10 Best Free Data Recovery Software for Windows

Did you just lose a valuable file that would take you several days of work to replace? Don’t panic! The top 10 best free data recovery software applications on this list can help you get it back, and you won’t have to even spend any money on them.
The sooner you attempt to recover your data, the better outcome you can expect. To improve your chances of successful data recovery, stop using the storage device on which the deleted data were stored as soon as possible.

Data recovery software can save the day and turn a desperate situation around, but it’s not the only solution available. See How to Recover Deleted Files for a complete data recovery tutorial covering everything you need to know to get your data back as quickly and easily as possible, including how to avoid common pitfalls during the recovery process.

Quick Summary

Here’s a quick summary of the winners of Best Free Data Recovery Software for Windows:

Disk Drill data recovery Disk Drill
Hands-down the best data recovery software for Windows thanks to its powerful data recovery algorithms, modern user interface, and extra disk tools.

Recuva Recuva
An easy-to-use data recovery application capable of recovering an unlimited amount of data.

PhotoRec PhotoRec
A great choice for recovering not just photos and videos.

Undelete 360 Undelete 360
A completely free data recovery software for Windows with a user interface inspired by Office 2010.

Prosoft Data Rescue 5 for Windows Prosoft Data Rescue 5 for Windows
Retrieve priceless photos and important documents with a few clicks.
To find out more information about each of these data recovery solutions as well as others worth mentioning, read our detailed comparison below.
Update Notice:
Because our goal is to provide trustworthy, accurate information, we had to update this article to reflect the changes that have occurred since its publishing. We also added a whole bunch of extra information to answer several questions commonly asked by our readers.

1. Disk Drill

Disk Drill is unquestionably a formidable hard drive data recovery software that ranks high in the information technology industry. This application, developed by CleverFiles, is uniquely tailored to scan both external and internal storage devices, from your local disk drive to portable USB drives and SD cards.


Disk Drill data recovery

Features that bring Disk Drill on top of the list are:


User-friendly

For first-time users, working, downloading, and installing Disk Drill is a walk in the park. Testers and laypersons alike assert that Disk Drill is an easy-to-install, user-friendly, and intuitive software that is imbued with wizards and GUI tools to make for a successful recovery process.


Excellent recovery results

When it comes to the actual data recovery statistics, Disk Drill is unmatched. Recovering lost documents from a lost partition or a reformatted drive, Disk Drill performed at an optimal 95% recovery rate, which is impressive as this is 4% above the average.

Furthermore, Disk Drill performs exceptionally well when it comes to the recovery of images, at an average rate of 99%. This validates the supremacy of Disk Drill as the top data recovery software.

Disk Drill is powered by various data recovery algorithms aimed at a plethora of file systems, for instance APFS, HFS+, FAT32, EXT, and NTFS.


Data Protection

The two central features that maintain Disk Drill's supreme reign as an excellent data recovery software are its supplementary data loss prevention utilities.

Disk Drill adds a layer to the Recycle Bin denoted as Recovery Vault, to safely store a backup reference to all deleted files and media. Disk Drill keeps a copy of each recovered file using a unique feature known as Guaranteed Recovery.


Additional features

Disk Drill is a favorite among digital forensic experts as the software comes with features that allow users to generate binary data image files, enabling them to isolate the manipulation of data within the clone, protecting the original storage container.


Support

Additionally, Disk Drill offers extensive technical support available through their website.


Restrictions on the free version:

The Basic package enables users to preview files that are recoverable as well as recover previously protected data. Free recovery of other deleted data is capped at 500 MB per computer.


Last updated and news:

Disk Drill 4.0.521 brings improved data recovery on FAT32 and NTFS partitions, added file formats for Deep Scan reconstruction engine, several UI refinements, and a couple of other requested features.

