Stellar Data Recovery Review

This is a review of Stellar Data Recovery, a popular data recovery tool.

I’ve been working in the tech field for several decades, offering IT training and support and writing software reviews and how-tos for business users. I’ve taken an in-depth look at Stellar Data Recovery to let you know how likely it is to recover your lost data.

I found Stellar Data Recovery to be easy to use and an effective tool and recommend it. However, in some cases, its scans take considerably longer than other data recovery tools.

In this Stellar Data Recovery 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.

Stellar Data Recovery Overview

Stellar Data Recovery will recover lost or deleted data from your computer or an external hard drive. It has an attractive interface that’s easy to use and is able to recover more data than many of its competitors. That’s largely due to its careful and thorough scans that are significantly slower than other recovery tools.

There are versions for Windows and Mac and a huge number of plans. I’d prefer to see this simplified.

For Windows:

  • Stellar Data Recovery for Windows Free: free, same features as the Standard version but limited to 1 GB of recoverable files
  • Stellar Data Recovery for Windows Standard: $49.99/year, recovers deleted files from drives with common Windows and FAT formats
  • Stellar Data Recovery for Windows Professional: $79.99/year, adds support for lost partitions, unbootable system drives, optical media, creation of disk images, and SMART monitoring
  • Stellar Data Recovery for Windows Premium: $99.99/year, adds repair of corrupted videos and photos and extraction of thumbnails
  • Stellar Data Recovery for Windows Technician: $199/year, adds support for RAID
  • Stellar Data Recovery for Windows Toolkit: $299/year, adds support for virtual drives and Mac and Linux formats

For Mac:

  • Stellar Data Recovery for Mac Free: free, recovers deleted files from any storage media formatted with a common Mac or FAT format, even if it has been formatted, recovery is limited to 1 GB
  • Stellar Data Recovery for Mac Professional: $79.99/year, adds support for non-booting system drives, lost partitions, optical media, creation of disk images, and SMART monitoring
  • Stellar Data Recovery for Mac Premium: $99.99/year, adds repair of corrupted videos and photos and extraction of thumbnails
  • Stellar Data Recovery for Mac Technician: $149/year, same as the Premium plan but supports three installs instead of one

Unfortunately, the comparison table on the official website doesn’t make it clear that these prices or for a one-year subscription. You don’t find out until you go to purchase the software.

A free trial will show you if your files can be recovered before you have to pay. In this review, we will consider the Professional plan for Windows and Mac. This offers the recovery features most users will need.

Stellar Data Recovery is very good and has a high customer satisfaction rating. It is easy to use, yet in many scenarios recovers as much data as more advanced tools. However, its scans may require more time than other programs.

Recovery Features

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:

  • Recover data: scans the storage media to recover lost data
  • Deleted recovery: recovers deleted data from volumes
  • Raw recovery: recovers data from severely corrupted storage media

Supported storage media: Internal hard drives and SSDs, USB storage media and SD cards, jump drives, and RAW partitions. The Mac version supports Fusion drives and Time Machine.

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:

  • All plans for Windows: Windows formats such as NTFS, exFAT, FAT(FAT16/FAT32)
  • Professional-Toolkit plans for Windows: CD, DVD, HDDVD, Blu-ray Discs
  • Technician and Toolkit plans for Windows: RAID 0, 5 & 6
  • Toolkit plan for Windows: Linux and Mac formats such as HFS, HFS+, ext2, ext3, ext4, but not the new APFS
  • All plans for Mac: Mac and Windows formats such as APFS, HFS+, NTFS, ex-FAT, FAT(FAT16/FAT32)
  • All paid plans for Mac: CD, DVD, HDDVD, Blu-ray Discs

Supported file types: hundreds of file formats including photos, videos, documents, and more.

Additional Features

Stellar Data Recovery 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 to a more manageable number
  • Previewing located files
  • BitLocker to store deleted files for guaranteed recovery
  • Bootable recovery drive (Professional plan and up)
  • Disk Imaging (Professional plan and up)
  • SMART monitoring for early warning of failing hard drives (Professional plan and up)
  • Mail-in professional data recovery service

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

  • File overwriting (secure delete)
  • Defragmentation
  • Deleting duplicates and other cleanup features

User Experience

Stellar Data Recovery is easy to install and easy to use. I tested well over a dozen data recovery applications and found it one of the easiest programs to use by far.

Just three steps are required to recover your data:

  1. Choose the types of files you want to recover. Selecting fewer options will make the scan faster.
  2. Choose the drive you want to scan.
  3. Select the files you want to restore and click Recover.

