Have you ever experienced a hard drive crash?
I have, and guess what? I lost every single one of my precious documents and digital camera photos.
Even worse: I wasn't able to get them back myself. It wasn't fun. In fact, I think we can both agree that losing important information is never fun.
In the event of such a hard drive disaster or to avoid sifting through your recycle bin upon accidental deletion, you should learn how to recover your hard drive. This article will explain exactly how to get your hard drive and files back if you run into any issues.
I will also review the top three data recovery software options to date based on successful recovery and speed. The best data recovery software will help you get your life back in an emergency.
In This Guide
The Best Data Recovery Systems: Our Top Picks
Here are our top picks for data recovery systems. There are plenty more out there, but we've chosen these because we believe they offer the best combination of features and service for their price point. Some even offer free options!
Stellar Phoenix is an amazing data recovery system for Mac and Windows PC. This data recovery tool can scan for and recover your important photos, video, files, and data from hard drives, CDs, SD cards, and USB Drives. Stellar Phoenix even offers up to 1 GB of recovered data for free with a free download on their site.
The only downside to Stellar Phoenix is that it takes a long time to scan and find your files compared to other data recovery systems. Luckily, this does not affect its success in finding your files. Additionally, the newest version of Stellar Phoenix has a more user-friendly interface and improved results after scanning.
Kroll Ontrack EasyRecovery
You can download a free trial version of the Kroll Ontrack EasyRecovery system to recover files and data on your Mac or PC fast. Ontrack Easy Recovery comes with various special tools including Mail Recovery, Hex Viewer, SMART, Bad Block/Block Usage Diagnostics, Imaging tools, Copy Disk and Refresh Disk. Download the free trial version to see how it works. If you like it, you can purchase a year's worth of recovery.
Their most basic software is less expensive than the Stellar Phoenix and Data Rescue but doesn't offer 1 GB free. One great thing about the Ontrack EasyRecovery tool is its filtering tool. Its filter allows you to search through files and folders easily to get to what you need. It also has a high recovery rate for photos, SD card files, documents, videos, and music.
Data Rescue restores deleted, damaged and lost data and files for Mac computers only. It also rescues reformatted and non-mounting drives from Macs. This data software tool is more expensive than the Kroll Ontrack EasyRecovery tool but the same as Stellar Phoenix.
It also has one of the best recovery rates for Macs, hence its five stars on the Apple app store. Unfortunately, Data Rescue's scan and recovery speed are a little below the standard in comparison to other data recovery tools. Although it takes a bit long, it is still arguably the best data recovery tool for Macs.
Questions to Consider When Recovering Files
Here's the deal: hard drive recovery is not always easy, especially if your hard drive is dead. As a result, there are certain questions you should consider before you purchase the best data recovery systems. First of all, what files do you need to recover and why?
Why do you need to recover files from your hard drive?
Before you can figure out how to fix your hard disk drive, especially if you'd like to do it manually, you should determine the problem. Whether it's because of accidental deletion, a virus, or hard drive failure, the reason for file recovery is important.
For example, if you have a virus or corrupt hard drive, you may want to simply shut down your computer hardware and bring it to an expert or download an antivirus software immediately. Additionally, if you have a dead or corrupt hard drive, I would consider taking it to an expert.
Does your computer have a hard drive disk or an SSD?
You should also figure our what kind of storage system your computer has. Some have hard drive disks while others have SSD drives. The process to recover data will depend on which type of drive you have. Here's the general difference between the two.
- Hard Drive - A hard disk drive, on the other hand, is more like a record player. It stores your files and data on a disk that spins around and around within your computer hardware. Hard drives use their mechanical arms to navigate through their storage.
- SSD Drive - an SSD drive is a storage drive for computers that stores data and files in microchips instead of on a disk. The SSD storage process makes things a lot faster than with a Hard Drive.
What percentage of files can the file recovery software get back?
Before you buy a software, it's good to know how successful they are in recovering data. Always find which file types and how many files the software is normally able to retrieve after downloading and installing.
