TestDisk Review – Can This Repair Tool Recover Lost Files?
Out of 5 Total Score
No. 16 Among all Windows solutions
TestDisk is one of the most misunderstood data recovery tools because it doesn’t focus on individual files but on entire partitions and the numerous potential issues associated with them. Despite this, many Windows users have attempted to use it to recover lost documents, videos, photos, and other files, and this review evaluates TestDisk through this lens.
Completely free. You do not need to buy a license to restore files. TestDisk is completely free.
Open source. The application is open source, so you can review and even modify its source code.
Portable. You don’t have to install the software to use it.
Lightweight. TestDisk runs well even on very old computers because it doesn’t require much processing power and RAM.
Supports raw and dismounted disks. The program can scan disks that don’t have a file system and can’t be mounted.
Recovers lost file systems. In many cases, TestDisk can recover lost file systems by repairing the underlying issue.
Specialized. TestDisk focuses on the repair of logically damaged storage devices to help users recover lost partitions, and you would be hard-pressed to find another tool (especially free one) that can recover lost partitions and make disk bootable again better.
Multi-platform. You can run TestDisk on all major operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and macOS.
Included in bootable recovery and repair tools. TestDisk is included in such popular bootable recovery and repair tools as Hiren's BootCD.
Can fix an operating system that won't boot. Issues with the operating system not booting properly are often caused by file system damage affecting the master boot record, and you have a good chance to fix it with TestDisk.
Slow speed of scanning and recovery. The application is very slow, and you can expect to wait more than 24 hours for a scan to finish and your files to be recovered.
Complicated command-line user interface. The command-line user interface is intimidating and takes some time to get used to.
Manual step-by-step scanning process. To scan a storage device using TestDisk, you need to go through a series of steps in order to select the storage device and configure important scan parameters. Unless you know exactly what you’re doing, it can be easy to get confused.
Destructive recovery. TestDisk in some cases writes data directly to the disk that’s being repaired or recovered. As such, an unsuccessful recovery can lead to even more damage.
No technical support. The application is a one-man project, and the only place you can get technical support is the official forum, but there’s no guarantee that your questions will receive replies.
Can’t restore data after formatting. It’s impossible to recover data after formatting using TestDisk because the software focuses on file system repair.
No signature scanner. TestDisk doesn’t contain a signature scanner component, so it can’t recover files whose file system references have been deleted or damaged.
Rarely updated. The developer of TestDisk doesn’t release updates for its software often.
Source selection. The average user may find it difficult to do something as basic as selecting the right source for scanning.
Poor usability. The command-line user interface of TestDisk doesn’t let you filter scan results or search and preview specific files, resulting in poor usability.
No S.M.A.R.T. support. The application can’t show the heath of connected storage devices because it doesn’t support S.M.A.R.T. monitoring.
Lack of hints. Some options provided by TestDisk are not easy to understand, and the application doesn’t provide hints to make them clearer.
|Free version available|
|Free version details|
|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% 165.2% 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 50.8% 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 market
GlobalSP, 78 rue la Condamine, 75017 PARIS, France
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.
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.
TestDisk for Windows – Tutorials and Other Videos
To better understand how TestDisk works, check out the videos below:
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.
More than 6 months
Available (View full update history)
|4||Latest Windows release supported|
Yes, all good
|5||Genuine or clone?|
|6||Brand name popularity|
|7||Online market share|
|9||Extensive knowledge base|
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.
|4||Is it free?|
|6||Unlimited recovery in full version|
|8||Commercial rights in the cheapest license|
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|
|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|
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||Clever in-depth scan|
|TestDisk is unable to perform a Clever in-depth scan.|
|TestDisk can undelete files from FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, ext2, and NTFS filesystems.|
|3||Other types of scan|
|No other scan types are supported.|
|Commonly used storage devices are supported.|
|5||Real-life recovery challenge|
|6||Other notable recovery features|
|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|
|3||Windows shadow copies scanning|
|4||Scan for lost partitions|
|5||Recovered files' labeling|
|6||Partial file recovery|
|7||Disk images: scan and recovery|
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|
|2||Internal and external SSD|
|3||USB thumb drives / Classic iPods (non-iOS) / FireWire devices|
|7||Recovery from RAID1, 0, JBOD|
Real-life recovery challenges
|1||Raw photo recovery|
|2||Video formats recovery|
|3||Document 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)|
TestDisk wasn’t able to recover any raw photo files during our tests.
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)|
TestDisk wasn’t able to recover any video files during our tests.
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)|
TestDisk wasn’t able to recover any document files during our tests.
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|
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.
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|
|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|
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:
As explained on its official website, TestDisk is used to recover lost partitions and/or make non-booting disks bootable again.
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).
TestDisk is a command-line software application. To run it, open its executable using a terminal emulator.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, TestDisk is an open-source project developed by Christophe Grenier, a respected software developed based in France.
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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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Houston, Texas, United States
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.