Recuva Review: Popular but Flawed Windows Data Recovery Software
Out of 5 Total Score
No. 10 Among all Windows solutions
Recuva offers a beginner-friendly approach to data recovery, with the added bonus of free unlimited recovery. But, how good could it really be if it’s free? We’ve taken an extensive look at everything Recuva has to offer in this full review.
Completely free. Scan and restore unlimited files for free.
Chances of recovery. There are algorithms in the program that can give an estimate of the file's recovery.
Two operating modes. There are two operating modes - simple and advanced.
Secure file erase. Recuva can zeroize found files in 4 different ways so that they cannot be recovered later.
Multilingual capabilities. The program supports the largest number of languages among data recovery tools.
Scanner settings. You can set up exactly what to look for, what scanners to use, and what you see after the scan.
Integration into the system. Integration into the system context menu for fast search of deleted files.
Fast scanning. The program scans data fast and shows final results.
Resource-intensive. The program does not require powerful hardware to perform scans.
Small size. The installed application and the installation file take very little space.
Supports shadow copies. Scan a shadow copy of your system drive.
Runs multiple instances. You can run multiple instances of Recuva at the same time.
Partially restores file structure. Can partially restore structure and filenames of FAT32/NTFS partitions after deletion or formatting.
No Enterprise license. Recuva cannot be used commercially.
Scanning/creation of images. Scanning and creation of images is available only in the paid version.
Recovering structure and names. In general, scans that support restoring the folder trees and file names either do not work at all or have a large number of errors.
Recovery odds accuracy. The accuracy of recovery odds is inaccurate and often causes the application to crash.
Updating the list of drives. The program often does not update the list of drives in the system automatically and you have to restart it to see the newly mapped drive.
Scan the whole disk. The program can scan only partitions. No way to scan the whole disk.
Unmountable disks. Disks with a RAW filesystem or those which do not mount to the system cannot be scanned at all. The program always needs to have a file system to start scanning.
The project is abandoned. Recuva is no longer being developed and stopped updating a long time ago. The last update was in the 2016.
Interface. The interface is very outdated and in no way user-friendly.
Preview. Preview options are very limited. In most cases, it supports up to 5 formats that can be previewed.
Switching views. Switching the tree view of found files is not intuitive and is only found in the right-click context menu.
Limited signatures. The program has a very small set of signatures that it can detect. The signatures haven't been updated for a long time and cannot find modern video and photo file formats.
Convenient scanning. The application does not allow you to customize the scan to account for bad sectors. It is also unable to resume a scan that was started on removable media that has been disconnected then reconnected.
Additional functionality. Recuva doesn’t include any additional functionality that are commonly found in modern tools that aid in searching for deleted data.
Knowledge base. The program has a limited knowledge base on the site.
Support. There is no online chat or support phone number on the site. It also takes a little time to find how to contact the developer by mail.
Windows 11 support. Support for Windows 11 is not officially rated in the list of supported operating systems.
Crashes. Very often the scanning of modern digital data like photos or video causes the program to crash. The program may hang when calculating the chances of recovery and does not inform the user about what is happening.
Managed by CCleaner. There are a lot of promotions for CCleaner, which some find controversial as malware was found in the software in 2017.
|Trial version available|
|Trial version limitations|
|No credit card to try|
|Money back guarantee|
Recuva’s biggest appeal would arguably be its affordability. You can download it for free and immediately get access to its recovery features. It also has a Professional license that renews yearly, which gives you access to virtual hard drive support, automatic updates, and premium support. If you’re looking for a data recovery solution that allows unlimited recovery for free, Recuva is a great choice.
|1||1 Year Premium Subscription||$19.95|
|1||1 Year subscription||$34.95|
Everything in Recuva Professional plus:
Discounts and coupons
Dealschief Promotional Offer
25% OFF Recuva Professional.
|Get the Deal|
Developer — Piriform Software Ltd.
Piriform Software is well-known for its inclination to provide quality tools at an affordable price. Popularly known for its cleaning tool, CCleaner, which is also available for free, Piriform Software strives to release software that’s simple but effective.
10% 431.3% than avg
Reflects the share of online traffic within the niche occupied by data recovery software, based on data taken from ahrefs.com (from Google US search engine).
34000 648.3% than avg
Based on the number of brand-related search queries on Google US according to ahrefs.com.
