Data Recovery: Everything You Need to Know (and More!)

Data recovery may seem like a complex process, and that’s because it is. The good news is that the best data recovery software and data recovery services can make it approachable and effortless. By the time you’re finished reading this article, you’ll know everything there is to know about paid and free file recovery solutions and be able to select the best one for you.
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What Is Data Recovery?

Let’s start by answering a common question: What is the purpose of data recovery? Simply put, the purpose of data recovery is to restore access to damaged, lost, or otherwise inaccessible files. There are two main types of data recovery:


  • Logical data recovery: This type of data recovery deals with non-mechanical issues, and it relies primarily on various file recovery software applications.
  • Physical data recovery: As the name suggests, this type of data recovery deals with mechanical issues, and it’s typically performed by computer data recovery professionals in dust-free labs.

To choose the right data recovery techniques, you need to understand how logical and physical data loss commonly happen.

  • logical data loss

    Logical data loss can be self-inflected (accidental deletion or formatting), or it can be caused by external factors (system crashes, driver issues). While the term “logical data loss” sounds permanent, the reality is that accidentally deleted or corrupted files can often be recovered without much effort.

  • physical data loss

    Physical data loss can also be self-inflicted (spilled coffee) or caused by external factors (fire, flood, power surge). What all possible causes of physical data loss have in common is that they cause the storage device itself to stop working. A skilled data recovery professional equipped with cutting-edge tools might be able to perform lost data recovery and, but DIY repair attempts seldom yield good results.

Is It Possible to Recover Data for Free?

Yes, depending on the data loss situation you encounter, you might be able to recover files for free using built-in recovery tools in Windows and macOS:
More serious cases of data loss, however, can typically be solved only with the help of specialized computer data recovery software tools. Such tools are available at a variety of different price points, and some are even completely free.

A great example of a free file recovery tool is PhotoRec, a free and open-source utility software for data recovery with a text-based user interface that uses data carving techniques to recover nearly 500 different file extensions.
Photorec Data recovery Tool
While cost-effective, free file recovery tools seldom recover files as reliably and effortlessly as their paid counterparts, such as Disk Drill, which offers 500 MB of lost data recovery and comes with an assortment of useful disk tools to address a variety of problems related to data loss.

Of course, whether it’s possible to recover data for free depends primarily on the underlying cause of data loss. As we’ve explained in the previous section of this page, physically damaged storage devices can seldom be recovered for free at home even with the best paid file recovery software because their repair requires professional tools and clean facilities.
Disk Drill File Recovery Software

Likewise, it’s impossible to recover permanently deleted files that have already been overwritten even though some shady websites promise free online data recovery from USB drives and other storage devices regardless of whether they’ve been overwritten or not. In fact, online data recovery websites should be avoided at all cost since it’s very dangerous to let an unknown person remotely access your device.

Common Causes of Data Loss
(on Different Devices)

No storage device is immune to the risk of data loss, and the consequences of data loss can always be catastrophic. However, all storage devices are affected slightly differently because of how they are used. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between them:
Regardless of which device you use, you may encounter the following types of data loss, and you need to know which method to recover lost files you should use.
Data loss reason Description Solution
🥺 Human error All people make mistakes, and some mistakes lead to data loss. The good news is that such mistakes can usually be recovered from using special data recovery software or native recovery solutions, such as File History in Windows or Time Machine in macOS. Data recovery software
✂️ Formatting A lot can go wrong when you click the “Format” button without double- or triple-checking which storage device you’re about to format. While the instant loss of hundreds or even thousands of files can seem utterly devastating, their recovery usually isn’t any more difficult than the recovery of a single lost file. Data recovery software
🔨 Physical damage Out of all common types of data loss, physical damage is the most difficult to recover from. Why? Because it requires special tools and advanced skills—something most regular users don’t have. Data recovery service
🦠 Malware Experts estimate that thousands of new strains of malware are released every day. While some malware is relatively innocent and more annoying than dangerous, you may also encounter sophisticated ransomware capable of completely blocking access to important files or deleting them altogether. Data recovery software
💽 Hardware failure Storage devices have advanced leaps and bounds during the last decade alone, but they’re still far from perfect, especially when it comes to their reliability. A single faulty resistor can cause your entire hard drive to become unreadable and impossible to recover at home. Data recovery service
⚙️ Software corruption Modern software applications can do all kinds of wonderful things, but they are far from perfect. In fact, the more complex software applications become, the more bugs they can hide. In extreme cases, software bugs may even corrupt important files and make them inaccessible. Data recovery software
😈 Theft As far as data loss threats go, computer or device theft assumes a special status because you can’t really recover data from a device you no longer have. That’s why the prevention of data loss using local or cloud backups is so important. Local or cloud backups

