TestDisk for Windows – Overview#
Its official website describes TestDisk as “powerful free data recovery software”, highlighting its ability to recover lost partitions and/or make non-booting disks bootable again. While true, the description has created a lot of confusion because most other data recovery software applications can recognize and recover lost files based on their file signatures—something TestDisk can’t do.
Signature-based file recovery is typically performed after formatting when other data recovery methods can’t deliver satisfactory results. The developer of TestDisk signature scanning capabilities in another application called PhotoRec.
|Requirements||Windows XP-10, 11 (unofficial support)|
|Latest version||7.2 • Released 1st Sep, 2021|
|Download size||25.1 MB|
|Category||Data Recovery Software|
|Distributed as||Free All features are provided free of charge, and the software can be used, studied, and modified without restriction|
|Free version available||Free version available|
|Free version details|
TestDisk is powerful free data recovery software
|No credit card to try||No credit card to try|
Thanks to its GNU General Public License (GPL v2+), you can copy, distribute, and/or modify TestDisk for free as long as you track changes/dates in source files. The application is completely unlimited, so you can use it to recover as many files as you need without ever being prompted to purchase a license or subscription.
Developer — Christophe GRENIER
TestDisk is a one-man project, developed by Christophe Grenier, a respected software developer based in France. Grenier is also behind TestDisk’s sibling application, PhotoRec.
5% 298.6% 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).
7000 145.8% than avg
Based on the number of brand-related search queries on Google US according to ahrefs.com.
TestDisk enjoys a decent amount of online traffic in the data recovery software niche, and we believe that its popularity has a lot to do with its free price and open-source license.
2008 • 15 years on the market
GlobalSP, 78 rue la Condamine, 75017 PARIS, France
|Social media||LinkedIn Twitter Facebook|
Considering that TestDisk is a non-commercial project of a single software developer (with contributions from independent developers from around the world), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that its developer doesn’t spend much effort on social media marketing, doing only the bare minimum to maintain at least some social media presence.
Data Recovery with TestDisk for Windows
Tested on: Windows 11 (21H2)
In this section of our TestDisk review, we provide a detailed step-by-step description of a data recovery job performed using TestDisk.
How We Test
When testing data recovery software like TestDisk, we always follow the same steps so that obtained results can be used for comparison purposes.
|1||Installation||First, we install the tested application on a dedicated computer.|
|2||Source selection||Then, we use the application to scan a storage device we use only for review purposes.|
|3||Scanning process||We monitor the scanning process to evaluate its speed and user-friendliness.|
|4||Managing found data||Next, we analyze the found data to see how many of our test files are recoverable.|
|5||Recovery and post-processing||Finally, we recover our test files and check their integrity.|
The steps below represent only one iteration of our testing process. We always repeat the same process multiple times, with slight variations depending on the application’s features.
It can be a bit of a challenge to install TestDisk on macOS and even Linux (depending on your distribution), but Windows users face no such difficulties. They can simply download TestDisk from its official website, unpack the downloaded archive, and launch the TestDisk executable, which is exactly what we did. TestDisk always launches in the default terminal emulator.
Before we could select the storage device we wanted to scan, we had to make one fairly unimportant decision: whether we wanted to create a new log file or not. We decided to create one because we were curious to see how comprehensive it would be (answer: a lot).
Once that was done, we could choose the storage device using the arrow keys and the Enter key. TestDisk displayed the name, maximum, and current capacity of each device. We were then asked to confirm the partition table type. Usually, you can simply press Enter to continue because TestDisk attempts to detect it for you. We were then ready to start analyzing the current partition structure and searching for lost partitions.
After we selected the Analyze option, TestDisk displayed the partition structure of the storage device and gave us the option to perform a Quick Search for lost partitions, which we initiated. The tool managed to find one partition.
We then continued with a Deeper Search, whose purpose is to also search for FAT32 backup boot sectors, NTFS backup boot superblocks, and ext2/ext3 backup superblocks to detect more partitions, but no additional partitions were found.
During scanning, we were able to stop the process at any time. The only problem is that a stopped scan must be started again from scratch. The scanning speed was slower than we would like it to be.
Managing found files
TestDisk displays the recoverable content of a found partition as a long list of files. You can see the path, creation date, and size of each file, but it's impossible to preview individual files or sort the list.
To recover found files, you need to tell TestDisk what you want to recover. You can select files one by one, or you can select everything in one go. We decided to select everything just to see how long the recovery would take.
TestDisk then asked us to choose a recovery destination. After we made our choice, it started copying the selected files while keeping us informed of its progress. Again, it took its time and kept us waiting longer than we expected it would.
