This is a review of Recuva, a popular data recovery tool.
I’m a tech professional who’s offered IT training and support over several decades, and written software reviews and how-tos for business users. I’ve taken an in-depth look at Recuva to let you know how likely it is to recover your lost data.
I found Recuva to offer excellent value for simple recovery jobs such as getting back a file you recently deleted accidentally. The Professional version is reasonably affordable but many users will find the free version sufficient. As long as you are running Windows.
In this Recuva review, I will 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.
Recuva helps you get back important files after an accidental deletion or computer crash. It can retrieve them from your PC, recycle bin, or attached storage such as a USB flash drive or SD card from your camera.
The app is suitable for inexperienced users and excels at basic recovery jobs. However, an experienced mode is available for technical users so they can use the software without guidance.
Recuva has both a free and paid version.
- Recuva Free offers advanced file recovery for personal use without cost and is sufficient for many users. It’s the version I cover in this review.
- Recuva Professional adds a few additional features that aren’t vital in most recovery cases: virtual hard drive support, automatic updates, and premium support. It costs $19.95.
Recuva is effective at basic data recovery tasks, such as recovering files that have been recently deleted, even if the recycle bin has been emptied. Scan times are acceptable but not as fast as some of its competitors, and the application’s easy-to-use Wizard allows even inexperienced users to attempt data recovery.
It’s also capable of recovering files from damaged or formatted drives. In these situations, you’re more likely to have success with an alternate data recovery application, and I recommend a few below. But first, give Recuva a try. Running the scan won’t take long or cause any damage, and if it’s successful you’ll save time and effort.
Recuva is not suitable for Mac users, and if you’re on a Mac you should also check my recommended alternatives below.
How is data recovery possible? When a file is deleted, it is not removed from the directory or folder that lists your files, nor is its data removed from your drive. It is simply marked as being deleted.
But recovery is not guaranteed. In time, as you create new files, both the directory entry and data are likely to be overwritten.
Methods of data recovery offered: Recuva offers two methods for locating lost files:
- It can quickly undelete files still located in your drive’s directory system. You specify the types of files to recover and where they are stored and the app will list any deleted files it locates, allowing you to select which are restored.
- A deep scan takes longer but can potentially locate more lost files. It scans the entire drive for lost files and file fragments no longer listed in the directory structure.
Supported storage media: Floppy disks, MemoryStick, external hard drives, USB flash drives, and more. Practically any storage supported by Windows will work.
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 recycle bin has been emptied. 
Supported file systems: Windows formats include FAT, exFAT, NTFS, NTFS5, and NTFS +. Linux formats include Ext2, Ext3, and Ext4. Amazon’s EFS format is also supported. It’s not possible to use Recuva on drives formatted with an Apple file system such as HFS or APFS.
Supported file types: Pictures, music, documents, videos, emails, or any other file type you’ve lost.
Recuva offers a number of additional features:
- Previewing located files
- File overwriting (secure delete)
However, it lacks some features offered by some other recovery applications:
- Pause and resume scans
- Sorting and searching the files located to narrow down the results to a more manageable number
- Bootable recovery drive, though you can run the app from an external drive
- Disk imaging and cloning, which makes an exact copy of a failing drive that contains the recoverable data
- SMART monitoring for early warning of failing hard drives
- Defragmentation (this is available from one of the company’s other apps, Defraggler Professional)
- Deleting duplicates and other cleanup features (though the company’s CCleaner will help there)
- Mail-in service for difficult recovery jobs
The software is easy to install and easy to use. A portable version is required that does not require installation. Installing software on your computer may overwrite the files you are trying to retrieve.
A wizard will help inexperienced users get started by answering a few simple questions. Guidance is offered at each step.
Experienced users can switch to advanced mode with a single mouse click. This allows you to navigate the application on your own.
Scanning for lost files can be time-consuming. How fast is Recuva? To find out, I copied a folder containing 10 files to an empty 4 GB USB stick then deleted it. The scan took 5 minutes 54 seconds, which is comparable with many of the other apps I tested.
ThinkMobiles tested seven free data recovery applications.  It took Recuva 15:57 to scan for 50 deleted files on a USB flash drive. This was somewhat slower than all but one other app they tested. The fastest app took just 55 seconds, and the slowest 35:45.
These scan times seem reasonable. When you need to recover valuable files, the loss of five or fifteen minutes seems to be a small price to pay.
Data recovery can never be guaranteed. How successful is Recuva at recovering data? In my own test, it was able to recover all ten deleted files, including PDFs, a Word document, and MP3s.
That result is quite typical: 15 of the 17 applications I tested did the same. However, around a third of the other apps were able to recover far more files—up to 34 in total—that included files that had been deleted previous to my test. Recuva located only the 10 files I had only just deleted.
ThinkMobiles’ test  reported similar success: all 50 of the deleted files were recovered. These included images, videos, documents, applications, and compressed archives.
In another test, ThinkMobile found Recuva was able to locate tens of thousands of lost files on the internal hard drive. This is typical: most of the other free recovery applications located similar numbers of files.
The official Recuva Support Page offers a number of help articles about how to install and use the software, change your password, recover a lost product license key, and submit a bug report. 
Other resources include a FAQ page, a community forum, and more detailed documentation.
Premium Support requires the purchase of Recuva Professional. Online tickets can be submitted directly to the support team. 
Is Recuva safe?
Yes, it is safe to use for recovering lost files. The installation procedure does offer additional, bundled software, but these are neither malware nor required.
Is Recuva really free?
Yes, all of Recuva’s features are free for personal use, but you should purchase Recuva Professional for commercial use.
Does Recuva really work?
Yes, the application has been thoroughly tested by myself and others and successfully recovered lost files. However, recovery cannot be guaranteed.
How much data can Recuva recover?
There is no limit to the number of files or size of files that can be recovered.
How long does Recuva deep scan take?
Depending on the size of your drive, a deep scan may take many hours. Some users report it taking more than a day.
Can you use Recuva on Android phones?
Recuva isn’t available for Android. Files lost on your device’s SD card can be scanned and technical users may be able to mount their device as a drive and scan it using Recuva’s advanced mode.
If Recuva isn’t right for you, here are some alternatives I recommend.
Stellar Data Recovery
Stellar is an easy-to-use application with a wide variety of features. It is a reliable and effective application, but its scans can be time-consuming. It’s available on both Windows and Mac.
EaseUS Data Recovery
EaseUS Data Recovery offers an easy-to-use wizard that will scan your drive quickly for lost files. It’s available for both Windows and Mac.
R-Studio is an advanced tool suitable for data recovery professionals. It’s available for both Windows and Mac.
I recommend Recuva to Windows users who need a free or inexpensive data recovery application that is easy to use.
Both in my own tests and those conducted by others, the free version was successful in recovering recently deleted files. Times taken for the scans were a little slower than many of the leading recovery apps, but not the slowest overall.
Some of the other data recovery applications were also able to recover additional files that were deleted long before the tests were conducted, and offer a better chance of restoring files in more complex data recovery scenarios such as a corrupted partition or file system.
I also refer those of you who need a more capable app to my list of alternatives above. Mac users should also refer to these alternatives.