Is Free Data Recovery Software Safe?

Sadly, due to the sheer amount of data we store in the digital era, it’s inevitable that some of it will get lost at some point. While there are lots of great free data recovery programs out there, it’s best to tread with care if you want to keep your data safe. 

The internet is a bottomless pit of advice and tutorials for people wishing to undertake data recovery at home, and not all of it is sensible. Generally, using data recovery software is safer than undertaking a physical data recovery that involves opening your hard drive and removing internal parts. Using software is normally the first step panicking users take when confronted with data loss, and while there are many great free data recovery programs out there, you should still exercise caution when using them. If you install and run the software on the disk that you’re attempting to retrieve data from, there’s a chance you could permanently lose your files due to the data being overwritten. This is an incredibly common problem, and can make the difference between getting your data back or not. You should always install data recovery software to an external storage device, like a USB drive or portable hard drive.

When you delete a file from a hard drive or other device, they’re not gone forever. Your operating system keeps pointers that tell it where data is stored and how much space it has taken. When you delete a file, the pointers are removed, making the file seemingly disappear and the portion of the drive marked as free. But as long as new data is written to this portion of the drive, data recovery can still be undertaken. The tongue-in-cheek ‘turn it off and on again’ solution to all computer problems can actually make the situation worse. Ideally, to ensure the maximum chance of a successful data recovery by a professional, you need to power down the drive completely, and not power it up again. When your machine is on, your operating system will constantly write data to the hard drive – driver updates, virus and malware scans, OS updates etc. The longer your drive is powered up and connected to your machine, the greater the chance of your machine overwriting the portion of the drive containing your lost data.

In short, you really need to be careful when using data recovery software downloaded from the internet. While there are many powerful tools to recover your data out there, you can sometimes make the problem worse and lose your data permanently. It really depends on the nature of the data; if the files you need are precious, you’re safer leaving the data recovery to the professionals.

Data Recovery