Free version recovers up to 500 MB

Pros:

  • Modern user interface
  • Fast scanning with the option to stop/resume
  • Recovers files from all commonly used file systems
  • Supports hundreds of file formats
  • A ton of extra features
  • Allows you to preview files before recovering them

Cons:

  • No phone customer support

2. Recuva

Recuva is a straightforward data recovery software capable of handling simpler data recovery jobs, such as the recovery of recently deleted files. Its biggest advantage is the fact that it can recover an unlimited amount of data for free.


Recuva

Overall Experience:

Recuva is free data recovery software for Windows computers. It can restore files with its deep scan option that searches your drive for traces of deleted data. Use the tool to recover music files, photos, documents, emails, and any other type of lost files. The application also has a feature that employs military-standard deletion techniques to securely erase your data.


The user interface of Recuva is straightforward, so even less experienced users shouldn’t have much trouble figuring it out. We appreciate the ability to preview deleted files before recovery and display detailed information about them, including file headers.


Unfortunately, the last version of Recuva was released in 2016, and it’s clear that its original developers have abandoned this otherwise capable data recovery software application. Still, it’s hard to complain considering that Recuva is free and can recover an unlimited amount of data.


Restrictions on the free version:

No technical support.


Last updated and news:

Version 1.5.3 added support for file recovery from Ext2, Ext3, and Ext4 file systems.




Pros:

  • Straightforward user interface
  • Can securely delete sensitive files
  • The ability to preview files before recovery
  • Can recover an unlimited amount of data for free

Cons:

  • Abandoned by its developers
  • Limited raw photo recovery capabilities

3. PhotoRec

PhotoRec is an open-source data recovery software application that runs on basically any operating system. Despite its name, it can recover over 300 file format families, making it a great choice for those who would like to recover deleted data without paying.


PhotoRec

Overall Experience:

Our look at free recovery software continues with PhotoRec. It’s another freeware app that can be used to recover files on any file system by restoring the underlying data. It performs the recovery in read-only mode for additional data safety during the process. This tool can recover data from many types of storage media and is especially proficient at recovering data from digital cameras. It is a companion to the TestDisk application that is designed to repair damaged or lost partitions.


As is the case with many open-source software projects, PhotoRec isn’t exactly known for its usability. While a version with a graphical user interface is available, called QPhotoRec, the PhotoRec itself is a command-line data recovery application that’s controlled exclusively using the keyboard. If you’re not used to command-line software, this alone could be a dealbreaker even though the data recovery process is fairly straightforward.


Before you give PhotoRec a try, you can upload a sample file to the PhotoRec online checker to find out if PhotoRec can recover files of the same file format. But considering that it supports more than 480 file extensions (about 300 file families), you’re unlikely to stumble upon a file format that can’t be recovered with PhotoRec.


Restrictions on the free version:

PhotoRec is free and open-source, so there are no restrictions whatsoever.


Last updated and news:

The latest stable version of PhotoRec (version 7.1) was released on July 7, 2019, and it added support for a number of file formats, including Synology AES key files, Apple Icon Image, Mozilla bookmarks, and XAR Archive.


Pros:

  • Cross-platform software
  • Supports more than 300 file format families
  • Open-source and completely free

Cons:

  • Unintuitive
  • Restores all files automatically

4. Undelete 360

If you’re looking for a truly free data recovery application for Windows, Undelete 360 has you covered. It’s Office 2010-inspired user interface may be outdated, but at least it looks familiar and makes the application intuitive.


Undelete 360

Overall Experience:

Undelete 360 is another freeware application that allows you to recover deleted files from your computer’s internal disk as well as from memory cards, external hard drives, and many other types of storage media. It can undelete files that were too big to fit in the Recycle Bin or that have been erased through the use of the Cut command. The tool does not come with technical support so users are on their own when recovering their lost data.


The user interface of Undelete 360 gives away the fact that this data recovery software comes from the Office 2010 era, when ribbon-based user interface design was all the rage. While still easy to use, the user interface looks a bit dated today, and it could definitely use an overhaul. Unfortunately, that most likely won’t ever happen because its developers have moved on to other projects.