In 2017, Piriform Software Ltd. was acquired by Avast, the cybersecurity software company responsible for the popular antivirus tools Avast and AVG. Avast has a rich history in the technology sector and shares a common interest in developing accessible and high-quality software. Considering Piriform is now managed by Avast, concerns over data privacy are rare, as Avast is very prominent in the cybersecurity space and tech industry as a whole.
2004 • 18 years on market
110 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6JS, United Kingdom
Piriform is active on social media, often opting to use the name CCleaner since that is their most popular product. In addition to their online knowledge base, you can reach them by email for support. If you have a Professional license, you will receive priority support. The CCleaner Community Forums are also quite active if you want to ask for support from the community.
How We Test
Making an informed decision when choosing a data recovery tool is crucial. When your data is lost, it's in a very vulnerable state, so it's important you choose a tool that can accomplish what you need.
Our data recovery professionals extensively test each data recovery tool to provide transparent, real-world feedback that aims to provide an unbiased view of what is done good and what could be improved.
Here is a brief run-down of how we tested Recuva.
|1||Installation||We downloaded and installed the latest version of Recuva to our Windows machine that's used for testing.|
|2||Source selection||We compile several data sets according to the file formats that Recuva supports, which will later be copied to virtual hard drives.|
|3||Scanning process||Data sets are copied to the virtual hard drives. The virtual hard drives are scanned for fragmentation. Following confirmation that the data is intact, the file system is erased.|
|4||Managing found data||Recuva is used to scan and recover data from the virtual hard drives that had their file system erased.|
|5||Recovery and post-processing||Following the recovery process by Recuva, the recovered data is manually analyzed and compared to the original versions to check for preservation and usability. Additionally, we check how much data was found and recovered.|
In addition to a signature scan, we also test the effectiveness of quick and clever deep scan types, both of which focus on recovering data using the file system to restore the data and its original folder structure. They also support the recovery of fragmented data, which is not possible with a signature scan.
We also take into account what we think brings value to the application as a whole, such as support, usability, and additional features, all of which are reflected in our final rating.
Once you've downloaded the Recuva installation file, installation is fast and easy.
The first screen allows you to customize your installation. You will get the standard options of creating Desktop and Start Menu shortcuts, with two other options for adding recovery options to the context menu of the Recycle Bin and Explorer. Furthermore, you'll have the option of choosing where you want to install it.
Once you choose to install, the process is over in a few seconds. You'll be given the option to launch Recuva, as well as open the release notes to see what has been added.
Recuva has a slightly different approach when it comes to defining the parameters of your scan. It employs a wizard-like interface that guides you through selecting the type of files you want to scan for, as well as where they were located. This allows you to refine your search down so far that you can scan specific folders. On the final screen, you can choose to use a deep scan in order to pull as much data as you can.
This approach is great for users who aren't familiar with data recovery, as it takes you through step-by-step without filling the window with complicated jargon. If you're not a fan of being guided through this part of the process, you can click Cancel at any time to be taken straight into the main Recuva interface.
When the scan has started, you'll be given an estimation of how long it will take. However, this process is split into three stages. The estimated time you're given is only for a particular stage, meaning you're not given an expectation of how long the entire process will take.
As the scan progresses through each stage, it will give you an indication of how many files it has found and a percentage showing the total completion of that stage. Once finished, you will be taken straight to the window that shows all of the discovered files.
Managing found files
Recuva has three modes you can view the discovered files in, which are List View, Tree View, and Thumbnails View (though these options are hidden in the right-click menu). You can sort results by name, path, last modified date, size, state, and comment.
This is also where you can make use of Recuva's secure delete feature, which overwrites selected data to decrease the chances of recovering it. This is useful if you want to effectively delete sensitive data and can be done simply by right-clicking a file and selecting Secure Overwrite Highlighted.
Using the advanced mode, you can use a search bar to filter through the results based on the file type. Additionally, this also allows access to the preview window which displays a small preview of the selected file if one is available.
You can mark files for recovery by checking the box next to each file. When ready, click Recover at the bottom-right of the window.
Recuva Tutorials and Other Videos
To help you see the entire process, check out some of these insightful tutorials that cover the use of Recuva.
Recuva receives a below-average Karma score of 47%. This metric is based on the below factors, including customer support, operating system support, and update frequency.
The lowest contributing areas are updates and customer support. Recuva hasn’t received any major updates since 2016, with the updates in 2022 only being related to data usage reporting and license delivery. While the software is still usable, it shows users that Piriform isn’t actively working on it to optimize it or introduce new features. As for customer support, even if you have a Professional license, you’re limited to a single email channel.
