Best Data Recovery Software – Top 10 List

Sometimes you can encounter difficult data recovery jobs where you need all the help you can get; this is the reason why I have decided to compile this list. As you can see, almost all of the utilities in this list are free and open source with only two exceptions Spinrite and Recover My Files. Not all software in this list is dedicated specifically to recover data but all of them are essential in the data recovery process. The list is done according to importance and usefulness. I must point out that most of the programs are free, however, that does not mean that they are lower quality; they are as good and some of them better than similar commercial products. These are the tools I use whenever I have to perform a data recovery job.

1 – Ddrescue:

Ddrecue is not at the top of my list for nothing. Ddrescue truly works magic when you have to recover data off a bad hard drive, and when I say bad I mean it literaly. Ddrescue works by extracting a raw image from a bad hard drive to a good one, what makes it good is that it tries to obtain that image in every which way it possibly can, even reading data backwards. This makes Ddrescue VERY effective even when trying to recover data off hard drives with mechanical malfunctions. Obviously Ddrescue cannot recover data in 100% of cases because there are factors outside it powers, like hard drives with bad logic boards, plates that do not spin, stuck heads, bad heads, etc. However, if it can be recovered, Ddrescue will do it. If you want to learn how to use it, read my article on how to recover data even when hard drive is damaged.[Free, Open source].

2 – Ubuntu Rescue Remix

Ubuntu Rescue Remix is a bootable LiveCD containing a collection of data recovery utilities, such as Ddrescue, TestDisk, Photorec, Foremost, etc. It is essential when doing data recovery due the amount and quality of the software contained in it. Read my article on how to use Ubuntu Rescue Remix and Ddrescue.  [Free, Open source].

3 – TestDisk

Testdisk is one of the best programs out there to recover lost partition tables and MBRs. Operating systems usually make backups of the MBR and write it somewhere in the disk. TesDisk finds these backups and restores them. It works better than the Microsoft utilities that come with the operating system disk, like fixboot and fixmbr. If you wish to learn how to use TestDisk, read my article on how to recover lost partitions[Free, Open Source].

4 – PhotoRec

PhotoRec is a program designed to recover erased files, or files that are not readable due to corrupt partitions etc. Contrary to what its name implies, Photorec does not only recover photos, but a wide variety of files as well [Free, Open Source].

5 – SpinRite

I generaly prefer free and open source utilities, however, there is no program that does what Spinrite can do. Spinrite recovers data from bad sectors, and somehow it gets it right. The way Spinrite works is that it reads the same bad sector up to 2000 times, every time it might get a different reading, then, it chooses what it believes is the right bit based on the results of its readings. Then it takes this information and moves it to another good sector [Commercial].

6 – HDAT2

Some utilities like Windows ScanDisk claim to fix bad sectors, but all they do is relabel sectors as good again. This is useful when viruses mark sectors in the hard drive as bad, however, it does not really work when sectors are damaged for real.  HDAT2 does not recover data per se, but it fixes real bad sectors so they can be used again. It works by fixing or re-magnetizing the damaged area so it can be writable again [Freeware].

7 – Recuva

Recuva is a software everybody should have on their computers. It does the same as Photorec but with a nice GUI, making it more user friendly. It works well, however from experience, I prefer Photorec, since it tends to be more reliable [Free, Open source].

8 – Foremost

Foremost is a program designed to extract files out of raw images.  It works by using data carving on raw images to obtain actual files.  It is designed to work in conjunction with Ddrescue and other imaging software [Free, Open source].

9 – Parted Magic

Is a collection of data recovery tools in a LiveCD similar to Ubuntu Rescue Remix with the difference that it has a GUI and therefore it is more user friendly. The reason why it is not at the top of my list is because Ubuntu Rescue Remix has more tools for data recovery. Parted Magic does data recovery, but it is not its main focus; it is more of an “all-encompassing” hard drive tool. It is very handy when you have to move files among hard drives and convert or resize partitions [Free, Open source].

10 – Recover my Files

Recover my Files is software designed to recover lost or erased files. Out of all commercial packages, this is probably the one I like best for its purpose. I have been able to recover files with this software even when hard drives exhibit the famous “click noise of death” [Commercial].


