Commercial data recovery software applications can cost between $50 and $150 and would even cost more if purchased on a volume licensing basis. While there are free versions available for these commercial products, the capabilities have been limited such as the allowed size of recoverable data that can be salvaged as well as the variety of data types that are included in the scan. Fortunately, there are file recovery software free download applications available as open-source software.
TestDisk was originally coded to recover missing partitions or to make malfunctioning booting disks to boot again. These issues arise from faulty software installed in the system or other harmful viruses that mess up the file system. With further developments, TestDisk extended its capabilities to include the undelete function for recovering previously deleted files. This open-source software is licensed under the GNU General Public License.
The comprehensive functions of TestDisk make the software very effective for recovering files that are lost due to various issues. Primarily, it can fix partition tables and recover deleted partition. It can also rebuild the NTFS boot sector and can recover FAT32 boot sector from its backup. Although the capabilities of TestDisk are advanced in its class, its features can be accessed in a user-friendly interface with layouts designed for both novice and expert users. Latest stable release for TestDisk was made available six months ago.
A major feature of PhotoRec is its ability to reassemble computer files from fragments without the need for metadata. The process, which is known as file carving, effectively recovers lost files from storage media used for digital cameras such as CompactFlash (CF), Secure Digital (SD), Memory Stick, and many more. Even though PhotoRec is primarily aimed for recovering image files such as JPEG, other file types can also be recovered such as MP3s, compressed file, and other office documents. Stable release of the software was dated November 15, 2011, which implies that it has been in continuous development.
Just like TestDisk, PhotoRec is licenced under the GPL and is compatible for use in popular operating systems such as Windows, Mac, and Linux. File systems that PhotoRec can recover data from are FAT, NTFS, and extended file system versions 2, 3 and 4. Quality of the recovered file is regularly checked for consistency whenever possible. Once verified, the software checks for other data blocks not previously considered. This process is repeated until fragmented files are successfully recovered.
Developed by Piriform, Recuva is a freeware program for performing undeleting operations in Windows operating systems starting from Windows 2000 until Windows 7. It supports both FAT and NTFS file systems. While not as comprehensive as TestDisk, Recuva follows a more straightforward approach with a more specialized application. Lost recovery structures are also recovered with this program and works by searching for unreferenced data blocks. Of course, accuracy of recovered information is compromised if new data have already been written. Latest stable version was released in December 1, 2011. The rather generous freeware version of Recuva can perform basic undelete operations.
The best defense
File recovery software free download are effective tools that can recover a portion or an entire set of information block. Since data recovery is imprecise to some extent, performing regular back up of files is still the best defense against possible data loss.