More than 6 months
Available (View full update history)
|4||Latest Windows release supported|
Nope, Windows 10 and older
|5||Genuine or clone?|
|6||Brand name popularity|
|7||Online market share|
|9||Extensive knowledge base|
We circle back to one of Recuva’s strongest benefits – the price. It scores a 76%, as it’s a free-to-use tool that allows you to perform unlimited recovery, forever. A Professional subscription-based license is available, though only with a few added benefits.
It loses a few points as it doesn’t come with any free upgrades (like access to other Piriform tools) with the subscription option and the free version can’t be used for commercial recovery. However, these two areas are minor when you consider it’s a full recovery solution without a price tag.
Yes (unlimited recovery)
|4||Is it free?|
Free + One subscription plan option
|6||Unlimited recovery in full version|
|8||Commercial rights in the cheapest license|
Usability refers to how user-intuitive Recuva’s recovery process is and what features are included that add to the overall quality of life. It’s just above halfway, scoring 63%.
While Recuva gives you access to the basics like sorting through results, thumbnail previews, and searching for specific files, it uses a slightly outdated user interface and doesn’t support more advanced features like performing multiple scan types without user input.
|1||Modern user-friendly interface|
|4||Automatic implementation of multiple appropriate scanning methods without user interaction|
|5||Auto-resuming scans of failing drives|
|6||Auto-resuming backups of failing drives|
|7||Convenient source selection on start|
|8||Convenient file-by-file preview of recoverable items|
|9||Convenient thumbnail preview of recoverable items|
|10||Mount recoverable items as disk|
|12||Multiple view modes in scan results|
|13||Hex view for recoverable items|
|14||Filter recoverable items by type|
|15||Search recoverable items by file names|
Following the recovery of our data, Recuva only scored a 31% in terms of performance. It struggled to find all of the lost data, but it was still able to recover quite a bit.
In our tests, we commonly found that the folder structure was corrupted upon recovery. This resulted in all files being clumped together without organization. Scan speeds were good, averaging between 100-200MB/sec. The majority of our photos and videos were either not found or corrupted after recovery. Of all file types recovered, documents were the most successful, with a success rate of around 57%.
|1||Clever in-depth scan|
|Recuva was only able to recover files from our formatted FAT32 partitions. The original folder structure was corrupted.|
|You cannot quickly recover recently deleted files from HFS+, APFS, or EXT4 partitions.|
|3||Other types of scan|
|Recuva cannot scan or recover lost partitions. However, it does allow you to mount and scan disk images for lost data.|
|Hard drives, solid-state drives, flash drives and memory cards are supported, but not mobile devices or RAID configurations.|
|5||Real-life recovery challenge|
|Photos and videos were the least successful in terms of recovery. Documents were the most successful.|
|6||Other notable recovery features|
|There aren't many additional features that stand out aside from Recuva's secure delete option.|
Recuva is only available on Windows, so it is unable to recover from Apple or Linux partition types, such as HFS+, APFS, EXT4. During our tests, there was some success recovering from FAT32 partitions, however, all root data was missing and the folder structure was damaged. No data could be recovered from ExFAT or NTFS partitions.
Our quick scan had slightly more success than the clever scan. As HFS+, APFS, and EXT4 partitions are not supported, our focus was on Windows-related partitions, including FAT32, ExFAT, and NTFS. The results were mildly successful, despite the FAT32 scan returning with a missing folder structure.
Other scan types
|1||The number of formats supported by deep scan|
|3||Windows shadow copies scanning|
|4||Scan for lost partitions|
|5||Recovered files' labeling|
|6||Partial file recovery|
|7||Disk images: scan and recovery|
Recuva allows you to mount and scan disk images to preserve the state of your original drive. It also supports recovery from BitLocker-encrypted drives after a password is provided. However, it cannot scan for lost partitions and its deep scan feature only supports a limited number of file types.
|1||Internal and external HDD|
|2||Internal and external SSD|
|3||USB thumb drives / Classic iPods (non-iOS) / FireWire devices|
|7||Recovery from RAID1, 0, JBOD|
Recuva supports recovery from hard drives and solid-state drives (internal and external), flash drives, and memory cards. It cannot recover data from mobile devices or RAID configurations.
