Using these free data recovery tools should not be required if you use proper backup techniques. Storage is cheap these days, so there is no excuse for not backing up your data.
If you have ever lost precious files you will know how much it can hurt. It doesn't matter if it is holiday snaps, annual accounts or the project you've been working on 24/7 for the past month. An effective backup strategy is the best data recovery tool you can have, but what happens when you don't have a backup? That is where these tools come in handy.
There is never a 100% guarantee when you get to data recovery, there are many variables to take into account such as the type of storage, the file system used, how long ago the file was lost and so on. These tools should give you the best chance of recovering your lost or deleted files.
Do not install software on the same drive as deleted files as you can overwrite the data. In fact, if the data was lost from your Windows drive or boot device then it is much safer to remove the drive from the computer or laptop and plug it into another. You never know when Windows will download that update and overwrite your data.
With that said, the free data recovery tools in this article are free to download, use and recover files. Some "free" applications will scan and inform you that files can be recovered for a price, these are not considered to be free. All of these tools (at the time of writing) are 100% completely free to recover data.
Data Recovery Tools for Windows and Linux
Brought to us by the team behind CCleaner, Recuva can recover pictures, music, documents, videos, emails or any other file type you've lost. And it can recover from any rewriteable media you have - memory cards, external hard drives, USB sticks and more!
For those hard to find files, Recuva has an advanced deep scan mode that scours your drives to find any traces of files you have deleted.
Recuva can run on Windows 10, 8, 8.1, 7, and Vista.Download Recuva
With the slightly dated looks of a typical "XP" Microsoft Office application due to a ribbon-style toolbar and blue colour theme, Undelete 360 is built on a fast yet efficient algorithm which enables the user to undelete files.
Undelete 360 can recover files deleted from computer hard drives, USB/thumb drives and memory sticks, the memory cards used in cameras, smartphones, and other devices, pen drives, and more. The program supports both file recovery and folder recovery.
Despite the author's claims of being built on "a very fast and efficient algorithm", scanning speed needs major improvement and this tool also lags out its competition in terms of recovering data. In fact, a full scan of my C: drive took over two hours with no apparent options or filtering by file type or search location.
Undelete 360 can run on Windows 10, 8, 8.1, 7, and Vista.Download Undelete360
DM Disk Editor and Data Recovery
DMDE is one of the most feature-rich data recovery software applications on this list, and that isn't necessarily a good thing. There are so many options to configure it can be confusing for novice users but it does recover files successfully and provides a guide on how to use the application.
DMDE can be run on Windows 10, 8, 8.1, 7, and Vista, DOS, Linux and macOS.Download DMDE
Data Recovery Tools for Android
Your data is the most valuable thing on your Android device, so it's important to be able to safely and securely recover it when you need to.
Data lost on the SD card can be recovered using any of the tolls above by removing the card and inserting it into a card reader. Unfortunately, this is not quite so easy for the internal memory, or if you cannot remove the SD card.
First, check your cloud backups - Google and Apple both have options to store photos, videos, messages, contacts etc in the cloud. Check Google Photos app or iCloud for files which you can recover.
If you don't have any cloud backups, these tools will help you recover lost or deleted data from Android smartphones and tablets.
DiskDigger Photo Recovery
DiskDigger can undelete and recover lost photos and images from your memory card or internal memory. No rooting necessary! Whether you accidentally deleted a photo or even reformatted your memory card, DiskDigger's powerful data recovery features can find your lost pictures and let you restore them.
Best of all, you can upload your recovered files directly to Google Drive, Dropbox, or send them via email so that you aren't overwriting any data during the recovery process.Download DiskDigger
Primo Android Data Recovery
With Primo Android Data Recovery you are able to recover valuable data such as Messages, Attachments, Photos, Contacts, Call Logs, and more from Android devices.
With no device rooting requirements, Quick Scan extracts files from Android devices and saves to your computer. Deep Scan mode ensures a high rate of recovery to find & recover the lost and even hidden files on your Android phones & tablets however it requires root.Download Primo Android Data Recovery
Advanced Data Recovery Tools
TestDisk is an open source program which was created with the aim to get back lost partitions and fix non-booting disks. Packed with features and a file recovery system that can easily overshadow that of any other data recovery software, TestDisk has a lot to offer for both novices and experts.
The interface is not the most user-friendly, but it does pack the most feature-rich set of data recovery tools available.
This free data recovery program tries to detect partitions and file entries on its own. The deeper scan for deleted/damaged partitions obviously needs more time.
TestDisk can run on Windows 10, 8, 8.1, 7, Vista, XP, and older versions of Windows, Linux, BSD, macOS, and DOS.Download TestDisk
PhotoRec is widely acclaimed for its powerful file recovery over a wide variety of devices ranging from digital cameras to hard disks. It's specially created to recover data like pictures, videos, documents, etc., from hard disks, CD-ROMs.
PhotoRec ignores the file system and goes after the underlying data, so it will still work even if your media's file system has been severely damaged or reformatted.
PhotoRec is a companion program to TestDisk, an application for recovering lost partitions on a wide variety of file systems and making non-bootable disks bootable again.
PhotoRec recovery can run on Windows 10, 8, 8.1, 7, Vista, XP, and older versions of Windows, Linux, BSD, macOS, and DOS.Download PhotoRec
Prevention is better than cure, as they say, so putting backups in place is the best way of ensuring you can always recover lost or deleted files and don't have to rely on free data recovery tools. Not much use if your files are already gone, admittedly, but it's worth learning from this mistake and start backing up for the future.