Restrictions on the free version:

None.


Last updated and news:

The last version of Undelete 360 was released in February 2016, and everything indicated that this data recovery application has been abandoned by its developers.


Pros:

  • Truly free
  • Recovers most common file formats
  • Displays scan results in both a file type and a folder view
  • Lets you preview files before recovery

Cons:

  • Below-average data recovery performance
  • Outdated user interface
  • Abandoned by its developers

5. Prosoft Data Rescue 5 for Windows

Data Rescue 5 is an advanced data recovery software package offering from Prosoft Engineering. Relying on 20 years of data recovery development, Data Rescue has helped reunite users with billions of lost and deleted files.


Prosoft Data Rescue 5

Overall Experience:

Data Rescue 5 supports many different file types for recovery and enables the user to teach the application about new file types by using a few file examples. This extends the tool’s flexibility to allow it to recover any type of file. The new hex previewer enables you to look at your files as raw data before initiating their recovery.


When using the free File Finder you have the ability to make an in-app purchase to recover the files that you have identified as recoverable. A Standard and Professional version are available, and both versions provide you with advanced data recovery tools. You can configure the app to send email notifications regarding current or past scans to allow multiple users to review the scan at their leisure. An intuitive and powerful search facility makes it easy to locate the files you are interested in recovering.


The app supports the HFS and NTFS file systems. It is an excellent data recovery tool for your Windows machine running the Windows 7 or later operating system.


Restrictions on the free version:

You can test the functionality of the product by taking advantage of their free File Finder app. With the File Finder you can determine which files can be recovered before actually buying a license for the product.


Last updated and news:

Data Rescue version 5.0.11 was released in November 2019, fixing multiple bugs and adding support for Sony DSC-RX/ILCA/ILCE/SLT cameras file formats, among other things.


Pros:

  • Capable of cloning and creating bootable drives
  • Supports many different file types
  • Includes a handy hex previewer

Cons:

  • Takes a long time to finish scanning
  • No pause and resume feature

6. R-Studio

R-Studio is a commercial data recovery software tool with versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It was originally designed to be used by data recovery professionals but has evolved to provide a user-friendly solution accessible by anyone.


R-Studio Data Recovery

Overall Experience:

R-Studio provides users with extensive recovery options and has versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux. As a true cross-platform solution, files can be recovered from any supported operating system regardless of the OS hosting the tool. This offers additional flexibility and eliminates the need to purchase more than one version of the software in multi-platform environments. The tool can recover data from local and removable disks as well as from client machines connected to a LAN or the internet.


Since R-Studio was intended to be used by experienced data recovery professionals, it has many advanced features that may not be necessary for the majority of data loss scenarios. For that reason, the company offers R-Undelete, which provides a simplified, wizard-oriented interface that makes it easier for the average user to recover lost data. If you purchase R-Undelete, you can upgrade to R-Studio within a year and only pay the difference in price between the two products.


You can download a free demo version R-Studio, which allows you to recover files less than 256KB in size and preview all data that the tool can restore. Some of the application’s advanced features include the ability to create disk images, a multi-language GUI, and S.M.A.R.T. monitoring technology. It’s a comprehensive recovery tool that should be able to address most of the data loss situations that you may encounter.


Restrictions on the free version:

The only limitation of the free version is that you can’t recover files larger than 256 KB.


Last updated and news:

R-Studio 8.13.176095 was released on April 13, 2020, and it fixed several bugs connected with DDI bad sectors processing.


Pros:

  • Demo version available
  • Cross-platform support for multiple operating systems
  • Offers a simplified version of the tool called R-Undelete
  • Customizable known file types
  • Recovers data over a network
  • Advanced RAID reconstruction

Cons:

  • More expensive than other solutions
  • Interface and extensive features can be confusing for some users

7. UnDeleteMyFiles Pro

Despite being abandoned by its developers, UndeleteMyFiles Pro remains a recommendable data recovery software application for Windows, especially thanks to the inclusion of several extra disk tools.


