5 Best Alternatives to PhotoRec

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PhotoRec might be one of the most popular open-source solutions for recovering data, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one. Or the best. Far from it, depending on the data loss scenario and your personal preferences, some alternatives might be much better options. Let’s see 5 of the best ones worth checking out.

Top PhotoRec Alternatives

If you need a quick answer on the best alternatives to Photorec, without diving into details, the following are the top 3 options.

Top pick
1. Disk Drill for Windows
The Windows version of Disk Drill empowers regular users to reliably recover all kinds of lost data with a few simple clicks. Read full review 
Platform:  macOS Windows
Distributed as:  Freemium
2. R-Studio for Windows
R-Studio for Windows is a powerful data recovery software application, but regular home users may struggle to master it and put its capabilities to good use. Read full review 
Platform:  macOS Windows Linux
Distributed as:  Freemium
3. Wondershare Recoverit for Windows
Wondershare Recoverit comes with an intuitive user interface, but subpar recovery capabilities that struggle to deliver. Read full review 
Platform:  macOS Windows
Distributed as:  Freemium

What Is PhotoRec?

PhotoRec is one of the most popular (and relatively few) open-source data recovery solutions for Linux. It is also available on Windows, Mac OS X, and Sun Solaris. The app isn’t distributed as a standalone piece of software and comes bundled with Testdisk.

Despite primarily specializing in recovering media files, as its name states, PhotoRec supports many more types of files. It “knows” about files with over 480 extensions, including various types of videos, documents, archives, and photos. PhotoRec can (try to) recover those from storage devices like HDDs, optical discs, and digital camera memory.

PhotoRec Logo

Why you might need an alternative to PhotoRec

#FeatureResultDescription
1FAT32 partitions scan
Not supported
PhotoRec ignores the folder trees and filenames of FAT32 partitions.
2exFAT partitions scan
Not supported
The app doesn't recover exFAT directory structures and filenames.
3NTFS partitions scan
Not supported
The software ignores NTFS folder hierarchies and filenames.
4The number of formats supported by deep scan
Decent
Merely adequate support for many popular file formats.
5BitLocker support
No
No support for volumes encrypted with BitLocker.
6Scan for lost partitions
No
The app strictly recovers files, ignoring partitions.
7Modern user-friendly interface
No
PhotoRec's main version works in the terminal. Its graphical Qt-based version feels more like an afterthought.
8Preview recoverable items without interrupting the scan
No
The software offers zero options for previewing *or* selecting specific files.
9Update frequency
Seldom
The app is rarely updated.
10Live chat
No
Support is available only through the app's forums or by emailing the author.

If your utmost priority is a zero-cost data recovery solution without caring about the results and their quality, you might like PhotoRec. Those unfamiliar with data recovery, though, who’d also prefer a relatively user-friendly experience, would better look elsewhere.

Top 5 Best PhotoRec Alternatives

Do you need a friendlier or speedier data recovery solution? A piece of software that offers better support (and quicker response times)? An app that can recognize even more types of files. The following five options are some of the best you can try.

disk drill windows icon

1. Disk Drill for Windows

3.84 • Best choice for Windows users – Disk Drill for Windows is among the best data recovery software applications available to Windows users.
Version
4.5.616
Last Release
4th Aug, 2022
Platform
Windows
Requirements
Windows 7-11

Overview

Consistently rated among the top 5 data recovery solutions by many sites and software experts, Disk Drill ticks many boxes that justify why it’s considered among the best of its kind. It can recover multiple types of files from almost any storage device, and it also comes with handy extra features, like support for backups and S.M.A.R.T. monitoring.

Read full Disk Drill for Windows review

With a user-friendly interface that is straightforward but powerful, Disk Drill enables you to zip through the files it locates after a thorough scan, preview them with a single click, and fully recover them thanks to its advanced algorithms.

The main differences between Disk Drill and PhotoRec

Overview of main differences
#FeaturePhotoRecDisk Drill
1Starting priceFree$89.00 / Perpetual
2FAT32 partitions scan
3exFAT partitions scan
4NTFS partitions scan
5Scan for lost partitions
6Partial file recovery
7BitLocker support
8Byte-to-byte device backups
9Preview recoverable items without interrupting the scan
10Modern user-friendly interface
11Multiple view modes in scan results
12Recovery chance prediction
13Data protection
14S.M.A.R.T.
15Multilingual UI

Disk Drill comes with a user-friendly interface and supports many types of files, file systems, and storage devices. It's also optimal for dealing with BitLocker encrypted volumes, can take byte-to-byte perfect backups of any storage device, and even recover partial files when chunks of them are lost.