Real-life recovery challenges
|1||Document formats recovery|
|2||Raw photo recovery|
|3||Video formats recovery|
Raw photo recovery
|1||3fr (Hasselblad 3F raw image)|
|2||arw (Sony alpha raw)|
|3||bmp (bitmap image file)|
|4||cr2 (Canon raw version 2)|
|5||cr3 (Canon raw version 3)|
|6||crw (Canon raw CIFF image file)|
|7||dcr (Kodak digital camera raw)|
|8||dng (digital negative lossless raw image)|
|9||CinemaDNG (Blackmagic, Penelope, Pocket)|
|10||erf (Epson raw file)|
|11||exr (high dynamic-range file format)|
|12||fff (Hasselblad raw image)|
|13||gpr (GoPro raw format)|
|14||heic (high efficiency image file format)|
|15||iiq (intelligent image quality raw Leaf, Phase One)|
|16||insp (panoramic image Insta360)|
|17||jp2 (bitmap image format JPEG 2000)|
|18||jpg (joint photographic experts group compressed image)|
|19||kdc (Kodak digital camera raw image)|
|20||mef (Mamiya raw image file)|
|21||mos (Leaf and Mamiya raw image file)|
|22||mpo (multi picture stereoscopic object file)|
|23||mrw (Konica Minolta raw image format)|
|24||nef (Nikon raw image file)|
|25||nrw (Nikon raw image file)|
|26||orf (Olympus raw format)|
|27||pef (Pentax raw image file)|
|28||raf (Fujifilm raw image file)|
|29||raw (native digital camera file)|
|30||rw2 (Panasonic LUMIX raw image file)|
|31||rwl (Leica raw image format)|
|32||sr2 (Sony raw 2 image file)|
|33||srf (Sony raw file)|
|34||srw (Samsung raw image file)|
|35||tiff (tag image file format)|
|36||x3f (Sigma camera raw picture file)|
|37||x3i (Sigma super fine detail picture file)|
You may be disappointed to find that many image file types could not be recovered. A large portion of the DNG files suffered from corruption. Moreover, all recovered 3FR images were in TIFF format.
Video formats recovery
|1||360 (GoPRO 360 degree videos)|
|2||ari (ARRI professional digital video camera)|
|3||arx (ARRI professional digital video camera)|
|4||avi (GoPRO CineForm intermediate codec)|
|5||avi (MJPG, H.264, MSMPEG4 v2 codecs)|
|6||braw (Blackmagic raw video file)|
|7||insv (Insta360 panoramic AVC H.264 video file)|
|8||insv (Insta360 panoramic HEVC HVC1 video file)|
|9||mov (Apple ProRes 422 Proxy/LT/HQ)|
|10||mov (Apple ProRes 4444 Raw/HQ)|
|11||mov (advanced video coding H.264)|
|12||mov (CineForm HD codec)|
|13||mov (HEVC, HVC1 codecs)|
|14||mp4 (advanced video coding H.264)|
|15||mp4 (HEVC, HVC1, Apple ProRes codecs)|
|16||mxf (advanced video coding H.264)|
|17||mxf (DVCPRO HD codec)|
|18||mxf (ARRI raw, Apple ProRes codecs)|
|19||mxf (XDCAM HD422, HD35 MPEG2 codecs)|
|20||r3d (Red digital camera company raw video file)|
|21||wmv (pro raw 9 codec)|
There was little success recovering video formats. MOV, AVI, and 360 formats had the most success. However, much like the photos, Recuva was unable to discover the majority of video file formats and some files suffered from corruption.
Document formats recovery
|1||accdb (Microsoft Access 2007+ database file)|
|2||djvu (compressed image format)|
|3||doc (Microsoft Word 97 – 2003 document file)|
|4||docx (Microsoft Word 2007+ document file)|
|5||fb2 (FictionBook 2.0 File)|
|6||key (Apple Keynote)|
|7||mdb (Microsoft Access 97 - 2003 database file)|
|8||numbers (Apple Numbers)|
|9||odp (OpenOffice presentation file format)|
|10||ods (OpenDocument spreadsheet file format)|
|11||odt (OpenDocument text document file format)|
|12||pages (Apple Pages)|
|13||pdf (portable document format)|
|14||ppt (Microsoft Powerpoint 97 - 2003 presentation file)|
|15||pptx (Microsoft Powerpoint 2007+ presentation file)|
|16||rtf (rich text format)|
|17||xls (Microsoft Excel 97 - 2003 spreadsheet file)|
|18||xlsx (Microsoft Excel 2007+ spreadsheet file)|
Documents saw relatively more success. A lot more file types were found, with DOC, DOCX, ODS, PDF, PPT, PPTX, and RTF having the highest success rate. Many documents were found as zipped files, but upon renaming, most opened fine.
