Best Data Recovery Software for Windows

I tested 42 data recovery software products and found EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard to be the best option for Windows 10.

I’ve been working 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 Windows because it offers a winning combination. It’s easy to use, scans your drive 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.

7 Best Data Recovery Tools for Windows

Here are the most effective and usable data recovery applications that run on Windows PCs.

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 both simple and complex recovery jobs. Its wizard interface does not require technical knowledge. Read my full review.

  • Supported platforms: Windows, Mac
  • Supported storage media: Hard drives, USB drives, SD cards, and more 
  • Supported file systems: common Windows formats such as FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, exFAT, NTFS, NTFS5, ReFS, as well as the older Mac HFS+ format and some Linux formats
  • Supported file types: Most popular types of document, image, video, audio, email, and archive, and more

The word “wizard” in this application’s title gives a clue that it’s suitable for non-technical users. You recover data in three simple steps by following easy-to-understand prompts.

But that doesn’t mean that the tool is limited to only easy recovery jobs. It’s also useful for more difficult cases, such as when you accidentally format the wrong drive.

Scans are quite fast. For example, scanning a 4 GB thumb drive took just five minutes, which is comparable to other fast data recovery applications.

The app allows you to pause and resume scans, which is useful if you find you don’t have time to wait until a scan finishes. You can then narrow down the scan results by sorting, searching, and previewing the files.

EaseUS’s Pro plan will suit most home and business users and has a one-time cost of $69.95. Helpfully, this includes free remote consultation with a specialist in difficult recovery cases. That hand-holding in crucial data recovery cases can provide a great deal of peace of mind.

There’s also a free plan, but you’re limited to recovering just 2 GB of data. If you’re motivated, you can increase that limit to 3.5 GB by sharing the product on social media.

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

Stellar Data Recovery is one of the most effective data recovery applications that comes with an easy-to-use interface. The trade-off? Its scans are very thorough and will often keep you waiting longer than other data recovery apps. Read my full review.

  • Supported platforms: Windows, Mac
  • Supported storage media: Hard drives, USB drives, SD cards, and more
  • Supported file systems: Popular Windows formats such as NTFS, exFAT, FAT(FAT16/FAT32), older Mac formats, and Pro plans also support optical drives such as DVDs
  • Supported file types: Most popular types of document, photo, video, and more

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

Despite its simplicity, Stellar Data Recovery is effective at locating lost files in both simple and complex data loss scenarios. It can recover permanently deleted files, data from damaged file systems, and formatted or deleted partitions.

However, its scans are more thorough and often slower than the competition. For example, a scan of a 4 GB flash drive took more than 45 minutes, compared to just five minutes for some other apps. Not all scans are so slow, and you may be willing to wait if you’re more likely to recover your data.

You can pause and resume scans or save them for recovery at a later time. This is particularly useful given the length of time the scans take, allowing you to recover your data over several sessions. Once the lost files are found, you can narrow down the list using the sort, search, and preview features.

In especially difficult recovery cases, you can create a bootable recovery drive that offers a greater chance of success on internal drives. Ultimately, if you try everything and fail, you can mail in your drive for professional data recovery at an additional fee.

Stellar Data Recovery is a subscription service with a number of plans. The standard plan allows you to do basic recovery jobs for $49.99/year. The Professional plan is more capable and can recover from lost partitions, unbeatable drives, and optical media. It costs $79.99/year. Even more expensive plans add additional features.

There is a free plan, but it limits you to recovering just 1 GB of data. In most cases, that’s just not enough, but it’s good to know it’s there. A free trial will scan for lost files so that you can confirm the ones you want to recover are actually located before paying for the software.

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

In stringent industry tests, R-Studio Data Recovery is shown to recover more data than any other app. However, it’s designed for data recovery professionals and requires more technical knowledge than other tools. Read my full review.

  • Supported platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Supported storage media: Hard drives, USB drives, floppy drives, CDs, DVDs, Compact-Flash cards, Memory Sticks, and more
  • Supported file systems: A wide range of Windows, Mac, and Linux formats, including NTFS, ReFS, APFS, and FAT
  • Supported file types: Most popular types of document, image, video, audio, email, and archive, and more

R-Studio Data Recovery is not suitable for casual home or office users. It’s designed for IT professionals and you’ll have to spend time studying the manual to get the most out of it.

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. That makes it the perfect choice for more technical users who prioritize success over ease of use.

Scans are surprisingly fast—it took less than five minutes to scan a 4 GB flash drive, a bit quicker than every other app included in this review.