Disk Drill offers a free version you can use to test it by recovering up to 500MBs of data. Apart from that, Disk Drill doesn't come with other significant limitations. If you decide you like it, it offers a range of plans starting from $89, granting you access to both its Windows and Mac versions.

Disk Drill is a good alternative to PhotoRec because:

Comes with a friendlier user interface

Can recover more types of files

Is compatible with almost any type of storage device

Natively supports analysis of FAT32, NTFS, and exFAT partitions

Can create byte-level backups of storage devices

Can monitor the S.M.A.R.T. status of storage devices

Disk Drill is a poor alternative to PhotoRec because:

Its free version allows recovering up to 500 MBs of data

No forum where users could chat and exchange information

No phone support

Portable mode is available only on the Mac version

r-studio icon

2. R-Studio for Windows

3.08 • Empowering professionals; intimidating home users – This data recovery software offers a broad range of features to meet the needs of demanding data recovery professionals. 
Version
9.1.191026
Last Release
21st Jul, 2022
Platform
Windows
Requirements
Windows 2000-11

Overview

Originally a tool for data recovery professionals, R-Studio was eventually redesigned for broader use. However, it remains a relatively complicated piece of software for advanced users.

Read full R-Studio for Windows review

R-Studio is one of the most powerful data recovery solutions for those with the know-how that will invest their time in it. It supports many types of files and file systems, can work with most storage devices, and even supports recovering data from RAID arrays and JBOD setups.

The main differences between R-Studio and PhotoRec

Overview of main differences
#FeaturePhotoRecR-Studio
1Starting priceFree$49.99 / Perpetual
2APFS partitions scan
3HFS+ partitions scan
4Recovery from RAID1, 0, JBOD
5RAID reconstructor
6Network recovery
7Bad sector management
8Forensic features
9Helpdesk support
10Raw photo recovery
11Video formats recovery
12Start file recovery without interrupting the scan

It may seem strange, but somehow even the non-Qt terminal-based version of PhotoRec manages to be more straightforward in its use than R-Studio. A complicated beast with every feature a professional would expect to find in a data recovery solution, R-Studio offers everything PhotoRec does and then some.

It also comes at a price, with R-Studio's regular license costing $79.99 for use on a single PC. And we mean the "single" in this description, for the license is non-transferable and binds the software to the specific computer where you installed it (as in "you can't move the app to another PC").

What's worse, you can't test it under realistic conditions, for the trial version only allows recovery of files up to 256KBs - and most modern files are much larger than that.

R-Studio is a good alternative to PhotoRec because:

Supports many types of files and partitions

Can recover data from RAID and JBOD storage setups

Can reconstruct RAID volumes

Has better bad sector management

Has helpdesk support

R-Studio is a poor alternative to PhotoRec because:

It is not free

Doesn't specialize in media formats (photos and videos)

Is (even) more complicated to use

wondershare recoverit icon

3. Wondershare Recoverit for Windows

2.39 • Can it really recover it? – Wondershare Recoverit offers a sleek user interface and exceptional ongoing support. But, its recovery capabilities are average at best, and little else is offered outside of basic file recovery.
Version
10.5.9
Last Release
13th Jul, 2022
Platform
Windows
Requirements
Windows 7-11 (x64 only)

Overview

Wondershare’s Recoverit has one of the most straightforward, “clean”, and nicely designed interfaces among its peers as its primary asset. It’s friendly to newcomers and grants uncomplicated access to the app’s features.

Read full Wondershare Recoverit for Windows review

One of Recoverit’s most interesting features is that apart from recovering video files, it also comes with a tool that can (attempt to) repair those that were corrupted. It can also create a bootable recovery drive, useful if the device from which you’re trying to recover data is the only one on the computer.

The main differences between Wondershare Recoverit and PhotoRec

Overview of main differences
#FeaturePhotoRecWondershare Recoverit
1Starting priceFree$59.99 / 1 month
2Modern user-friendly interface
3Convenient source selection on start
4Easy-to-locate features
5Bootable recovery drive creation
6Corrupted video repair tool
7Raw photo recovery
8Video formats recovery
9Document formats recovery
10Disk images: scan and recovery
11Start file recovery without interrupting the scan

Wondershare Recoverit is an easy-to-use data recovery solution that performs well and has interesting extra features. However, many of those features aren't available in its Essential plan, which starts at $59.99.

By moving to its Premium plan instead, at $99.99, you gain access to two of its most valuable features:

  • Support for bootable media, which means you can immediately begin recovering data when you need the app without having to install it (or even having an OS in working condition).
  • Its corrupted video repair tool, that attempts to "fix" problematic video files.

