Best SD Card Recovery Software

I tested 42 data recovery software products and found R-Studio Data Recovery and Stellar Data Recovery to be the best option for SD cards.

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

When industry experts tested how effective leading data recovery applications are at recovering data from SD cards, R-Studio Data Recovery came out on top. But it’s designed for advanced users, so if you’re not technically inclined, you may actually achieve better results with a tool that’s easier to use.

Stellar Data Recovery is one such app. It takes you through the data recovery process in three simple steps, and in many scenarios is almost as successful as R-Studio. But its scans will often take longer.

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 SD Cards

Here are six effective and usable data recovery applications for SD cards.

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

R-Studio Data Recovery is a tool for data recovery professionals and performs consistently across a wide range of data loss scenarios. But it’s difficult to use and may be beyond the capabilities of many casual users. It definitely suits more technical users who are willing to study the manual. Read my full review.

  • Supported platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

While this tool can potentially rescue more files than other data recovery applications, it assumes a lot of technical knowledge. If you’re just a casual computer user you may find it intimidating. Unless you have a more technical friend, you will feel more comfortable with one of the alternatives below.

DigiLab Inc thoroughly tested R-Studio and four other leading data recovery applications. R-Studio is the only tool that achieved consistently good results across each SD card test. [1]

  • Test 5.1.5: Files on a 32 GB SD card were deleted, bypassing the recycle bin. R-Studio was 100% successful with a quick scan, and its scan was the fastest.
  • Test 5.1.6: Files on a 1 GB miniSD card were deleted, bypassing the recycle bin. R-Studio was 100% successful with a quick scan.
  • Test 5.2.2: A 32 GB SD card containing files was formatted. R-Studio recovered all files, and also the names of each file except those in the root directory.
  • Test 5.2.6: File recovery was attempted on a corrupt 32 GB SD card. R-Studio was 99.8% successful and failed to recover only one file. It was also the fastest.

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

2. Stellar Data Recovery (Best Overall for Casual Users)

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.

  • Supported platforms: Windows, Mac

Stellar Data Recovery is suitable for non-technical users. It guides you through the data recovery process in three simple steps.

It achieved reasonably consistent (but not perfect) results in DigiLab Inc’s tests:

  • Test 5.1.5: Files on a 32 GB SD card were deleted, bypassing the recycle bin. Stellar was 100% successful with a quick scan.
  • Test 5.1.6: Files on a 1 GB miniSD card were deleted, bypassing the recycle bin. Stellar was 95% successful with a quick scan—five text files were damaged.
  • Test 5.2.2: A 32 GB SD card containing files was formatted. Stellar was successful but its scan was slowest.
  • Test 5.2.6: File recovery was attempted on a corrupt 32 GB SD card. Stellar recovered the files but not the file names, and incorrectly identified the type of several files. It also listed a large number of junk files that never existed on the SD card. 

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 usually won’t be enough.

3. Stellar Photo Recovery (Best Overall for Photos)

Stellar Photo Recovery is a more focused data recovery tool, designed to recover multimedia files such as photos, videos, and audio files. These types of files are commonly found on SD cards. It’s easy to use and designed for photographers and other creatives. Read my full review.

  • Supported platforms: Windows, Mac

Stellar Photo Recovery has a simple and user-friendly interface. The Mac version will ask you to enable the Stellar Data Recovery extension the first time you attempt to recover photos from your startup drive. Recovering lost photos doesn’t require special knowledge or skills, and is achieved in three simple steps.

One reviewer ran the Windows version through a number of recovery tests. [2] In one of these tests, he formatted an 8 GB memory card that contained 427 RAW photos.

Its scan located 850 files in total, the 427 that were on the card before it was formatted plus some that had been deleted the previous year. Unfortunately, in this case, the recovered photos weren’t usable.

However, other users have had more success. It achieved a high 4-star rating on TrustPilot [3] and five stars on MacUpdate. [4] So it may work for you too.

Stellar Photo Recovery Standard costs $39.99/year, which is significantly cheaper than the company’s general data recovery tool. It recovers photos, video, and audio from any storage media and popular cameras. There are more expensive plans that don’t just recover lost files, but also repair corrupted ones.

4. Prosoft Data Rescue (Great for Reformatted SD Cards)

Prosoft Data Rescue is an easy to use and effective data recovery tool. However, its scans are much slower than R-Studios, and it’s not as effective across the board. Read my full review.

  • Supported platforms: Windows, Mac

At each step, Prosoft Data Rescue’s user interface displays clear and helpful descriptions of each feature. Two modes are available, one focused on ease-of-use for regular users, and the other designed for advanced users.

In DigiLab Inc’s SD card tests, Prosoft Data Rescue performed worse than its competitors except when recovering files from a formatted SD card.