Best Tools to Recover Deleted Files Online

There’s no shortage of tools to recover deleted files on the internet, but which of them are worth your time and money? To answer this question, you need to pay attention to the following factors when comparing multiple available tools:
Compatibility
Compatibility
You need to select a tool that’s compatible not only with the storage device from which you want to recover lost files but also with your operating system. After all, even the best Mac tool won’t help you much if you’re a Windows user and don’t have access to any computer running macOS.
File format support
File format support
If you need to recover, let’s say, lost images from your computer, then you should pick a tool that supports as many image file formats as possible. Better yet, pick a tool that supports all commonly used image, video, audio, and document file formats. That way, you can address all data loss scenarios you may possibly encounter with a single tool.
Performance
Performance
Naturally, the best tools to recover deleted files should be able to actually deliver the results they promise and reliably recover all deleted files. Unfortunately, developers often promise too much but deliver too little, so reading online reviews written by real users and professional reviewers alike should always be an integral part of your selection process.
Features
Features
Some features can make it much easier to recover deleted files. For example, it’s extremely handy to be able to preview recoverable files while they’re still technically deleted. Why? Because you can then select only the files you really want to get back and leave everything else behind.
Customer support
Customer support
You wouldn’t purchase a new car without knowing that there are professional mechanics ready to address any issue you could possibly encounter while owning it, and you shouldn’t purchase a data recovery tool that doesn’t come with at least one customer support channel because no software is perfect and completely free of bugs.
Pricing
Pricing
Unless you have a bottomless bank account, you should always strive to get the best value for your money possible. If you need to recover deleted files on a regular basis, then you should definitely avoid subscription-based tools since they always end up costing you more money than tools with a lifetime license option.
Just keep in mind that all data loss scenarios are different, so your needs and preferences may not be the same as the ones we at 7 Data Recovery are guided by. That’s why you should always do your own research and use articles such as this one as guides—not rules.
To help you get started, we at 7 Data Recovery have selected the best tools for different operating systems and ranked them according to the above-described ranking factors:

What Do You Need to Start the Data Recovery Process?

Here’s everything you need to start the data recovery process:
Data recovery from any device
The storage device from which you want to recover lost files (HDD, SSD, Flash Drive, SD, etc.).
A way of connecting the storage device
A way of connecting the storage device to your computer (memory card reader, USB cable, etc.).
Data recovery software application
Data recovery software application to perform the actual lost data recovery (Disk Drill, Photorec, etc.).
Sounds simple, right? That’s because starting the data recovery process is anything but complicated. What’s somewhat more complicated is successfully recovering all lost files. For that to happen, you must avoid writing any data to the storage device from which you want to recover lost files until you have restored them to a safe location.

Why? Because lost files can be recovered only when they’re still physically present on the storage device. By writing new data to the same storage device, you risk overwriting the very same files you want to undelete, which is akin to scraping old paint off a wall and painting it a new color. Even if some traces of the old paint remain, they won’t be enough to recreate the original paint job.

To put it simply: you need to stop whatever you’re doing and begin the data recovery process as soon as possible to maximize your chance of successful recovery. The same holds true if you decide to leave everything up to professionals and ship your storage device to a data recovery service.

Data Recovery Services

The fact is that not all cases of data loss can be addressed at home using various DIY file recovery solutions. Why not? Because such solutions can be used only with working storage devices. If your storage device is broken, water-damaged, or otherwise faulty, you won’t be able to scan it and recover any files from it until you repair the damage, which is where professional data recovery services (also called data retrieval services and data recovery companies) come in.
Data recovery companies such as Data Recovery Center by CleverFiles employ trained professionals who understand the ins and outs of data recovery and have access to state-of-the-art equipment, making it possible for them to address even the most gruesome physical damage.