  1. Pablo Garcia, 9. January 2017, 10:09

    Hi John, you do not need Ubuntu Rescue Remix. You can install Ubuntu or any other Linux version and install dd-rescue by issuing a simple command in the terminal screen. Here is a video that will help you:

  2. John, 6. January 2017, 17:08

    I searched for Ubuntu Rescue Remix and keep hitting 404 errors or site does not exist. Is the software still available?
    does it work on NTSF drives? I recently have an issue with EFS security, and a failing hard drive, and need to recover the disk image in order to recover a corrupt EFS certificate.
    This utility appears to fit the bill.
    Any help would be appreciated.

  3. Kelsey, 24. September 2011, 18:03

    Thanks for the reply and sorry for my replying late!
    Well, it makes a beep sound, shows me the screen that says how to get to the BIOS (I can get to the bios, but my computer won’t boot in safe mode.) It’s not the windows screen, I think. I’m sorry that I don’t know much ha.

  4. Pablo Garcia, 4. September 2011, 19:03

    Hi Kelsey
    What is the last thing you see before you get the blinking cursor? What the computer does is first the BIOS (a computer chip) test all computer components, then it goes onto the Windows booting process. So it is very important to determine if the computer is trying to boot from windows or if it does not even get to that part. If it tries to boot from Windows and it gets stuck, getting you files out should be trivial.

  5. Kelsey, 4. September 2011, 18:30

    Hi. I don’t know if this is a good place to ask, but my computer has recently stopped working for me, probably a virus. I’m not good with computers at all, and I am wondering what program works best for getting my files. Whenever I turn on my computer it just has a black screen with a blinking cursor. A friend of mine looked at it and said I need a new hard drive. It doesn’t sound any different than usual (no clicking sounds or anything). I’m extremely cautious because I want to get my files. Would any or all of these programs work or is there a something different I should do?

  6. Pablo Garcia, 9. July 2011, 12:32

    Hi Alemayehu
    The ones that come to mind are the utilities from the manufacturer. Like the ones from Seagate, Hitachi and Western Digital that can be downloaded for free from the website. I believe that the Ultimate Boot CD includes them all in one CD.

  7. Alemayehu Gudaya, 7. July 2011, 2:11

    I found this site very useful. It is comforting to believe that there are folks out there who always want to help people when they are in need. My problem is that I have a netbook which ended up in a cycle of “disk read error; press ctrl+alt+del” following my attempt of installing win XP using an external cd drive to get rid of my problem with win 7. Each time I try, it starts installing, completes the 1st phase, goes to restart & returns with the above message. I appreciate it very much if you can tell me if there is a program that can run from a cd and check what is wrong with the hard drive, or any solution.
    Thank you!

  8. Pablo Garcia, 31. May 2011, 20:27

    Hi Fernando:

    Linux can probably do it. Boot the computer with a Parted Magic Live CD. Then try mounting the partition.

  9. Fernando, 31. May 2011, 17:52

    ps: I’m sorry, but it seems I’ve been writing the wrong name; it’s not ‘hff+’, it’s ‘hfs+’, something to do with the mac OS. And Parted Magic says it works with hfs+, so I’ll give it a try. by the way, I don’t know if I’ve been clear about what i want to do: I wanted to plug an Mac HDD to my PC motherboard and recover (making an image would be best) all files from this HDD using my PC. Any help would be unbelievably appreciated
    Best wishes

  10. Fernando, 31. May 2011, 16:59

    Thank you for your reply Pablo! That’s exactly what I’ve done, I took the hdd off the i-mac, and it seems to be a common seagate of 320 gb, but with that “apple” symbol, that a friend of mine said only hff+ softwares can read when connected to a PC motherboard. Do you know which of those can do this? I tried to find out at their website but still isn’t clear. If you also don’t know I’ll keep searching and post here afterwards the results.
    Thanks again!

  11. Pablo Garcia, 29. May 2011, 12:09

    Hi Fernando, I am not familiar with Mac, I am not sure that a MAV will let you boot, from a liveCD. But I know that if you take the hard drive out of the computer and connect it to a PC you will be able to recover your data with some of these programs.

  12. Fernando, 29. May 2011, 0:54

    Do these programs work on mac hdd? I heard something about a need for software compatibility with hff+ (???), so.. do you think they would work?

  13. Gun, 25. March 2011, 7:56

    What about Easyrecovery, isn’t that the best?

  14. Diablo, 21. March 2011, 4:01

    Ya, nice pack! NI like free tools


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