Free Hard Drive Recovery Software for Macs
There are various free file recovery software options you can download for both Macs and PCs if you don't want to spend money on a recovery software. You get what you pay for, however, so be aware that you may not be receiving the most out of a free service.
Here are several to keep in mind.
Disk Drill is a great free option for Mac users. It is a scanning and recovery program specifically for Macs with a free and pro version. Check out the Disk Drill website for specific directions on how to install and put your Disk Drill recovery program into motion.
EaseUS Data Recovery
EaseUS Data Recovery has a free and pro version for Macs, Windows PCs, Android, and iOS. You can recover any file from anywhere with this awesome software. Check out their site to download their programs.
Free Hard Drive Recovery Software For PCs
If you have a PC, I would recommend looking at these free options:
Pandora Recovery is a free data recovery program for PCs and can easily recover deleted files. Just check out the Pandora Recovery website for detailed directions.
Hiren's Boot CD
The Hiren's Boot CD is another free CD recovery software for Windows. The great thing about the Hiren's Boot CD is that you don't have to download anything onto your computer to activate recovery mode with it.
Active Partition Recovery
Active Partition Recovery is a freeware toolkit. You can recover "deleted and damaged logical drives and partitions within DOS, Windows, WinPE (recovery boot disk) & Linux (recovery LiveCD) environments" with the Partition Recovery software, according to their website.
How to Recover your Hard Drive
The process to recover your laptop hard drive will be different for Macs and PCs. There are, however, some general steps you can take. Keep in mind, if you think your computer has been infected by a virus, you may want to disconnect from WiFi and turn off your computer to go into Safe Mode. This way, you won't cause any more problems.
Related: Has your computer been infected with a virus or malware? We'll show you how to get rid of it.
1. Scan your computer
You'll need to scan your computer for recoverable files once you realize there's a problem with your laptop hard drive. This can be done using a virus scanner software, a built-in program, or a recovery tool.
You can do a default scan or a deep scan, depending on which file types you want to recover and how easy they are to find. A deep scan, such as the scan offered by Recuva, can find file types that have been missed by a default scan.
2. If you've backed up your files, recover them
If you have an iCloud backup, or any alternative online backup service, or a physical backup on an external hard drive, you can easily recover accidental deletions and lost files from your backup. Check out our article on how to backup your computer for detailed steps. If you want to recover files from an internal hard drive, make sure your file recovery software of choice can do so.
3. Recover files from your internal hard drive using data recovery software
If your files are not backed up to an external hard drive or cloud-based drive or if your hard drive has crashed, you can get files back using one of hard disk recovery or SSD recovery software options. They will scan your computer for you and recover every last file they can find.
How to Recover Data on a Mac
Mac has a free data recovery software for you to easily recover your data in the event of accidental deletion or hard drive failure. Here are various methods to recover files from your Mac hard drive.
Recover Files using Disk Utilities
1. First, go to Disk Utilities if your computer screen isn't completely blank. You can search for it in the spotlight search bar from your status bar.
2. Select your hard drive disk.
3. Click either Repair Disk, First Aid, or Verify Disk.
4. If this doesn't fix the problem you're having or if you need to recover individual files, you can use Time Machine or an external software like AppleXSoft File Recovery Program. AppleXSoft File Recovery can retrieve any file, including SD card files.
Recover Files with Time Machine
You can also recover individual files for free using Mac's Time Machine recovery. This will only be possible, however, if you have turned on and backed up your files using the built-in Time Machine software before.
1. Go to the spotlight search at the top right corner of your Mac status bar.
2. Type in Time Machine.
3. Once you do this, you'll see your backup files and you'll be able to scroll through and select them.
4. You can select files and click Restore or use the spacebar to preview the file first.
5. If that doesn't work or if you don't have a backup, you can try downloading a Mac recovery service. There are free tools and paid tools for you to choose from. You'll need to follow specific directions depending on your software of choice.
Recover Files from iCloud Backup
It is also possible to recover files and data that have been backed up on your iCloud account. Here's how.