Recovery and post-processing
Once TestDisk finished recovering our files, we opened the recovery folder in File Explorer to see the results. To our pleasant surprise, the selected files were there, and they were all intact.
TestDisk for Windows – Tutorials and Other Videos
To better understand how TestDisk works, check out the videos below:
TestDisk for Windows – Full Review
As part of our comprehensive TestDisk review, we evaluated the application from every angle, and here are the results.
12 rating criteria
The developer of TestDisk, Christophe Grenier, is highly respected not just for the software he developed but also for his beliefs in open-source software. Unfortunately, there’s only so much a single developer can accomplish (even when he receives contributions from other developers). That’s why TestDisk isn’t updated nearly as often as some other data recovery applications, and it’s also why you can’t reach dedicated customer support staff via chat or phone.
|1||Update frequency||More than 6 months|
|3||Changelog available||Available (View full update history)|
|4||Latest Windows release supported||Yes, all good|
|5||Genuine or clone?||Genuine|
|6||Brand name popularity||Unpopular|
|7||Online market share||Poor|
|9||Extensive knowledge base||Available|
|10||Helpdesk support||Not available|
|11||Live chat||Not available|
Bang for the buck
8 rating criteria
TestDisk is completely free and open source, so the overall value it delivers is excellent regardless of whether its data recovery capabilities leave something to be desired. It’s also worth pointing out that TestDisk supports all major platforms, with all versions of the software being identical.
|3||Free trial||Not needed|
|4||Is it free?||Yes|
|6||Unlimited recovery in full version||Yes|
|8||Commercial rights in the cheapest license||Yes|
18 rating criteria
Windows users can download TestDisk from its official website, unpack the downloaded archive, and double-click the TestDisk executable file inside to start using the data recovery software. Sadly, that’s where usability issues begin, and they never stop because TestDisk has a barebones command-line user interface that doesn’t make the recovery of lost data any easier for the end user—quite the opposite, in fact.
For example, it’s not possible to filter recoverable items by type or name, and you also can’t resume failed or interrupted scans. The command-line user interface is available only in English, so non-native speakers who are not familiar with terms related to data recovery may struggle to navigate it.
|1||Modern user-friendly interface||No|
|4||Automatic implementation of multiple appropriate scanning methods without user interaction||No|
|5||Auto-resuming scans of failing drives||No|
|6||Auto-resuming backups of failing drives||No|
|7||Convenient source selection on start||No|
|8||Convenient file-by-file preview of recoverable items||No|
|9||Convenient thumbnail preview of recoverable items||No|
|10||Mount recoverable items as disk||No|
|12||Multiple view modes in scan results||No|
|13||Hex view for recoverable items||No|
|14||Filter recoverable items by type||No|
|15||Search recoverable items by file names||No|
122 rating criteria
As we’ve already explained, TestDisk is a unique data recovery software application because its forte is partition repair and reconstruction—not the recovery of individual permanently deleted files whose file system records have been removed.
When used to recover lost partitions, rebuild partition tables, or rewrite the Master Boot Record (MBR), TestDisk can work miracles. Most regular users, however, use the software to recover individual files, and our recovery performance tests reflect that.
|1||Deep scan||Bad||TestDisk is unable to perform a Clever in-depth scan.|
|2||Quick scan||Fine||TestDisk can undelete files from FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, ext2, and NTFS filesystems.|
|3||Other types of scan||Bad||No other scan types are supported.|
|4||Device support||Good||Commonly used storage devices are supported.|
|5||Real-life recovery challenge||Bad||Poor results.|
|6||Other notable recovery features||Bad||TestDisk doesn't offer almost any extra features.|
TestDisk isn’t designed to restore the original folder structure and files name after formatting. The best you can hope for is to recover your data from an old partition that has been deleted and replaced by a new one at another location before being formatted. In other situations involving formatting, PhotoRec is the data recovery tool you should use.
You can use TestDisk to recover recently deleted files from FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, ext2, and NTFS filesystems. Because of how the Quick scan feature works, files can only be recovered if the clusters occupied by them haven’t been reused.
During our tests, TestDisk delivered the best results when recovering recently deleted files from NTFS-formatted partitions, followed by exFAT, and EXT4 partitions. It performed the worst when recovering FAT32 partitions.
