took just five minutes, though large hard drives will take significantly longer.

You can pause and resume scans and narrow down the results by sorting, searching, and previewing the files.

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro costs $69.95 for Windows and $89.95 for Mac. This includes free remote consultation with a specialist in difficult recovery cases, which could provide a great deal of peace of mind.

The free plan is limited to recovering just 2 GB of data. This can be increased to 3.5 GB by sharing the product on social media.

2. Stellar Data Recovery (Best Overall with Thorough Scans)

Stellar Data Recovery’s scans are thorough and effective, and will often keep you waiting longer than other data recovery apps. Read my full review.

  • Platforms: Windows, Mac
  • Windows file systems: NTFS, exFAT, FAT16, FAT32
  • Mac file systems: APFS, HFS+
  • File types: Popular document, photo, and video formats, and more

This application is suitable for non-technical users, and data recovery can be performed in three simple guided steps.

It’s effective at locating lost files in both simple and complex data loss scenarios such as permanently deleted files, damaged file systems, and formatted hard drives. But its scans are more thorough and often slower than the competition.

Scanning a 4 GB flash drive took more than 45 minutes, compared to just five minutes for other apps. Large hard drives will take many hours.

You can pause and resume scans or save them for recovery at a later time. Once the lost files are found, you can narrow down the list using the sort, search, and preview features. You can also create a bootable recovery drive.

If you ultimately fail, you can mail in your drive for professional data recovery at an additional fee.

Stellar Data Recovery Professional costs $79.99/year on both Windows and Mac. The free plan can recover up to 1 GB of data, which will often not be enough.

3. R-Studio Data Recovery (Best for Technical Users)

R-Studio Data Recovery is a technical tool with the proven success of recovering more data than any other app. Read my full review.

  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Windows file systems: NTFS/NTSF5, ReFS, FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, exFAT
  • Mac file systems: APFS, HFS+, HFSX, HFS
  • File types: Popular document, image, video, audio, email, and archive formats, and more

R-Studio Data Recovery is definitely not suitable for casual users. It’s designed for IT professionals who will need to spend time studying the manual.

In thorough data recovery tests performed by Data Recovery Digest on seven leading tools [1], R-Studio was given the highest rating in each category but one, where it came second.

It’s fast. It took less than five minutes to scan a 4 GB flash drive, and scanning large hard drives will typically take many hours.

It includes many advanced features such as pause and resume, saving scans, and creating a bootable recovery drive. You can sort, search, and preview the lost files that are located.

A single license costs $79.99 for both Mac and Windows.

4. Recuva (Best Free Tool for Windows Users)

Recuva offers a usable free plan to Windows users that doesn’t impose a restriction on the amount of data that can be recovered. Read my full review.

  • Platforms: Windows only
  • Windows file systems: NTFS, FAT
  • Mac file systems: n/a
  • File types: Popular document, image, video, email, and archive formats, and more

Data recovery is performed using an easy-to-use wizard that asks a few simple questions. An advanced mode is also available and allows more experienced users to navigate the application freely on their own.

Recuva is a capable application that recovered all deleted files in my test, and a ThinkMobiles reviewer recovered all of their deleted files and located thousands more on an internal hard drive. [3] It scanned a 4 GB flash drive in a speedy 5 minutes 54 seconds.

But Recuva lacks features you find in many of its competitors. For example, it can’t pause or resume scans, or sort or search the lost files it locates. It does allow you to preview them, and while you can’t create a bootable drive, you can run the application from an external drive.

Recuva Free won’t cost you a cent and offers features suitable for most users. Recuva Professional costs just $19.95 and offers a couple of features plus premium support.

5. Disk Drill (Best Tool with Cleanup Features)

Disk Drill covers two bases: data recovery and hard drive cleanup. Read my full review.

  • Platforms: Windows, Mac
  • Windows file systems: NTFS, FAT/FAT32/exFAT
  • Mac file systems: APFS, HFS+
  • File types: Popular document, image, video, audio, email, and archive formats, and more

Disk Drill effectively balances functionality and ease of use. Non-technical users can restore their data using a simple three-step wizard. More experienced users are offered plenty of ways to customize the recovery process.

It’s effective at both basic and advanced data recovery tasks, though other tools may offer a better chance of success. It scanned a 4 GB flash drive in just five minutes.

It can pause and resume scans, and save them for recovery at a later time. You can sort, search, and preview the located files, create a bootable recovery drive, and clone your hard drive.

If you run it proactively it will protect your data in a Recovery Vault for guaranteed recovery. You can also mail your hard drive to the company for professional recovery and only pay if they are successful.

Finally, the software offers a range of disk cleanup features that will save space on your drive. For example, it will analyze your disk space to identify any space hogs and locate and delete duplicate files.

Disk Drill Pro costs $89 for both Windows and Mac users. Mac users also get access to Disk Drill with a $9.99/month subscription to SetApp.