1. Go to iCloud.com on a working computer and log in. If you have two-factor authorization turned on, you'll have to get a code sent to a trusted email or cell phone to verify your identity.
2. Click on Settings from the iCloud menu.
3. Scroll down to the Advanced section and select the files you want to recover.
4. Once your files pop up, you can select what you want to restore.
If all else fails...
If all else fails, I would bring your Mac to an Apple store. Mac hard drives tend to crash, and Apple is usually extremely helpful. For example, my hard drive crashed a couple years ago. I brought it to Apple and they replaced my hard drive within a day for free!
How to Recover Data on a PC
Recovering data on a PC after a hard drive failure or when you lose/delete files accidentally should be easy. The process will differ, however, depending on whether or not you have a backup and which data recovery tool you use. Here's how to recover your hard drive with the best data recovery system on a PC. Also, check out the Microsoft website for details on how to recover a corrupt hard drive registry on Windows.
Recover Files from Windows Backup
If you've backed up your files on your Windows PC, here's how to recover them.
1. Click Start > Control Panel > System Maintenance > Backup and Restore.
2. Click Restore My Files and follow the steps presented.
Recover Files from a Previous Version
You may also be able to restore files from a previous time period. Here's how.
1. Click Start > Computer.
2. Go to the file or folder where the file used to be. Right-click it.
3. Then click Restore Previous Versions.
Recover Files using Windows Recovery Console
Read through the directions on the Microsoft website to see how to access your Windows Recovery Console. The Recovery Console could be helpful if you were not able to restore files from a backup. If you can't start your computer, you can use your Windows Setup CD.
Recover Files using EaseUS Recovery Wizard
The EaseUS Recovery Wizard reconstructs your deleted or lost files for you. It can do recycle bin recovery, format recovery, photo recovery, and more from internal hard drives and external hard drives. Here's how to use it to recover your files on a PC.
1. Once you've downloaded Recovery Wizard for Windows, launch it on your PC.
2. A window will pop up with all of the hard drives the software recognizes. Select yours and click Scan.
3. The software will then do a quick scan and a deep scan to find lost files.
4. Once you've scanned, you should be able to select individual files and click Recover.
How To Recover Android Data with EaseUS
If you want to recover data from an Android phone, you're going to need external software. Here is how to recover Android data with the EaseUS software. The process should be pretty similar with any recovery software.
1. Plug your phone into a computer and connect your Android phone to it. Make sure your phone has been rooted before you start recovery mode.
2. Install and run the EaseUS software. Click Start to connect your Android to the software.
3. Once you're connected, the software will begin scanning your Android phone.
4. Once the scan is complete, you should see the files that the software was able to retrieve. You can preview the files.
Recover Files using Data Rescue PC
The Data Rescue PC recovery tool scans your internal hard drive without downloading any new software onto the computer. Downloading new software onto the computer could overwrite files that you're trying to retrieve. Here's how to do it.
1. Slide the Data Recover PC CD in and reboot your computer.
2. It will then find your drive and walk you through the steps to recover your files.
How To Recover Data from Your Phone
You can also recover backed up data from your iOS or Android phone if need be. There are various recovery apps out there on top of built-in cloud-based recovery. Here's how to recover data and files from your phone. Also, check out how to restore your iPhone or iPad.
How To Recover iPhone Data
The iPhone comes with various methods for you to retrieve data if you accidentally delete it. For one, the recently deleted photos album in your photos will save your deleted photos for a month before deleting them. Here's how to retrieve lost or deleted files from your iPhone.
iPhone-iPad Recovery Tool
1. Connect your device to a computer with your USB cable.
2. Download, install and open up the iOS Data Recovery software on your computer.
3. Click the Start Scan button.
4. Once the scan is done, you should be able to preview and select which files you want to recover.
5. Check the Only Display Deleted Items option to see only deleted files. Select your files and click Recover.
Now that you know a little bit more about how to recover your hard drive, I hope you find your lost files and data easily. I also hope you learn to back up your data to make data recovery a lot less stressful.
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Is your favorite data recovery system not listed here? Let us know in the comments!