Other scan types
|1||The number of formats supported by deep scan||0|
|3||Windows shadow copies scanning||0|
|4||Scan for lost partitions||5|
|5||Recovered files' labeling||0|
|6||Partial file recovery||0|
|7||Disk images: scan and recovery||0|
Partition recovery and repair is what TestDisk is primarily designed to do, so it’s no surprise that it excels in this regard, making it possible to recover deleted partitions, fix partition tables, and more. We just wish it didn’t stop there because then it would be far more useful as a data recovery and disk repair tool.
|1||Internal and external HDD||5|
|2||Internal and external SSD||5|
|3||USB thumb drives / Classic iPods (non-iOS) / FireWire devices||5|
|7||Recovery from RAID1, 0, JBOD||5|
Real-life recovery challenges
|1||Raw photo recovery||0|
|2||Video formats recovery||0|
|3||Document formats recovery||0|
Raw photo recovery
|1||3fr (Hasselblad 3F raw image)||0|
|2||arw (Sony alpha raw)||0|
|3||bmp (bitmap image file)||0|
|4||cr2 (Canon raw version 2)||0|
|5||cr3 (Canon raw version 3)||0|
|6||crw (Canon raw CIFF image file)||0|
|7||dcr (Kodak digital camera raw)||0|
|8||dng (digital negative lossless raw image)||0|
|9||CinemaDNG (Blackmagic, Penelope, Pocket)||0|
|10||erf (Epson raw file)||0|
|11||exr (high dynamic-range file format)||0|
|12||fff (Hasselblad raw image)||0|
|13||gpr (GoPro raw format)||0|
|14||heic (high efficiency image file format)||0|
|15||iiq (intelligent image quality raw Leaf, Phase One)||0|
|16||insp (panoramic image Insta360)||0|
|17||jp2 (bitmap image format JPEG 2000)||0|
|18||jpg (joint photographic experts group compressed image)||0|
|19||kdc (Kodak digital camera raw image)||0|
|20||mef (Mamiya raw image file)||0|
|21||mos (Leaf and Mamiya raw image file)||0|
|22||mpo (multi picture stereoscopic object file)||0|
|23||mrw (Konica Minolta raw image format)||0|
|24||nef (Nikon raw image file)||0|
|25||nrw (Nikon raw image file)||0|
|26||orf (Olympus raw format)||0|
|27||pef (Pentax raw image file)||0|
|28||raf (Fujifilm raw image file)||0|
|29||raw (native digital camera file)||0|
|30||rw2 (Panasonic LUMIX raw image file)||0|
|31||rwl (Leica raw image format)||0|
|32||sr2 (Sony raw 2 image file)||0|
|33||srf (Sony raw file)||0|
|34||srw (Samsung raw image file)||0|
|35||tiff (tag image file format)||0|
|36||x3f (Sigma camera raw picture file)||0|
|37||x3i (Sigma super fine detail picture file)||0|
TestDisk wasn’t able to recover any raw photo files during our tests.
Video formats recovery
|1||360 (GoPRO 360 degree videos)||0|
|2||ari (ARRI professional digital video camera)||0|
|3||arx (ARRI professional digital video camera)||0|
|4||avi (GoPRO CineForm intermediate codec)||0|
|5||avi (MJPG, H.264, MSMPEG4 v2 codecs)||0|
|6||braw (Blackmagic raw video file)||0|
|7||insv (Insta360 panoramic AVC H.264 video file)||0|
|8||insv (Insta360 panoramic HEVC HVC1 video file)||0|
|9||mov (Apple ProRes 422 Proxy/LT/HQ)||0|
|10||mov (Apple ProRes 4444 Raw/HQ)||0|
|11||mov (advanced video coding H.264)||0|
|12||mov (CineForm HD codec)||0|
|13||mov (HEVC, HVC1 codecs)||0|
|14||mp4 (advanced video coding H.264)||0|
|15||mp4 (HEVC, HVC1, Apple ProRes codecs)||0|
|16||mxf (advanced video coding H.264)||0|
|17||mxf (DVCPRO HD codec)||0|
|18||mxf (ARRI raw, Apple ProRes codecs)||0|
|19||mxf (XDCAM HD422, HD35 MPEG2 codecs)||0|
|20||r3d (Red digital camera company raw video file)||0|
|21||wmv (pro raw 9 codec)||0|
TestDisk wasn’t able to recover any video files during our tests.