While the services of data recovery professionals don’t come cheap (which is why they’re often used by larger organizations and not individuals), they are not nearly as expensive as many people think they are. The best data recovery companies have a “no data, no charge” policy, so you don’t have to worry about spending hundreds of hours on computer data recovery services or phone data recovery services without actually recovering any files.
Data Recovery Services

How to Find Best Data Recovery Services Near Me?

To select the best local data recovery services available near your location, consider the following selection criteria:
Free evaluation Free evaluation: The last thing you want is to spend hundreds of dollars just to learn that your storage device is impossible to recover, so avoid data recovery services that don’t offer a free evaluation. Better yet, choose a data recovery service that charges its customers only for recovered data.
Success rate Success rate: The reality is that not all data recovery jobs have a happy ending. Sometimes, the lost data are simply too corrupted to be recoverable, or there is some unlucky turn of events that causes the data recovery attempt to go south. The best data recovery services have a success rate of around 98 percent, so that’s the number you should look for.
Shipping options Shipping options: Unless you’re lucky enough to live close to one of the best data recovery companies in the country, you should look for services that let you ship your storage device to them via mail.
Technology Technology: Naturally, you want to select a data recovery service with best-in-class equipment, clean facilities, and expertly trained professionals capable of addressing even the most complicated cases of data loss. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to call the data recovery center and ask them for more information about their tools and processes.
Customer reviews Customer reviews: Online reviews can tell you a lot about the performance and attitude of a data recovery service, so read them whenever you get a chance. Just know that fake positive reviews are just as common as exaggerated negative ones, so don’t blindly trust everything you read.

How Much Does Data Recovery Cost?

Calculating the cost of data recovery can be tricky because the final sum will greatly depend on the selected approach

DIY recovery ($0–$300)

The cost of hard drive data recovery with DIY software solutions starts at $0 for free applications developed by enthusiasts, and it ends at around $300 for more expensive versions of paid software solutions.

Professional recovery ($300–$2,000+)

If you decide to hire professionals to recover your data, expect to pay at least $300 for a simple data recovery job and as much as several thousand for a more complicated one. Because data recovery services prices can vary so greatly, you should always ask for a data recovery cost estimate before you initiate a work order. Needless to say that you can save money by choosing cheap data recovery services or affordable data recovery services, but you risk recovering only a small portion of your data.
Professional recovery
Other factors that influence professional data recovery costs include the amount of data to be recovered, the type of storage device, the presence of encryption, or the desired turnaround time.

Generally, data recovery services are always way more expensive than data recovery software, so it’s worth attempting DIY recovery before contacting professionals. Better still, regularly back up all important data to a safe location so that you can recover it for free should the worst happen.

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated on by Disk Drill Team
There are two main types of data recovery: logical and physical. Logical data recovery is performed using data recovery software, and it works because deleted files remain in their original locations until they are overwritten by new files. While you can’t see them from Windows or macOS, data recovery software can still detect them and undelete them.

Physical recovery, on the other hand, is centered around the repair of various physical faults and damage that are preventing the affected storage device from being accessible. This type of data recovery requires expensive equipment and highly specialized skills, which is why it’s not usually performed at home. Read our in-depth article for more information on how data recovery works.
With the best paid and free data recovery solutions, the recovery of multiple gigabytes of data can take just a few minutes—it all depends on the size of your storage device, its speed, and the kinds and number of files you want to recover.

Data recovery services are, understandably, much slower. Even if you pay extra for expedited recovery, the whole process will most likely take at least a few days since you can’t really speed up shipment times too much.
Data recovery isn’t actually all that expensive! There are quite a few reliable free data recovery software tools that can recover all kinds of permanently deleted files without costing a single dollar, and even their paid counterparts rarely cost more than $100 per license.

Data recovery services start at around $300, which is a fair price to pay for the recovery of irreplaceable family pictures from a broken memory card or an important business document from a USB flash drive.
To do data recovery, you simply need to download data recovery software and use it to scan your storage device—no special skills or equipment are necessary! If you choose the right software, the whole process should be effortless and intuitive.
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