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Well... I'd really appreciate your help on this one. It's like this: someone decided to reinstall Windows on his PC, but did not make any backups, and there are a lot of things (well... photos, mainly) he would like to recover from the previous installation of the OS. It's been done less than one month ago.

I'd like you to recommend me a program I could use in order to recover the data for that person. The thing is, I'd like it to be free (or at least, trial), or at least, not very expensive (as I'd rather not pay $70 for something I'm going to use 30 minutes a year...). I'm going to give it a shot tomorrow, with the following programs:

Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery

DiskInternals Uneraser

Disk Doctors Suite

Have you got any other suggestions? Thanks in advance!

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4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Recuva it's free and is a good first try. You should tell him not to use the system or even boot it up as each write potentially destroys data. The standard procedure is to image the drive from a read only mount and work from that image. Though if you're just trying to pull files you can mount the drive read only and just work from that.

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Thanks, Recuva is exactly what I was looking for. I've managed to do what I wanted to do using it. I'm definitely keeping a copy of it on my memory stick. Thanks a lot! –  XLR3204S Nov 29 '09 at 14:47

It's not how long you use it for, it's how much the data is worth that determines how much the software is worth to you. Personally, I'd call it a lesson in making backups and move on with my life, but if you're the "Don Quixote" type, and you're really only after the images, give scalpel a go. It scans the disk looking for headers and footers from images, and pieces them back together.

If that can't find much, then the data's been overwritten, and if you want to get it back it's time to ship the drive off to a company that can read the residual cruft off the edge of the tracks to recover the data. If you think $70 is too much, though, you'll have a heart attack at the prices these places charge. It's five figures just to look at the thing, regardless of whether they find anything or not.

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If you really want to try something free, you can try Rescue Is Possible and run testdisk to see if that can recover the partition. It's not pretty, it's not simple, but it may recover the partition that was erased.

Rescue Is Possible is a Linux ISO to burn and boot. Log in as root, then run testdisk at the command prompt. Testing won't hurt anything...making changes could do some damage.

Otherwise, really, your best bet is to ship it off to a recovery company. But if you're aiming for free recovery and think software alternatives are causing deep breaths, those companies will make your ticker explode.

There is also a photo recovery program on RIP but the I can't recall the name off the top of my head...

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For forensic recovery of files: Foremost

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