Other notable recovery features
|1||Overall non-intrusive read-only algorithms|
|3||Effectively filters out corrupted scan results|
|4||Byte-to-byte device backups|
|5||Bootable recovery drive creation|
|6||Convenient scan session management|
|7||Bad sector management|
|8||Recovery chance prediction|
|10||Disk vitals monitoring and tracking during scan|
|12||Links to in-lab recovery service for physically damaged devices|
|14||Scan free space only|
|15||Start file recovery without interrupting the scan|
|16||Preview recoverable items without interrupting the scan|
Recuva doesn’t have much else to offer. This isn’t surprising considering the low price point. Scan times are fast and you are given the option of creating byte-to-byte backups with the paid version. It also has a recovery chance indicator, though it is slightly inaccurate.
The sole purpose of Recuva is data recovery. Piriform has developed other applications that would otherwise tick some of these boxes, but Recuva doesn’t come with a lot extra. While this does contribute to a smaller file size, it would be nice to see some small additions, like a S.M.A.R.T. disk monitoring tool.
|1||Disk space mapping|
|2||Disk clean up|
|3||Corrupted video repair tool|
|4||Corrupted photo repair tool|
|7||Built-in disk space secure eraser|
|9||Disk surface test|
|10||Secure data shredding|
|Secure delete can overwrite sensitive data so there's less chance of recovery.|
As long as Recuva remains a free tool, the inclusion of additional features in the future seems unlikely. But, the secure delete feature does deserve some praise, as it’s not a commonly seen feature among data recovery tools.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find the answers to commonly asked questions surrounding Recuva.
Recuva is a free data recovery tool that was developed by Piriform Software Ltd. It can be used to search for and recover lost or deleted data from your hard drives, solid-state drives, flash storage, and memory cards.
If you’ve deleted a file by accident that isn’t easily recovered from the Recycle Bin or a previously made backup, Recuva can scan your drive and effectively undelete the data.
While Recuva’s interface may be slightly outdated, it’s still very easy to use, even for beginners. Follow these steps to perform a basic recovery:
- Click Next after opening Recuva.
- Select what types of files you want to recover.
- Select where you’d like Recuva to scan for lost data.
- Choose whether you want to make this a deep scan, then press Start.
- Once the scan is complete, mark what files you want to recover, then press Recover.
- Choose the location for recovery and press OK.
In terms of performance, Recuva leaves a lot to be desired. During our tests, Recuva was unable to find a lot of the data we had deleted. Following recovery, a lot of files were also corrupted and the folder structure was lost in some instances.
While it definitely can recover data, it doesn’t perform quite as well as other paid alternatives on the market. But, since it’s free, it’s a good choice for those who want to try it out.
The time a deep scan takes in Recuva depends on the size of your drive and how old it is. Large drives that you’ve used heavily will contain a lot of data, resulting in a longer scan time. Typically, deep scans on large drives can take a few hours, with some taking up to 24 hours.
Recuva Professional is the paid subscription version of Recuva. It renews yearly and gives you the added benefit of premium support, virtual hard drive support, and automatic updates.
Once you’ve finished recovering files using Recuva, you simply need to navigate to the specific output folder you chose when performing recovery. Unfortunately, Recuva doesn’t give you a shortcut following successful recovery, so you will need to navigate there manually.
Once there, you can open your files like normal. If your file has sustained some sort of damage, like corruption, the file may no longer be usable and may present an error message when opened.
We experienced crashes when using Recuva. We found that this occurred when scanning more modern photo and video file types. Recuva also hangs when calculating the chances of recovery. This could be attributed to Recuva’s age and lack of updates, seeing as it hasn’t received an update since 2016.
Out of 5 Total score
No. 10 Among all Windows solutions
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.Visit developer website
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Jordan Jamieson-Mane is a content writer with a focus on technology-related content. He has spent much of his life studying and working with all types of technology. During his time as a writer, he has written countless articles in the field of data recovery, breaking down complex topics into articles that are easy to understand.
When he's not writing articles on data recovery, Jordan enjoys traveling the world, reading books, and building websites.
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