The free version of Disk Drill has a very low 500 MB recovery limit but includes other useful features such as Recovery Vault and some cleanup utilities.

6. Wondershare Recoverit (Also Great with Thorough Scans)

Wondershare Recoverit is an effective tool that takes its time scanning your hard drive. Read my full review.

  • Platforms: Mac, Windows
  • Windows file systems: NTFS, FAT
  • Mac file systems: APFS, HFS+
  • File types: Popular image, music, document, video, archive, and email formats, and more

This app is suitable for non-technical computer users. Useful tips are displayed as you navigate the app and data recovery is performed in three simple steps.

It can handle both simple and complex recovery jobs. ThinkMobiles used it to restore a large number of files after formatting a drive and awarded it a high restore efficiency score of 95. [4]

A scan of my 4 GB flash drive took nine minutes, which is a little slow, and scanning a large hard drive will take significantly longer.

You can pause and review scans, and save them for recovery at a later time. After the scan is complete, you can sort, search, and preview the located files. The Standard and Advanced plans also allow you to create a bootable recovery drive.

The Essential plan will suit most users and costs $59.95/year for Windows and $79.95 for Mac. A lifetime plan costs $69.95 and $89.95 respectively. A more expensive Standard plan adds the ability to create a bootable recovery disk.

Guide to Choosing a Data Recovery Tool for Hard Drives

Before making your choice, it’s helpful to understand how data recovery is possible and some of the issues that data recovery tools can help with.

How Is Data Recovery Possible?

When you delete a file, its name and details are not removed from the file system, nor is its data removed from the drive. It’s simply marked as being deleted so that the operating system understands the space is now available and will eventually be overwritten.

That means it’s best to act quickly when you accidentally delete a file. You have the best chance of success while the file’s information is still stored in the directory, and every app I tested was successful at recovering recently deleted files.

That’s not true if you wait. Once the directory listing has been overwritten, the software will have to perform a slow and complex deep scan. Some apps are far more effective than others.

Choose a Tool That Works With Your Computer and File System

Most hard drive disk recovery applications are available on both Mac and Windows. In this roundup, Recuva is the only tool listed that isn’t, and works on Windows only.

Make sure that the file system you use is supported. That’s the system used to format your hard drive. You may not know what that is, so here are some clues:

  • Virtually all internal Windows drives are formatted with NTFS. If you have a Windows server, it’s probably formatted ReFS.
  • All modern Macs use the new APFS file format, while Macs running an older version of macOS most likely use the older HFS+ file system.
  • External hard drives are often formatted with a FAT file system that can be read by both Mac and Windows computers.

Choose a Tool That Suits Your Budget and Experience

Many data recovery applications are designed for users without technical expertise, leading you through a simple step-by-step process. Some also offer an advanced mode, while others are not at all suitable for casual users. Make sure you choose a tool that matches your level of experience.

Most reputable data recovery tools cost money, though Recuva’s free plan is quite useful. The paid plans I recommend are within the range of $20 to $95 and some are one-off purchases while others are ongoing subscriptions.

Fortunately, virtually all data recovery applications allow you to scan for lost data for free. You only need to pay for the software once you can see that it was able to locate your lost data.

Consider How Long Are You Willing to Wait

Data recovery takes time, and scanning large hard drives takes a great deal of it. How much time do you have? Some apps are a lot quicker than others.

The size of your drive is the biggest factor. While small 4 GB flash drives can be scanned in just minutes, a multi-terabyte hard drive will take many hours or even days.

Some apps allow you to attempt data recovery over several sessions. They let you pause a scan and resume it later, or save a scan result to attempt data recovery in a separate session.

Choose the Tool Most Likely to Be Successful

Most apps can successfully recover recently deleted files, but recovering from an accidentally formatted or damaged drive isn’t so easy. Comparative industry tests show that some tools are better at these jobs than others.

With a large hard drive, you’ll often be presented with thousands of lost files, making it difficult to locate those you want to recover. Some applications help by letting you search, sort, and preview those files. 

Finally, bootable recovery disks and the ability to clone a hard drive on its last legs can also be very helpful in some cases.

What If I Can’t Recovery My Files?

You may have lost some very valuable and irreplaceable files. What if you’re unable to get them back using data recovery software? Contact a professional.

Google will help you find a reputable data recovery specialist in your area, and they are able to use advanced techniques like disassembling faulty hard drives. Their services are not cheap, but it’s money worth spent if you need that lost data back.

Final Verdict

When choosing a tool to rescue your hard drive’s lost data, you want the one that will give you the best chance of success.

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard will quickly locate your lost files in a wide range of data recovery situations. It’s easy to use and offers the features you’re most likely to need. It’s been thoroughly tested and recommended by industry experts.

Stellar Data Recovery is an alternative for those who are willing to wait. Its more thorough scans mean that it may find your lost files if EaseUS fails. Fortunately, you can use the free trial of both applications to determine if they will be successful before you need to pay.

References