UndeleteMyFiles Pro

Overall Experience:

Here is a free file recovery tool that offers some advanced features usually only found in a commercial app. This application is freeware, and there is no paid version available. The freeware is provided as-is and can be used for any purpose, including commercial applications.


It can recover a complete file system or just selected files and has a Mail Recovery Wizard to assist with recovering deleted emails. The File Wiper securely deletes your files permanently, and the tool enables you to create an emergency disk image for safe data recovery.


UndeleteMyFiles Pro features a quick and easy two-step data recovery process that makes it completely painless to recover any files that used to reside on your system. Considering that it was last updated 8 years ago, it shouldn’t really surprise you that it can’t recover nearly as many file formats as some other data recovery software applications on this list.


Restrictions on the free version:

UndeleteMyFiles Pro is completely free without any restrictions.


Last updated and news:

The last update was 2012, so it’s safe to say that this data recovery software is no longer in active development.


Pros:

  • Completely free
  • Includes several extra disk tools
  • Quick and easy file recovery

Cons:

  • No longer in active development
  • Unable to recover less common file formats
  • Outdated user interface

8. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

EaseUS is a leading software company, and its data recovery solution doesn’t fail to impress with a reliable data recovery performance and the ability to recover a large number of file formats from all kinds of storage devices.


EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

Overall Experience:

EaseUS offers free file recovery software with its Data Recovery Wizard. The tool enables you to recover data that has been accidentally deleted or from a mistakenly formatted drive or partition. It can easily perform file recovery on an emptied Windows Recycle Bin and can be used on many types of external storage. You can restore lost files, photos, and videos in a variety of file formats with this data recovery application.


In fact, EaseUS claims that its data recovery software supports over 1,000 file formats, which would make it one of the most versatile data recovery solutions on the market today. To make data recovery accessible even to inexperienced home users, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard features a guided recovery process, which consists of just three simple steps: device selection, scanning, and file recovery.


Restrictions on the free version:

The free version of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard lets you recover 500 MB for free. You can increase the limit to 2 GB by sharing on social media.


Last updated and news:

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard 13.2 was released on January 17, 2020. It supports BitLocker partitions and delivers recovery quality of pictures and videos.


Pros:

  • Reliable data recovery performance
  • Recovers a large number of file formats
  • Fast deep-scan algorithm
  • Supports over 1,000 file formats

Cons:

  • Includes unrecoverable files alongside recoverable files
  • Expensive paid licenses

9. Stellar Phoenix

This multi-featured data recovery application lives up to its name, offering stellar performance and design. Stellar Phoenix is a high-end, user-friendly recovery software that comes in several editions.


Stellar Phoenix

Overall Experience:

Stellar Phoenix Pro is loaded with multiple features that allow users to tailor the recovery process according to their requirements. Among the highlights are Lost Partition, Formatted Drive, Deleted File and Email Recovery of PST files of MS Outlook.


Stellar Phoenix works well with media files and documents. The Document Recovery feature accommodates the recovery of MS Office documents such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, while the Multimedia File Recovery manages to retrieve lost photo files such as PNG, JPEG, and TIFF, audio files such as OGG, WMA, and video files such as 3GP, MOV, and MXF.


On the flipside, Stellar Phoenix recovers slightly fewer deleted files than other software, such as Disk Drill. All in all, though, Stellar Phoenix’s full-featured and exceptionally graphic interface is ideal for first-time users looking to recover lost data with an effective, simple tool.


Restrictions on the free version:

The free version allows users to scan for recoverable files.


Last updated and news:

Stellar Phoenix 9.0.0.3 was released in March 2020.


