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Clever Files Disk Drill Windows File Recovery Software Review

Introduction

We’ve probably all lost data at some point, and many of us have tried various drive recovery solutions over the years. Of these, Disk Drill has been available for Mac OS X users for some time, but the company currently offers a Windows compatible version, released last year. The best part? It’s totally free (and not in the ad-ridden, drowning in popups kind of way). So does it work? Using some of my own data as a guinea pig, I decided to find out.

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The interface is clean and simple

To begin with I’ll list the features of Disk Drill as Clever Files describes it on their product page:


  • Any Drive
    • Our free data recovery software for Windows PC can recover data from virtually any storage device - including internal and external hard drives, USB flash drives, iPods, memory cards, and more.
  • Recovery Options
    • Disk Drill has several different recovery algorithms, including Undelete, Protected Data, Quick Scan, and Deep Scan. It will run through them one at a time until your lost data is found.
  • Speed & Simplicity
    • It’s as easy as one click: Disk Drill scans start with just the click of a button. There’s no complicated interface with too many options, just click, sit back and wait for your files to appear.
  • All File Systems
    • Different types of hard drives and memory cards have different ways of storing data. Whether your media has a FAT, exFAT or NTFS file system, is HFS+ Mac drive or Linux EXT2/3/4, Disk Drill can recover deleted files.
  • Partition Recovery
    • Sometimes your data is still on your drive, but a partition has been lost or reformatted. Disk Drill can help you find the “map” to your old partition and rebuild it, so your files can be recovered.
  • Recovery Vault
    • In addition to deleted files recovery, Disk Drill also protects your PC from future data loss. Recovery Vault keeps a record of all deleted files, making it much easier to recover them.

The Recovery Process

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(No IDE hard drives were harmed in the making of this photo)

My recovery process involved an old 320GB IDE drive, which was used for backup until a power outage-related data corruption (I didn’t own a UPS at the time, and the drive was in the process of writing) which left me without a valid partition. At one point I had given up and formatted the drive; thinking all of my original backup was lost. Thankfully I didn’t use it much after this, and it’s been sitting on a shelf for years.

There are different methods that can be employed to recover lost or deleted data. One of these is to scan for the file headers (or signatures), which contain information about what type of file it is (i.e. Microsoft Word, JPEG image, etc.). There are advanced recovery methods that attempt to reconstruct an entire file system, preserving the folder structures and the original files names. Unfortunately, this is not a simple (or fast) process, and is generally left to the professionals.

Continue reading our look at Clever Files Disk Drill Windows File Recovery Software!!

What users at home can do with a free program like Disk Drill is search for files based on known types; and as long as the data is not damaged (over-written, etc.), it’s entirely possible to get at least some of your ‘lost’ data back. To this end, I installed Disk Drill on my test system (you should never, ever install anything to the drive that contains the missing data, by the way - you really need a second drive), and tried the software out on an old hard drive that had failed me long ago.

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The recovery process begins with drive selection, and then scan type

After connecting the drive to my system with an IDE to USB adapter, since of course PATA/IDE isn’t on many motherboards anymore, I opened the Disk Drill software, and selected the drive. Choosing a full scan, I left the drive recovery running overnight. When I returned to the system I had a massive amount of data - many times the capacity of the 320 GB hard drive. Mmany of these findings were duplicates, for various long-deleted files that left signatures behind throughout the drive. The problem with sorting through these findings is the fact that original file names are gone (replaced with “File0001.docx,” File0002.docx,” and so on).

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Results can be sorted by type (left), or browsed manually in the main window

After creating a folder for my recovered files on another drive, I pointed the Disk Drill software at this folder and started the transfer of this found data. This can take a while, depending on how many files have been selected. In the end, however, I had a ton of old documents and photos (some better forgotten); as well as some old archives that mostly unzipped successfully. There was a lot to go through, and some of the files were corrupted, of course. But the exercise was enough to tell me the program works as advertised.

For a quick test of a very common issue - lost images on an SD card - I took a full 16GB card that had made the trip to CES with me, and (after backing up the contents, of course) placed it in my camera and formatted it. Taking my newly “blank” SD card to the PC, and using a USB card reader to mount the drive, I pointed Disk Drill at it for another recovery session. 16GB of fast flash storage over USB 3.0 takes far less time than an old IDE hard disk on USB 2.0 (amazing, I know!), and the scan was done rather quickly. And, as I had just formatted the drive and had not written anything to it, all of my files (RAW photos in the .nef extension from my Nikon camera) were found.

Conclusion

What impressed me about Disk Drill is the clean, simplified interface that is far less likely to intimidate a less advanced user than other options I’ve tried in the past. It’s an easy recommendation given the price (free!), and was stable and effective during my experiments. Recently deleted files - even when the Recycle Bin has been "emptied" - are still recoverable with a program like this, and even if you only use it to recover accidentally deleted photos from an SD card, it's well worth a download.


May 27, 2016 | 11:45 AM - Posted by TheTolsonator

A link for those looking to download it, couldn't find one in the article (womp womp)

http://www.cleverfiles.com/disk-drill-windows.html

May 27, 2016 | 12:03 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Yes, for some reason I didn't include it. Thanks for the link (I added it to the post).

May 27, 2016 | 08:54 PM - Posted by Lance Ripplinger (not verified)

Interesting data recovery software. I use runtime.org's GetDataBack on my repair bench personally.

May 27, 2016 | 10:23 PM - Posted by HectorO (not verified)

Thanks for the review. It looks like this software I've always used (it's command line, so very portable to other OSes).

http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/TestDisk

However, this software has a easy to use GUI.

May 29, 2016 | 12:17 PM - Posted by quest4glory

20 years ago, I would use a hex editor on a drive to see if the partition table was recoverable in that way, rather than creating anew and formatting the drive. It worked more than a few times.

The customers never even knew their data might not be recoverable, but I know what would have happened if another less enterprising tech had come along.

I don't know if that's something we can still do with GPT partitions, but for classic MBR and FAT filesystem it wasn't much trouble.

August 26, 2016 | 09:19 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Mac Data Recovery Guru at http://macosxfilerecovery.com has a far cleaner UI and seems to recover more data too. Might be worth a try next time.

October 30, 2016 | 11:45 AM - Posted by Muhammad Hossain (not verified)

Disk Drill is a very user friendly undelete tool for windows, mac and android. Previously it was only for Mac.
My OS is Windows 10 and I used this software to recover around 10 GB data. I easily found the required data by searching.
I was astonished when I found some files by deep scanning which I deleted around 2 years ago.
Its one major advantages is that it can recover partly lost data which is very important.
Thanks
I got this from http://www.cleverfiles.com/