If you’re looking for a good undelete program then there are plenty of freeware programs to choose from. Recuva, from the CCleaner authors, is a particular favourite of ours – fast, capable and very easy to use – and it’s tempting to assume that you don’t need anything else.
Are freeware data recovery tools really up to the standards of the commercial competition, though? O&O Software say no, pointing to their latest release, DiskRecovery 7, as evidence. And a look at the program’s feature list suggests they may have a point.
DiskRecovery combines multiple scanning methods to improve the chances of recovery, for instance, allowing it to locate files even on formatted or damaged partitions.
There’s direct support for locating and restoring more than 350 common file types.
DiskRecovery can be installed on a removable drive, which means it won’t overwrite the data you’re trying to recover.
And it works with all Windows-compatible storage devices: hard drives, removable drives, memory cards, digital cameras, MP3 players and more.
Impressive specifications, then, but would DiskRecovery 7 live up to the$m in a real life test? We installed a copy on our test PC in an effort to find out.
Setup and scanning
DiskRecovery can be installed on your hard drive, like any other application. But you can also install it on a network or removable drive, handy if the system drive contains your lost file (you don’t want DiskRecovery to overwrite them). We had the installer copy its files to a USB flash drive, for convenience.
On launch, the DiskRecovery 7 interface proved surprising simple. Essentially the program is just a wizard, with only three main steps.
In the first you’re asked to select the drive which contains your lost data. You’re able to choose a single partition, or the complete volume, which could prove useful if you’ve got partition problems (like one or two have disappeared completely).
The next step allows you to choose which of the three DiskRecovery scanning techniques that you’d like to apply. The program can scan your system areas for deleted file entries, the conventional approach used by most undelete tools; a second option allows you to also look for formatted or damaged partitions, and examine their files; and the program can also use its in-depth knowledge of file signatures to detect particular file types, even if all system information has been lost. You can choose one, two, or all of the scan methods – it’s your call.
And the final step allows you to tweak a few settings. The most useful comes under File Types, and allows you to tell the program to look only for JPEG files, DOCX or whatever it might be, which can improve performance. Although another interesting option allows DiskRecovery to restore data even when your drive has been formatted with a different file system – which could be very handy.
With the settings applied, all you have to do is click Next, and wait for the program to return its verdict. Exactly how long you’ll be waiting, though, depends on the scanning decisions you made earlier.
We opted for the standard “search for deleted files and folders”, for instance, and it managed to check our test 75GB SSD drive in around 10 seconds. To put this in perspective, Recuva was much faster with Deep Scan disabled (4 seconds), a little slower with it turned on (14 seconds), although DiskRecovery did manage to locate marginally more recoverable files (6,594 vs 6,533).
If this initial check doesn’t turn up anything, though, you’ll probably want to enable every scan option, which in our case extended the waiting time to around 13 minutes. Not bad, but remember this is a fast and low capacity SSD: run it on a regular drive and the process could take much longer.
We found that patience was required when DiskRecovery had finished, too. The “Search for files” dialog had disappeared, but nothing was happening, and clicking in the main program window caused Windows to display a “not responding” message. It came back to life after a couple of minutes (presumably DiskRecovery was just processing our files), but the interface really needs to better reflect what’s going on – we might easily have assumed the program had hung and closed it down manually.
Of course while these issues are annoying initially, they’re not hugely important. You won’t run deep scans on your hard drive every day, and so whether it takes 5 minutes or 50 doesn’t matter much, just as long as the program uncovers your data. And here DiskRecovery 7 did very, very well indeed.
Our primary test here, for example, was to locate a lost folder of JPEGs. Recuva, even with Deep Scan enabled, couldn’t find a single one. DiskRecovery restored them all.
The program also found the remnants of many other files (1.4 million, vs 51,650 with Recuva). Most of these weren’t recoverable as they’d been partly overwritten, but it still shows how thorough DiskRecovery is: if there’s a trace of your file remaining, it’s likely to show up here.
DiskRecovery 7 can filter its list of files by size, access time, creation time, modified time and more. As a result we still found it easy to track down what we needed, and in just a few moments managed to recover our lost images to a separate drive – a great result. This isn’t just another identikit undelete tool, DiskRecovery 7 really delivers, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
This article originally appeared at softwarecrew.co.uk