Pros:

  • Great data recovery performance
  • User-friendly interface
  • Disk-testing and cloning features

Cons:

  • Doesn’t support as many file formats as other solutions
  • Sometimes lists files as recoverable even though they are not

10. MiniTool Power Data Recovery

The most harrowing data damage experience is losing an entire partition or drive. This may be attributed to an accidentally deleted partition or an overwritten one, an unfinished format procedure, etc. If this has happened to you, MiniTool Partition Recovery can help.


MiniTool Power Data Recovery

Overall Experience:

The functionality of MiniTool is pretty simple. As the name suggests, this application is available as a small downloadable file. Upon installation, launch the application and select the drive on which your lost partition was located. The app will then prompt the user with a dialog box querying whether they want to scan the entire disk or just a portion of it. Proceed to select an option and specify the nature of the scan—whether it’s a full or quick scan.


From there, the application will take a moment to run and then it will list the detected partitions on the drive. To restore the selected partitions, click Finish. The restored partitions allow a user to view the contained files to verify whether the restored partition is the desired one.


One shortcoming of MiniTool is its random sluggishness, which results in the app’s unresponsiveness once a user proceeds to scan a partition. Nonetheless, MiniTool is adept at recovering lost partitions efficiently without leaving Windows and has a simple interface.


Restrictions on the free version:

MiniTool Free Edition has 1 GB data recovery limit, and it can’t load previous scan results or create a bootable recovery drive.


Last updated and news:

MiniTool Power Data Recovery v8.8 was released on April 20, 2020, and it added multiple languages support for File Previewer, improved RAW scan on SWF files, and Spanish translation.


Pros:

  • Simple user interface
  • Capable of previewing deleted files
  • Small download size
  • 24/7 support for all users

Cons:

  • Random sluggishness
  • Unable to load previous scan results without a subscription
  • Doesn’t offer any backup tools

Why Is Data Recovery Software Necessary?

Truth be told, data recovery software isn’t always necessary. For example, you don’t need to download a data recovery application just to get back recently deleted files that are still in the Recycle Bin. Likewise, you don’t need to perform data recovery if you have a backup of the deleted files and can simply restore them from it.


However, data recovery software is the only way to recover deleted files that are no longer in the Recycle Bin and are not backed up. Data recovery software is especially useful in situations when you accidentally formatted a storage device or deleted an important file and immediately realized your mistake.


Because deleted files are still physically present on the storage device until other files use the space they occupy, you should be able to get them back without any issues. All you need is a reliable data recovery software application.


Where data recovery software isn’t of much use is the recovery of data from physically damaged storage devices. If your hard drive has stopped spinning or your memory card has fallen apart, even the best data recovery software won’t be able to help you. In such cases, your only options are professional data recovery services with clean rooms and state-of-the-art equipment.

Why Have We Included Only 10 Data Recovery Applications?

Listing each and every available data recovery application would be a monumental task to undertake, and its result wouldn’t be worth the effort because the list would include many abandoned and poorly performing applications that are simply not worth spending time on.


Instead, we decided to focus our attention on just 10 most popular data recovery applications, listing the pros and cons of each so that you can easily decide which of them is the most suitable for you.