Wondershare Recoverit is a good alternative to PhotoRec because:

Has a straightforward, modern, and well-designed interface

Makes it easy to access all its essential features

Comes with extra video repair functionality

Can be used through standalone bootable media

Wondershare Recoverit is a poor alternative to PhotoRec because:

The full version costs money

Doesn't perform as well in photo recovery tasks

Could be better at recovering documents

Cannot scan or recover files from device images

recuva icon

4. Recuva

1.75 • Good for basic data recovery jobs – Recuva, despite it being a full recovery solution at zero cost, leaves a lot to be desired. Compared to other recovery tools, it's sorely lacking in terms of recovery performance and features. However, if you're in a pinch, it can serve as a quick and easy-to-use recovery solution.
Version
1.53.2083
Last Release
15th Jun, 2022
Platform
Windows
Requirements
Windows XP-10, 11 (unofficial support)

Overview

Recuva gained popularity among its peers for being a simple, uncomplicated, no-frills, and, more importantly, free data recovery solution. Today, the story remains the same, with the phrase describing Recuva, in a nutshell, being “it’s the simple and free one”.

Read full Recuva review

When looking further than Recuva’s simplicity and zero-cost combination, it starts looking less enticing. Its quick scan for FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS partition is limited, and the app is far from the best option for recovering photos and videos. It can’t work with unmountable devices and can only scan whole partitions (which takes longer than the quicker methods offered by alternatives). Also, it’s rarely updated, and the quality of its results should not be taken for granted.

Still, it can also create byte-to-byte backups of devices, and do the opposite of its reason of being, securely shred data beyond any chance of recovery.

The main differences between Recuva and PhotoRec

Overview of main differences
#FeaturePhotoRecRecuva
1Is it free?
2FAT32 partitions quick scan
3exFAT partitions quick scan
4NTFS partitions quick scan
5Convenient file-by-file preview of recoverable items
6Recovery chance prediction
7Byte-to-byte device backups
8Windows shadow copies scanning
9Secure data shredding
10Raw photo recovery
11Video formats recovery
12Unmountable partitions
13Scan free space only
14Start file recovery without interrupting the scan

Recuva is simple, easy, and free. Those are not only the primary but, up to a point, the sole reasons to choose it over most alternatives, including PhotoRec.

Recuva's first and most crucial problem is that, by today's standards, it's an ancient piece of software. It's still useful largely thanks to Microsoft's Windows compatibility with past versions of the OS. With Recuva's last version released in 2016, it only supports the new Windows 11 "unofficially". So, "officially", any of the alternatives is a better option.

Recuva is leagues ahead of PhotoRec regarding user-friendliness. Recuva earned a respectable 61% usability score during our testing, compared to PhotoRec's abysmal 4%. However, solid results are more critical in data recovery, where PhotoRec managed an adequate 52%, leaving Recuva in its dust at 31%.

Recuva is a good alternative to PhotoRec because:

Wizard-based user-friendly (main) interface

Can scan Windows shadow copies

Option for creating byte-to-byte backups

Also capable of securely shredding files

Can display file previews

Recuva is a poor alternative to PhotoRec because:

Not as good photo and video recovery

Cannot work with unmountable partitions

Must complete its scan to begin recovery

data rescue logo

5. Data Rescue for Windows

2.07 • Still worth a try – In short, Data Rescue leaves a lot to be desired. It doesn't include many additional features to make it stand out from the crowd and its mediocre recovery capabilities aren't impressive either. Although Prosoft does a good job keeping it updated, we were left disappointed with its performance and perplexed by its unconventional pricing model.
Version
6.0.7
Last Release
2nd Jun, 2022
Platform
Windows
Requirements
Windows 7-11

Overview

In many ways, Prosoft’s Data Rescue for Windows is the equivalent of what a truly evolved Recuva would look like. Although almost as simple to use, Data Rescue for Windows is more modern and comes with more features.

Read full Data Rescue for Windows review

If in a hurry or dealing with a rapidly deteriorating storage device, Prosoft’s Data Rescue for Windows support for a quick scan of NTFS and HFS+ partitions renders it one of the best options to try. Even better, it can clone a problematic device or back it up into an image file. You can then use that image file as the recovery source instead of working with the failing device.

Data Rescue for Windows is also quite speedy during recovery and is configurable “under the hood”. Demanding users will appreciate its (somewhat limited) support for RAID arrays and JBOD setups. It’s also worth mentioning how Data Rescue for Windows allows manual tweaking of the scan process, HEX-editing, and securely erasing any storage device.

