PhotoRec (Windows / macOS / Linux)
Even if a little less user-friendly than the other solutions mentioned above, in the context of free programs for data recovery, PhotoRec certainly deserves mention: it is an open-source software capable of recovering files of all kinds from hard disks, SSDs, memory cards, pen drives and other media formatted with all the most popular file systems. It is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux; however, it does not have a graphical interface on these last two platforms and must be used from the command line.
It is distributed together with TestDisk, another free and open-source software that allows, instead, to restore lost partitions and repair damaged disks. To download PhotoRec, connect to the official website of the program and click on the item relating to the operating system installed on your computer, or more simply, on the download button on the right (the operating system in use is detected automatically). When the download is complete, extract the zip archive obtained and start the program, which allows you to use the version of PhotoRec with a graphical interface.
If a Microsoft Defender SmartScreen warning appears, don’t worry – the program is safe. Then click on the option for more information and choose to run the software anyway.qphotorec_win.exe. In the PhotoRec window that you now see, select the drive you intend to recover the files (using the drop-down menu at the top) and indicate the partition on which you intend to act, selecting it from the central box.
Then put the checkmark next to the item relating to the file system in use on the partition to be analyzed (e.g., FAT / NTFS / HFS + / ReiferFS), select three options, and press the Browse button to select the folder in which PhotoRec will have to save the recovered files. Click on the File Formats button, then on the Reset button, and check the options relating to the file formats you want to recover. Once this is done, click on the OK and Search buttons and wait for PhotoRec to do its job. The program will show you the results in real-time and save all the files found in the folder you indicated earlier.
DiskDigger (Windows / Linux / Android)
DiskDigger is an application for Windows and Linux that allows you to recover deleted files without installing them quickly. You can use it for free for personal purposes, while to use it for commercial purposes, you need to purchase a special license ($ 15). It supports all major types of media and file systems. It is also available in the form of an app for Android: on the Play Store, you can find a free version that allows you to recover only the photos and a paid version that will enable you to recover all types of files. To download DiskDigger on your PC:
- Connect to its official website and click on the Download button.
- Extract the zip archive obtained and start the program executable to display its main window and accept the conditions of use.
- Once this is done, select the drive from which to recover deleted files, press the Next button and choose whether to scan in Dig Deep mode (to search for deleted files only in the file system, faster) or Dig Deeper way (to check all sectors of the disk, slower).
So go ahead and, if you have selected the first mode, wait for the list of recoverable files to appear, which will be marked with colored dots (green dot for 100% recoverable files, yellow dot for recoverable but damaged ones, and finally, red dot for irrecoverable ones). If you want, you can filter the search results based on the type of file using the appropriate drop-down menu at the top; or you can press the button to filter the results in the toolbar at the top of the window to filter the results also by name or file size.
Finally, select the files to recover (using the combination Ctrl + click ), click on the Save selected files button (above), indicate the folder in which to export them, and choose to continue without registration (if you want to use the free version of the software for personal purposes only). Did you choose the second scan mode? In this case, select the file types to search for and the go-ahead to start the actual scan. Once you have identified the files of your interest, you can recover them as indicated above for the standard scan.
Recuva is an excellent Windows program designed for recovering deleted data. It is available in both a free version and a paid version (with extra features, including support for virtual hard disks and automatic updates, at around 20 euros). It supports hard drives, SSDs, USB sticks, memory cards, and other drives formatted in FAT / FAT32, exFAT, NTFS, and EXT2 / EXT3 / EXT4. It has a very easy-to-use user interface produced by the same developers of the famous Cleaner system maintenance software.
To download the accessible version of Recuva on your PC, connect to the program’s official website and click on the Download Free version, Free Download, and download buttons. When the download is complete, open the .exe file obtained and, in the window that appears on the screen, click on the Yes button. Then use the drop-down menu located at the top right to set the use of the English language and click on the Install and Start Recuva buttons to complete the setup. When you are ready to start, click on the Next button in the initial Recuva window and choose the type of file to recover:
All files, Images, Music, Documents, Videos, Compressed, or Email; Go again Next and indicate the device or the location from which you intend to recover the files: I’m not sure (to analyze all the drives connected to the computer); On a multimedia card or iPod (to recover data from memory cards and MP3 players); or In Documents; In the Trash orIn a specific position to indicate personally.
Then press the Next button and choose whether to start the standard Recuva scan by pressing the Start button or whether to perform a thorough scan, first checking the appropriate item (the normal scan only contains the files marked as deleted in the Master File Table; the deep one, which is much longer, looks in each block of the drive for the headers that indicate the beginning of a file).
At the end of the scan, you will see the list of files found by Recuva, marked with colored dots: the files with the green dot are 100% recoverable; those with the yellow dot are recoverable but damaged; those with the red dot are irrecoverable. You can also filter the list by clicking on the button to switch to advanced mode (top right) and using the relevant search field. Finally, check the boxes relating to the files to be recovered, click on the Recover button, choose the folder to export them to, and press the OK button to complete the operation.