Disk Drill Review

This is a review of Disk Drill, a data recovery tool.

I have worked in the tech industry long-term, offering training and support over several decades, and writing software reviews and how-tos for business users. I’ve taken an in-depth look at Disk Drill to let you know how likely it is to meet your needs.

Disk Drill offers more features than the average data recovery tool. It’s easy to use, reasonably fast, and effective at recovering recently-deleted files. For more complex recovery jobs, one of the alternatives I recommend below may offer better results.

In this Disk Drill review, I’ll explore the types of data the application can restore, how long this is likely to take, and weigh up your chance of success. I’ll also list other features that are offered and whether it’s suitable for beginners or advanced users.

Let’s get started.

Disk Drill Overview

Disk Drill lets you recover accidentally deleted files from your Mac or PC as well as a wide range of devices that you can connect to your computer, including smartphones. It also includes cleanup, backup, and data protection features and can report on the health of your hard drive.

CleverFiles offers one free version and two paid versions of Disk Drill:

  • Disk Drill for Windows Free
  • Disk Drill for Windows Pro – $89
  • Disk Drill for Mac Pro – $89

Comments:

  • The free Windows version can recover data up to 500 MB. That’s only useful for recovering a few files.
  • The free trial of the full version will run full scans and show you whether your data can be recovered before paying for the software.
  • Note that if you run the free trial version’s Recovery Vault or Guaranteed Recovery feature before you lose your files, you will be able to restore them free of charge.
  • Mac users also get access to Disk Drill with a $9.99/month subscription to SetApp.
  • An Enterprise version suitable for large corporations is also available.

It’s a useful tool. I found its interface pleasant to use and its scan times are not far behind the fastest. I successfully recovered the files I deleted, but other apps were able to locate a larger number of lost files. They may offer a greater chance of success in complex cases.

Recovery Features

How is data recovery possible? Deleted files aren’t removed from your drive but simply marked as being deleted. Recovery is not guaranteed because over time the data may be overwritten with new files.

Methods of data recovery offered:

  • A quick scan of the directory structure for deleted files
  • A deep scan of a partition for lost files and file fragments no longer listed in the directory structure
  • A deep scan for files on unpartitioned space
  • A scan for lost or deleted partitions
  • The Recovery Vault saves each deleted file’s name and location to make recovery easier
  • Guaranteed Recovery saves a complete copy of every file you delete to guarantee recovery

Supported storage media: PC and Mac internal drives, external HDD/SDD, USB flash drives, SD/CF Cards, digital cameras, connected iPhones, iPads, iPods, and rooted Android phones. With other products, recovery from smartphones may require the purchase of a separate app.

Disclaimer: It is difficult to recover data from solid-state drives (SSDs). The TRIM technology that increases their efficiency also makes it impossible to recover your files once the trash has been emptied. 

Supported file systems: Windows formats: NTFS/NTFS5. Mac formats: APFS, HFS, HFS+. Linus formats: EXT3/EXT4. Other: FAT/FAT32/exFAT.

Supported file types:

  • Video: AVI, FLV, M4V, MP4, MPG, WMV, and more
  • Audio: MP3, AIF, AIFC, AIFF, WMA, and more
  • Images: BMP, JPEG, JP2, GIF, TIFF, PSP, X3F, PEF, AI, APM, IDML, INDB, INDD, INDL, INX, LRCAT, PSB, PSD, and more
  • Documents: DOCX, PDF, PPTX, XLSX, and more
  • Archives: ZIP, RAR, DMG, 7Z, CAB, and more
  • Other files: ACCDB, DB, SQL, MYO, OTF, and more

Additional Features

Disk Drill offers a number of additional features:

  • Pause and resume
  • Saving scans for recovery at a later time
  • Sorting and searching the files located to narrow down the results
  • Previewing located files
  • Bootable recovery drive to scan your computer’s internal drive
  • SMART monitoring for early warning of failing hard drives
  • Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery increase your chances of recovery if they are run before you lose data
  • Imaging and cloning to create a duplicate of your drive you can perform data recovery on in the future
  • Deleting duplicates and other cleanup features
  • Mail-in data recovery service (at an additional fee if they are successful)

However, it lacks a few features offed by some other recovery applications:

  • File overwriting (secure delete)
  • Defragmentation

User Experience

After testing dozens of data recovery applications, Disk Drill is the one I enjoy using most. Installation and setup are straightforward, and the program achieves an effective balance between functionality and ease of use.