Document formats recovery
|1||accdb (Microsoft Access 2007+ database file)||0|
|2||djvu (compressed image format)||0|
|3||doc (Microsoft Word 97 – 2003 document file)||0|
|4||docx (Microsoft Word 2007+ document file)||0|
|5||fb2 (FictionBook 2.0 File)||0|
|6||key (Apple Keynote)||0|
|7||mdb (Microsoft Access 97 - 2003 database file)||0|
|8||numbers (Apple Numbers)||0|
|9||odp (OpenOffice presentation file format)||0|
|10||ods (OpenDocument spreadsheet file format)||0|
|11||odt (OpenDocument text document file format)||0|
|12||pages (Apple Pages)||0|
|13||pdf (portable document format)||0|
|14||ppt (Microsoft Powerpoint 97 - 2003 presentation file)||0|
|15||pptx (Microsoft Powerpoint 2007+ presentation file)||0|
|16||rtf (rich text format)||0|
|17||xls (Microsoft Excel 97 - 2003 spreadsheet file)||0|
|18||xlsx (Microsoft Excel 2007+ spreadsheet file)||0|
TestDisk wasn’t able to recover any document files during our tests.
Other notable recovery features
|1||Overall non-intrusive read-only algorithms||0|
|3||Effectively filters out corrupted scan results||0|
|4||Byte-to-byte device backups||5|
|5||Bootable recovery drive creation||0|
|6||Convenient scan session management||2|
|7||Bad sector management||0|
|8||Recovery chance prediction||0|
|10||Disk vitals monitoring and tracking during scan||0|
|12||Links to in-lab recovery service for physically damaged devices||0|
|14||Scan free space only||0|
|15||Start file recovery without interrupting the scan||0|
|16||Preview recoverable items without interrupting the scan||0|
TestDisk doesn’t provide many additional recovery features, but the features it provides are extremely useful. Before you initiate the recovery process, you can create a byte-to-byte device of the entire storage device to cushion the impact of a failed recovery job. On top of its backup capabilities, TestDisk features a powerful RAID reconstructor that can make damaged RAID arrays accessible again.
10 rating criteria
It has become common for data recovery software to come with all sorts of useful extra features to help users manage their files and keep the threat of data loss at bay.
|1||Disk space mapping||No||Not supported|
|2||Disk clean up||No||Not supported|
|3||Corrupted video repair tool||No||Not supported|
|4||Corrupted photo repair tool||No||Not supported|
|6||Duplicate finder||No||Not supported|
|7||Built-in disk space secure eraser||No||Not supported|
|8||Disk cloning||No||Not supported|
|9||Disk surface test||No||Not supported|
|10||Secure data shredding||No||Not supported|
It’s an achievement of monumental proportions for a single software developer to create something as useful and powerful as TestDisk, so we can’t blame Christophe Grenier for focusing on TestDisk’s core capabilities and not including even a single extra feature.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to several frequently asked questions about TestDisk:
What is TestDisk used for?
As explained on its official website, TestDisk is used to recover lost partitions and/or make non-booting disks bootable again.
How does TestDisk work?
TestDisk can recover data by performing partition table recovery and repair, such as by rebuilding FAT12/FAT16/FAT32 boot sectors or rewriting the Master boot record (MBR).
Where can I download TestDisk?
You can download TestDisk on its official website, CGSecurity.
How do I run TestDisk software?
TestDisk is a command-line software application. To run it, open its executable using a terminal emulator.
How to use TestDisk?
TestDisk features a step-by-step recovery and repair process. You can use the arrow keys to choose between multiple options before pressing the Enter key to select.
Can TestDisk recover deleted files?
Yes, TestDisk can recover deleted files but only if the file system contains information about them. After formatting, for example, recovery is no longer possible.
How do I use TestDisk for data recovery?
You can use TestDisk to undelete recently deleted files from FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, ext2, and NTFS filesystems. To do so:
- Launch TestDisk.
- Select the storage device you want to scan.
- Select Advanced.
- Choose the Undelete option.
- Choose the file to recover and press ‘c’ to copy the file.
How good is TestDisk?
TestDisk is an excellent file system recovery and repair tool, but its ability to retrieve deleted files is limited because it can’t find and recover files based on their signatures.
Is TestDisk trustworthy?
Yes, TestDisk is an open-source project developed by Christophe Grenier, a respected software developed based in France.
Does TestDisk have GUI?
No, TestDisk doesn’t have a graphical user interface. The only GUI that’s available is for its sibling application, PhotoRec, and it’s called QPhotoRec.
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David Morelo is a professional content writer with a specialization in data recovery. He spends his days helping users from around the world recover from data loss and address the numerous issues associated with it.
When not writing about data recovery techniques and solutions, he enjoys tinkering with new technology, working on personal projects, exploring the world on his bike, and, above all else, spending time with his family.
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Nikolay Lankevich has over 15 years of strong experience in various fields and platform includes Disaster Recovery, Windows XP/7. System analysis, design, application (Inter/Intranet) development, and testing. Provided technical supports on desktop and laptops on Win-XP and Macintosh for about 2000 employees.