What to Consider When Selecting Data Recovery Software

With so many data recovery software applications to choose from, how do you decide which to try and which to ignore? Simple! You compare their performance, compatibility, features, usability, price, and security. Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.
  • Performance
    The main factor to consider when selecting data recovery software is performance. After all, a data recovery application that’s unable to recover your files isn’t very useful, is it? Ideally, you want to select a data recovery application that supports all commonly used file formats and storage devices and doesn’t take hours to recover data from them. Some applications offer multiple scanning algorithms to speed things up, while others don’t make you wait for the scanning process to finish, allowing you to access deleted files as soon as they are found.
  • Compatibility
    It goes without saying that your data recovery software of choice must support your operating system. If you use both Windows and macOS, it makes sense to select a data recovery application that can run on both operating systems.
  • Features
    There are many different data recovery software applications competing for users, who have come to expect more than basic data recovery capabilities. That’s why many leading data recovery applications include additional features, such as data backup, disk health monitoring, and bootable data recovery. By choosing a data recovery application with a lot of extra features, you can avoid spending money on multiple different software applications.
  • Usability
    You shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time to understand how to recover your deleted or lost data with a data recovery software application. Instead, the application should be intuitive and easy to use, making it obvious what each of its options is for without forcing you to read a lengthy manual. The good news is that such data recovery applications are fairly easy to find these days, and we’ve featured several of them in this article.
  • Price
    The idiom “you get what your pay for” holds true even when it comes to data recovery software. While there are many great data recovery applications that cost absolutely nothing, their features, ease of use, and customer support typically pale in comparison with paid data recovery software. The good news is that most paid data recovery applications let you try them for free by providing a trial or demo version, which is why you can find some of them on our list.
  • Security
    Security comes into play when downloading any free software from the internet. There are many shady websites that distribute malware disguised as legitimate software, and avoiding them is not always easy because their owners know how to reach the first page in Google and other search engines. If you don’t want to risk a malware infection and irreversible damage to your system, we recommend you stick with leading data recovery applications, such as those featured in this article.

What If Data Recovery Software Failed?

Unfortunately, there isn’t any data recovery software application that provides a complete guarantee of successful recovery. That’s because data loss can be caused by a number of different factors, including human error, computer malware, and physical damage.


While non-mechanical issues are relatively easy to deal with, physical damage presents a serious obstacle to data recovery, usually requiring the expertise of a professional data recovery service like CleverFiles Data Recovery Center.


Thanks to state-of-the-art equipment and Class 100 (ISO-14644-1 Class 5) clean rooms, CleverFiles Data Recovery Center is able to repair storage devices that have suffered a physical failure and can’t be recognized by data recovery software applications.


Of course, professional data recovery services can also recover data that has become inaccessible due to a logical failure or human error, making them a great choice for those who have either found no luck with DIY data recovery software or would rather avoid it entirely.

Did You Know?

Even though hard drive capacity has been increasing year after year, the same thing can’t be said about hard drive reliability. Each year, data storage provider Backblaze publishes hard drive reliability statistics based on its experience with running over 100,000 spinning hard drives in data centers on two continents. In 2019, the annualized hard drive failure rate in Backblaze data centers was 1.89 percent, which is significantly more than it was in 2018 (just 1.25 percent). Clearly, hard drive manufacturers still have some work to do to make hard drives more reliable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated on by Disk Drill Team

Data recovery software works by restoring access to files deleted by the operating system. When the OS deletes a file it removes logical access but leaves the physical data on the disk. Data recovery software can restore this logical access if the file’s storage space has not been overwritten.

Yes. Data recovery software is safe to use and will not lead to further data loss. In cases where your drive is experiencing physical problems, attempt to make a byte level backup to be used when performing the recovery. Then you can recover without adding stress to the degraded disk.

Yes, with some restrictions. An SSD drive can be TRIM enabled which is used to improve performance and increase drive life. Unfortunately, if you have TRIM enabled on your drive you cannot recover data from a formatted SSD. Drives that are not using TRIM can be recovered with software.

Recover permanently deleted files for free using these methods:

  1. Launch your backup and restore program and recover from an old version.
  2. Locate the folder that contained the file and recover a previous version in Windows.
  3. Download Disk Drill and recover 500 MB for free on Windows.

There are many SD card recovery applications available. Some solutions are specifically developed for photo recovery. The best SD card recovery software is:

  1. Disk Drill Data Recovery Software;
  2. Stellar Photo Recovery;
  3. EaseUS Photo Recovery;
  4. PhotoRescue;
  5. Minitool Photo Recovery.

Not all data recovery solutions are compatible with the Mac operating system. The best data recovery software applications for Mac are:

  1. Disk Drill for macOS;
  2. Stellar Data Recovery Professional;
  3. Softtote Mac Data Recovery;
  4. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac;
  5. R-Studio for Mac.
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