The main differences between Data Rescue and PhotoRec

Overview of main differences
#FeaturePhotoRecData Rescue
1Starting priceFree$19.00 / 1 file
2NTFS partitions quick scan
3HFS+ partitions deep scan
4Recovery from RAID1, 0, JBOD
5RAID reconstructor
6Convenient scan session management
7Built-in disk space secure eraser
8Raw photo recovery
9Automatic implementation of multiple appropriate scanning methods without user interaction
10Scan free space only
11Recovered files' labeling
12Start file recovery without interrupting the scan

Data Rescue for Windows hides a capable and robust recovery engine behind a very straightforward interface. And yet, it only scored a 30% in usability during our testing. It's better than PhotoRec's definition of the low end, at 4%, but re-imagining the app's interface wouldn't hurt.

Still, you might decide to erase Data Rescue from your memory. Then, run to PhotoRec, or any other solution. Even the priciest of those alternatives may look more enticing when you realize that Data Rescue for Windows doesn't offer a version you can purchase and use at your leisure or a subscription. Instead, you have to pay for each and every file you wish to recover. And the app's trial version only allows you to scan and preview a device for lost data.

Data Rescue is a good alternative to PhotoRec because:

It can scan NTFS and HFS+ partitions quickly

Quite configurable

Supports RAID and JBOD setups (with limitations)

Allows tweaking the scan process (start sector)

Can securely erase the contents of any storage device

Data Rescue is a poor alternative to PhotoRec because:

Has a price tag

Doesn't specialize in media recovery

Cannot scan only free space

Expects more user interaction

Wrapping Up

PhotoRec

2.28

Disk Drill

3.84 68%

R-Studio

3.08 35%

Wondershare Recoverit

2.39 4%

Data Rescue

2.07 10%

Recuva

1.75 24%

PhotoRec is an excellent option if cost is your top priority when choosing a data recovery solution. Or if you are on Linux, where PhotoRec is, admittedly, one of the best apps of its kind. Or if you demand all your software to be open-source. If you don't care about those factors, maybe you should look into alternatives. Out of all of them, Disk Drill offers the best combination of ease of use, power, and cost.

Disk Drill for Windows

3.84 • Best all-around – Disk Drill has a powerful recovery engine, supports most file systems and storage devices, and comes with useful extra features.

Version

4.5.616

Last Release

4th Aug, 2022

Platform

Windows

Requirements

Windows 7-11

R-Studio is an excellent choice if dealing with RAID and JBOD setups. Expect to invest some time to familiarize yourself with its somewhat convoluted interface, though. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s see the answers to some of the most popular questions about PhotoRec.

Both apps are two sides of the same coin, sharing the same piece of software as their core. The only difference is their interface.

  • QPhotoRec is Qt-based and mouse-friendly but also feels somewhat “clunkier”.
  • PhotoRec expects you to use it through the terminal and is more streamlined.

Nowadays, data recovery solutions come with “extra smarts” and prioritize user-friendliness. PhotoRec is the opposite: a powerful but limited in its specificity tool, extra-useful when in need to locate a few particular files. It achieves that by ignoring file systems, folder structures, and filenames, and seeking “file headers” (and “tails”), the data that marks where a specific type of file begins or ends on a storage device.

Thus, PhotoRec would be more beneficial to a data investigator trying to unearth recently deleted evidence from a storage device than the average user who wants to get back all their lost summer vacation photos and videos.

Sure! First, you have to download it. It comes in a compressed archive file you’ll have to extract to a local folder, but the app doesn’t need further installation. Thus, you can extract it to a USB Flash Drive and use it as a portable app.

  • Afterwards, run either PhotoRec in a terminal or QPhotoRec if you prefer the more straightforward QUI version. (The following steps are for QPhotoRec.)
  • Select the device you want to scan, its File System type, and if you want to scan the Whole device or only the Free space.
  • Browse for the destination directory, where you want to store the recovered files.
  • Finally, click on Search to begin the scan and recovery process.

PhotoRec doesn’t need an installation. It comes in a compressed archive file, which you should “extract” to a local folder after downloading. The archive will carry the name of the more popular Testdisk data recovery solution, which you’ll find among the extracted files.

To run PhotoRec, if you’d prefer the more user-friendly GUI version and to avoid the terminal, double-click on the QPhotoRec.exe file you’ll find inside that folder.

Odysseas Kourafalos
Odysseas Kourafalos
Author

Odysseas is a geek with over three decades of experience in tech who occasionally lost vast amounts of data. “Data” he managed to recover most of the time using various recovery solutions.

Eventually, he joined our team to write about such data loss and recovery scenarios and all related software and methods.

Despite having written thousands of articles and tutorials for various popular outlets, he considers his data-recovery adventures an ongoing learning experience.

Yevgeniy Tolkunov
Yevgeniy Tolkunov
Approver

Yevgeniy Tolkunov is Hardware Engineer at ACE Data Recovery. Yevgeniy has a Master's Degree in Physics, Information Technology; 15+ years of experience.