It’s no surprise that this tool 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. A free trial will scan for lost files but not recover them.

4. Zero Assumption Recovery (Also Great for Technical Users)

Zero Assumption Recovery is a second application suitable for technical users. It doesn’t have the same reputation in the industry and takes much longer to scan drives, but is a little more affordable than R-Studio. Read my full review.

  • Supported platforms: Windows only
  • Supported storage media: Hard drives, USB drives, memory cards, and more
  • Supported file systems: Common Windows formats such as NTFS, FAT16, and FAT32, and some Linux formats
  • Supported file types: Popular image and video formats, and more

This application has a more technical interface than most of the competition. It’s not the best choice for casual home and office users.

User satisfaction for Zero Assumption Recovery is high, and a TechRepublic reviewer was able to recover an important spreadsheet from a drive that had been accidentally formatted. [2] However, it’s difficult to compare its effectiveness head-to-head with other tools like R-Studio because it was not included in the same comparative tests.

When I tested it on my 4 GB USB flash drive, the scan took around 20 minutes. That’s much longer than the five minutes taken by competitors such as R-Studio.

It can save scans for a later time, and lets you sort, search and preview the lost files it locates. However, it won’t let you pause and resume scans or create a bootable recovery drive.

Its price is a little less expensive than R-Studio, but not much—a single-user license costs $69.96. However, its free trial is a little more generous. Besides locating lost files, you can also recover up to four folders on a drive or unlimited photos from supported cameras.

5. Recuva (Best Free Tool)

Recuva is an effective and easy-to-use data recovery application with a functional free version that doesn’t place limits on the amount of data that can be recovered. Read my full review.

  • Supported platforms: Windows only
  • Supported storage media: Hard drives, USB drives, floppy disks, MemoryStick, and more
  • Supported file systems: Popular Windows formats including NTFS and FAT and some Linux formats, but Mac formats are not supported
  • Supported file types: Most popular types of document, image, video, email, and archive, and more

Data recovery is performed using an easy-to-use wizard that asks a few simple questions. Clear guidance is offered at each step, making it ideal for inexperienced and non-technical users.

An advanced mode is also available. This allows more experienced users to navigate the application freely on their own.

Recuva is quite capable. I was able to recover all deleted files in a test, and other reviewers achieved similar success. ThinkMobiles, for example, recovered all of their deleted files and were able to locate thousands of lost files on an internal drive. [3]

In my test on a 4 GB flash drive, the scan took just 5 minutes 54 seconds. That’s just behind the fastest apps that took around five minutes.

But Recuva lacks features found in many of its competitors. It can’t pause or resume scans, or sort and 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.

6. Lazesoft Recovery Suite (Best Free Suite of Tools)

Lazesoft Recovery Suite is free for home use and a reasonable $27.95 for business use. It includes an entire suite of data recovery applications. Read my full review.

  • Supported platforms: Windows only
  • Supported storage media: Hard drives, USB drives, and more
  • Supported file systems: Windows NTFS and FAT32 formats, and the older Mac HFS+ format
  • Supported file types: 160+ file types, including documents, videos, emails, and archives

The application is suitable for casual users without advanced technical knowledge. It takes you through the data recovery process step-by-step.

It’s effective at recovery data. ThinkMobiles gave it a very high restore efficiency score of 92% after comparing it with 27 other tools, some of which scored as low as 46%. [4] That’s impressive, but be aware that they also encountered periodic crashes during the scanning process.

Its scans also a little slower than many of its competitors. It scanned my 4 GB USB stick in 8 minutes, while some of the others took just 5 minutes.

It’s a full-featured application that allows you to create a bootable recovery drive, clone your hard drive, and securely overwrite your data. It also allows you to sort, search and preview the scan results.

But it doesn’t allow you to pause and resume scans, or save them for later. That’s a shame since its scans are a little slower.

However, it does includes a number of helpful additional components, and that’s where it really stands out from the competition:

  • Lazesoft Windows Recovery: Windows system recovery and fixing Windows boot problems
  • Lazesoft Recover My Password: Windows password recovery
  • Lazesoft Disk Image & Clone: Disk backup, clone, and partition manager

The other very strong benefit of this software is its price. The entire suite is free for non-commercial use, and the Professional Edition for business users costs just $27.95, down from the usual $49.99.

7. Disk Drill (Best Tool with Cleanup Features)

Disk Drill is another tool that offers more features than the average data recovery tool, and its focus is on cleanup features. Read my full review.