Consumer ratings and customer satisfaction are very high. For example, it was awarded 4.6 stars on G2 [1], 4.6 stars on Trustpilot [2], and 4.3 stars on Capterra [3].

Performance

Scanning for lost files can be time-consuming. How fast is Stellar Data Recovery? To find out, I copied a folder containing 10 files to an empty 4 GB USB stick, deleted it, then scanned the drive with a number of data recovery applications.

On Windows, Stellar Data Recovery’s scan took 47 minutes 25 seconds. That’s slower than every other app that I tested. Many of them took between four and six minutes. The second-slowest app took 14 minutes.

On Mac, it was much faster, taking just eight minutes. A number of other apps were twice as fast, but two were slower, taking nine and ten minutes.

My tests were done on a relatively small USB flash drive. When scanning a large hard drive, scan times will be significantly longer: many hours, and possibly days.

If speedy scans are your priority, this is not the app for you and I’ll recommend some alternatives below. However, I discovered that the slower scans do find more recoverable files than most of the competition.

Effectiveness

Data recovery can never be guaranteed. How successful was Stellar Data Recovery at recovering data in industry tests?

In my own tests on both Windows and Mac, the program was able to recover all ten deleted files, including PDFs, a Word document, and MP3s. So did most of the other applications that I tested. Recovering recently deleted files is something most data recovery apps do well.

The scans didn’t just locate the ten files I’d just deleted, but many others that had been deleted previously. In my experience, Stellar Data Recovery locates more recoverable files than many of its competitors.

Another reviewer performed several data recovery tests on the software. [4] His first test was similar to mine and 100% successful. Second, he scanned his Mac’s internal drive to see what types of files were located, and most of the supported file types listed on the official website were found. He is very satisfied with the results of his tests.

DigiLab Inc performed a range of more difficult recovery tests on five leading Windows data recovery apps including Stellar Phoenix Data Recovery (an earlier version of the app) [5]. Here are a few of the tests they conducted:

  • Recovering deleted files that bypassed the recycle bin then were overwritten
  • Recovering large deleted files
  • Recovering data from a damaged file system
  • Recovering from a reformatted FAT32 drive
  • Recovering a deleted partition

For many (but not all) of the tests, Stellar performed just as well as R-Studio, a leading app for data recovery experts. Many of Stellar’s scans were significantly slower, but not all. In some scans, Stellar scanned just as fast as R-Studio and faster than the rest of the competition.

The difference is that Stellar Data Recovery is easy to use but R-Studio has quite a steep learning curve. For most users, I recommend Stellar’s product, though advanced users may achieve better results with R-Studio.

Customer Support

The Stellar Self Help & Support page [6] provides a searchable knowledge base and FAQ. Support can be contacted via an online ticketing system.

FAQS

Is Stellar Data Recovery safe?

Yes. A scan by Malwarebytes found no malware in the Mac version. Using the program will not erase or overwrite any of your data. Customer satisfaction is high and the company has been in business for over two decades.

Is Stellar Data Recovery (really) free?

Yes, as long as your recovery needs are modest. The free version seriously limits the amount of data that can be recovered.

How much data can Stellar Data Recovery Free recover?

Stellar Data Recovery Free (both the Windows and Mac versions) will recover up to 1 GB of data. In many data recovery scenarios that won’t be enough and you’ll have to pay for one of Stellar’s many plans.

Alternatives

If Stellar Data Recovery isn’t right for you, here are some alternatives I recommend.

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

Data Recovery offers an easy-to-use wizard that will scan your drive for lost files. Scans are often much faster than Stellar’s. It’s available for both Windows and Mac.

Recuva Professional

Recuva is Windows-only recovery software from the CCleaner developers. The free version is much more generous than Stellar’s and will meet many users’ needs.

R-Studio

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

Final Verdict

I recommend Stellar Data Recovery, especially if recovering the most lost files is more important to you than the time it takes. It is easy to use, has a high customer satisfaction rating, and is likely to recover more data than similar apps.

However, in many cases, its scans are quite slow. Two alternatives that offer fast scans, as well as an easy-to-use interface and similar success at recovery, are EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard (Windows and Mac) and Recuva Professional (Windows only).

Finally, one app consistently recovers more files than its competitors in a wide range of data recovery scenarios, but it isn’t particularly easy to use. R-Studio is designed for data recovery specialists, and if you consider yourself an advanced computer user, you may want to give it a try.

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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