Users who are unfamiliar with data recovery can get started with three simple steps:

  1. Choose the storage device that contained the lost files
  2. Scan for the lost files
  3. Select the files to restore

More experienced users will find plenty of ways to customize the recovery process.

Performance

Scanning for lost files can be time-consuming. 

How fast is Disk Drill? To find out, I copied a folder containing 10 files to an empty 4 GB USB stick, deleted it, then had Disk Drill scan it.

On Windows, the scan took just over five minutes, which is competitive with the 16 other recovery tools tested. The best ten speeds were between 3:58 and 6:19, while the slowest app took over 45 minutes.

On Mac, the scan took four minutes, the fastest time achieved by four applications. Slower apps took between eight and ten minutes.

ThinkMobiles also tested five data recovery applications, including Disk Drill [1], by scanning for 50 files deleted from a USB flash drive. Disk Drill took just two minutes, which is the second-fastest result in their test. The fastest was 55 seconds and the slowest, 35 minutes.

These tests were performed on relatively small devices and took just minutes. Deep scans of large hard drives can take many hours or even days. The estimated time to scan my 2 TB external hard drive was 27 hours.

Effectiveness

Data recovery can never be guaranteed. How effective is Disk Drill?

In my own test, it was able to recover all ten deleted files on both Mac and Windows, including PDFs, a Word document, and MP3s. That’s good news! Most of the other data recovery apps did the same—only three failed to recover all files.

But most apps found more than the 10 files I deleted. Disk Drill found an impressive number of lost files, but some other applications did much better. These may offer a greater chance of recovering files deleted in the distant past.

ThinkMobiles also reported a successful test result for Disk Drill: all fifty deleted files were recovered. [2] So did most of the other applications tested, though one only recovered 38.

In conclusion, Disk Drill seems quite effective at recovering recently deleted files. But some apps were able to locate a larger number of lost files, and potentially offer more hope of recovering files deleted in the past.

Customer Support

The Disk Drill Help Center [3] provides links to program updates, a FAQ, and articles. You’ll find a collection of general tutorials about the app, as well as detailed tutorials on how to recover deleted files on Windows and Mac. Support can be contacted via a web form.

FAQS

Is disk drill any good?

Yes. Its scan times are fast and it is effective at recovering recently deleted files. However, the applications we list in Alternatives offer a better chance of success in difficult data recovery cases.

Is Disk Drill really free?

Not really. There is a free Windows version, but the 500 MB recovery limit is of little practical use. The free Pro trial version will scan for lost files for free, but requires payment to actually recover them.

Is Disk Drill for Windows safe?

In general, yes. Recovering lost files will not overwrite any other data. However, the Cleanup and Duplicate features allow you to delete files, and you should check carefully before doing so.

Does Disk Drill recover file names?

Yes, as long as the names still appear within the disk’s directory structure or you were using Recovery Vault or Guaranteed Recovery before they were deleted. Otherwise, no.

How to remove Disk Drill smart monitoring from Mac?

After uninstalling Disk Drill, you may continue to see its S.M.A.R.T. monitoring notification on your computer. Disk Drill’s Help Center provides detailed tutorials on how to completely uninstall Disk Drill on Mac [4] and Windows [5].

Alternatives

If Disk Drill isn’t right for you, here are some alternatives I recommend.

Stellar Data Recovery

Stellar is easy to use application and offers a wide variety of features. Its scans are reliable and effective, but time-consuming. It’s available on both Windows and Mac.

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

Data Recovery’s easy-to-use wizard will scan your drive quickly for lost files. It’s available for both Windows and Mac.

R-Studio

R-Studio is an advanced recovery tool suitable for data recovery professionals. It’s available for both Windows and Mac.

Final Verdict

I recommend Disk Drill. I found its scans fast and it was able to recover every deleted file in my tests and those run by others. It offers a number of additional features you normally need to pay extra for, such as a backup system, cleanup utility, and duplicate file finder. It’s also able to take care of data recovery jobs on your smartphone or mobile device.

If you’re ready for some preemptive action and have plenty of spare space on your drive, take advantage of the Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery features now, before you suffer from data loss. These will take up some additional drive space but can be run from the free trial and allow you to restore your data for free.

But be aware that other applications may offer a better chance of success in difficult recovery scenarios. These include Stellar Data Recovery, which uses incredibly slow scans to locate the most files possible, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, which features an easy-to-use interface, and R-Studio, which is an advanced tool for experts.

References

About Adrian
Adrian is a tech geek who's worked in IT for quite a while. He has plenty of experience recovering lost data. He tried data recovery software many times when crucial data was lost due to computer failure or human error, and he was only successful about half of the time.

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