  • Supported platforms: Windows, Mac
  • Supported storage media: Hard drives, USB drives, SD cards, and more
  • Supported file systems: The Windows NTFS and FAT/FAT32/exFAT formats, Mac APFS and HFS+, and some Linux formats. 
  • Supported file types: Most popular types of document, image, video, audio, email, and archive, and more

Disk Drill offers an effective balance between 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.

I found Disk Drill very effective at basic data recovery tasks such as recovering recently deleted files. It can also help in more complicated cases such as an accidentally formatted drive, but other tools may be better.

Scanning a 4 GB flash drive took a speedy five minutes, comparable to other fast data recovery applications.

Its real strength is in the wide range of features it offers. It’s able to pause and resume scans and save them for recovery at a later time. And it allows you to sort, search, and preview the located files to more easily find the files you want to recover.

It also allows you to create a bootable recovery drive as well as create a clone of your hard drive. If you run the software before you encounter data loss, it protects your data in a Recovery Vault for guaranteed recovery.

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. If it ultimately fails to recover your data, you can mail the drive to the company and only pay for the service if they are successful.

There is a free version of Disk Drill, but its 500 MB limit is not enough for serious data recovery. However, it does include many useful features including Recovery Vault and some cleanup utilities.

The Pro version costs $89 and removes all limits from data recovery. A free trial will show you if your lost data can be found before you need to pay.

Guide to Choosing a Data Recovery Tool for Windows

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

How Is Data Recovery Possible?

Your files are stored on your PC’s hard drive and possibly external drives as well, such as a USB flash drive or SD card. Their name, location, and other details are stored in the directory system.

When you delete a file, its data isn’t removed from the hard drive, nor is its listing removed from the directory. It is 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 delete a file accidentally, it’s best to act quickly, while your file is still found in the directory and its data on your hard drive. If you do, recovery is relatively easy using a quick scan. In my experience, most tools will be successful. If you don’t, some apps are more capable than others in difficult data recovery scenarios.

If the file is no longer listed in a directory, the software will have to perform a deep scan, looking at the data on your hard drive byte by byte. This is slow and complex. There are no file names, and it’s not even clear where each lost file began and ended. This is where support for specific file types helps—it allows the software to identify your lost files in all that random data.

Unfortunately, if your data has been overwritten by new files, there’s no way for you to recover your data. Unless you made a backup, it is gone forever.

Can I Recover Data from an SSD?

Probably not. Recovering data from SSDs is problematic due to the TRIM technology they use for increased efficiency and service life. TRIM automatically clears disk sectors that are not being used, and this makes data recovery virtually impossible. Unfortunately, many data recovery applications skip over this in their documentation.

While it’s technically possible to turn TRIM off, it’s not a good idea, and you’d have to do this before you experience data loss.

Choose a Tool That Suits Your Budget and Experience

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

Some also offer an advanced mode that gives you more control over the data recovery process, as well as better customization options. Others are 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. The range of prices is quite wide, 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 your lost data has been found.

Choose a Tool That Works with Your Computer and Drives

In this roundup, I only include applications that run on Windows and support Windows file systems. Your internal drive will normally be formatted with the NTFS file system, and USB flash drives will normally use one of the FAT formats.

Make sure the software also supports the type of drive that your lost data is stored on. Fortunately, most apps support hard drives, USB flash drives, SD cards, and more.

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.

Some 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

I mentioned earlier that most data recovery files are quite successful with simple jobs such as recovering recently deleted files. But not all tools are as successful at more complex jobs.

For example, recovering from an accidentally formatted drive isn’t so easy, and corrupted and physically damaged drives pose a much more serious challenge to the software. Comparative industry tests show that some tools are better at these jobs than others.

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.

Finally, some features are designed to help in more extreme data recovery scenarios. For example, to recover data from your computer’s internal drive, use a tool that allows you to create a bootable recovery disk.

If your drive is on its last legs, creating a disk image or clone is helpful. This copies all of the data to a second drive that doesn’t just include the files, but also the lost data found on the unused sections of the drive. You can then scan the new drive for lost data rather than putting additional strain on the original.

What If I Can’t Recover 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 valuable lost data, you want the one that will give you the best chance of success.

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is able to locate lost files in a wide range of data recovery situations while being fast and easy to use. It offers the features you’re most likely to need and has been thoroughly tested by industry experts.

Stellar Data Recovery is a similar tool, but rather than focussing on speed, its scans are more thorough. That means that if EaseUS’s product fails to locate your lost data, Stellar’s may succeed. Fortunately, you can use the free trial of both applications to determine if they will be successful before you need to pay.

References