  • Test 5.1.5: Files on a 32 GB SD card were deleted, bypassing the recycle bin. Prosoft recovered the files, but a deep scan was required where other tools succeeded with a quick scan. File names were lost, and the type of some files was incorrectly identified.
  • Test 5.1.6: Files on a 1 GB miniSD card were deleted, bypassing the recycle bin. Prosoft was only partially successful at recovering them.
  • Test 5.2.2: A 32 GB SD card containing files was formatted. Prosoft was 100% successful and only a little slower than R-Studio.
  • Test 5.2.6: File recovery was attempted on a corrupt 32 GB SD card. Prosoft recovered the files but file names were lost and the type of some files was incorrectly identified.

The software is a free download and will scan for your lost files for free. You pay for the files you want to recover. This can be as low as $19 but, unfortunately, the official website is light on details.

5. Recover My Files (Best for Windows Users with Corrupt SD Cards)

Recover My Files is an easy-to-use Windows data recovery tool. It performed well in some SD card tests, and not so well in others. It was very successful when recovering files from a corrupt card. Read my full review.

  • Supported platforms: Windows only

It’s easy to set up and install, and the user interface is easy to use and feels at home on a Windows computer. An activation code is required before all of the features are unlocked, and no technical knowledge is required to recover your files.

In DigiLab Inc’s tests, it came out on top when recovering files from a corrupt SD card. It also performed quite well in a few other tests.

  • Test 5.1.5: Files on a 32 GB SD card were deleted, bypassing the recycle bin. Recover My Files was 100% successful but took twice as long as the other tools and also listed additional junk files that never existed.
  • Test 5.1.6: Files on a 1 GB miniSD card were deleted, bypassing the recycle bin. Recover My Files recovered all but the text files, and recovered files were missing their names.
  • Test 5.2.2: A 32 GB SD card containing files was formatted. Recover My Files successfully recovered the files but was almost as slow as Stellar Data Recovery.
  • Test 5.2.6: File recovery was attempted on a corrupt 32 GB SD card. Recover My Files was 100% successful but took almost four times longer than R-Studio, whose 99.8% success was next best.

Two versions are suitable for many users. Standard costs $69.95 and includes the features most users need, including the creation of disk images. Professional costs $99.95 and adds the ability to scan disk images and raid arrays as well as additional customization options.

6. 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.

  • Supported platforms: Windows only

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.

Unfortunately, Recuva was not included in any comparative SD card recovery tests that I’m aware of. However, it was successful when recovering files from a USB flash drive in my tests and those performed by ThinkMobiles. [5]

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.

Guide to Choosing a Data Recovery Tool for SD Cards

Before making your choice, it’s helpful to become familiar with 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 from your SD card, the data is not actually removed. It’s simply marked as being deleted, and the space it occupies is now available. In time, the directory listing and the data will be overwritten as you create new files.

If you act quickly, recovery is relatively easy and most tools are likely to be successful. If you don’t, some apps are more capable than others in difficult data recovery scenarios.

Choose a Tool That Suits Your Budget and Experience

Many data recovery applications are designed for users without a lot of technical expertise, so you don’t need to be a genius to use them. They allow you to scan for lost data in just a few simple steps, using a wizard.

Some also offer an advanced mode, while one (R-Studio Data Recovery) is designed with only advanced users in mind. Make sure you choose a tool that matches your level of experience.

Also, consider the cost of each tool. How strict is your budget? There are a few free data recovery applications that are worth using, but most of the tools I recommend cost money. My recommendations range in price from $20 to $100. Some are one-off purchases while others are ongoing subscriptions. Only you know the value of your missing data.

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 your lost data has been found.

Consider How Long Are You Willing to Wait

Data recovery takes time, and sometimes a great deal of it. How much time do you have? Are you willing to wait longer if it means a better chance of getting your files back?

Some applications scan quicker scans than others. Small drives are faster to scan than larger ones. For example, a 4 GB USB flash drive can be scanned in just minutes, while a multi-terabyte hard drive can take many hours or even days.

Quite a few tools allow you to pause a scan and resume it when you have more time. Others allow you to save the list of lost files that have been located so that you can search for the ones you want to recover in a separate session.

Choose the Tool Most Likely to Be Successful

My recommendations have been chosen because they have been proven to be effective in recovering data from SD cards in thorough industry tests. I relied heavily on the tests performed by DigiLab Inc [6] because they included four tests that were specifically on SD cards.

I have also relied on my own data recovery tests and those by other reviewers, and I have checked consumer ratings and reviews for each app. Not all performed well in every test, so choose one that is strong in the area you are encountering problems.

Another difficulty is locating the files you want to recover. In many cases, you’ll be given a long list of many thousands of lost files, and that makes locating the files you want to recover like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Fortunately, some applications offer the ability to search, sort, and preview those files. That will make your job much easier.

Final Verdict

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

R-Studio is an effective and reliable tool when recovering data from SD cards and anywhere else. It’s fast, consistent, and used by data recovery experts. If you’re technical or know someone who is, it offers the best chance of retrieving your photos, documents, and media files.

For everyone else, there is Stellar Data Recovery and the other easy-to-use applications I listed above. If one fails to locate your lost data, try another.

Use the free trial version to gauge how successful you’ll be, and move on to another app if it doesn’t look hopeful.

References