Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Recover deleted files with Handy Recovery 4.0

Did it ever happen to you that you threw away stuff you thought you would never need and then later wished that you haven't? I bet you did. The same thing can happen to data on your hard disk. You might delete files thinking it to be unnecessary and then ... oops!.. that was your client's business contract! Mistakes happen, they always do. Avoiding such accidental deletion might be a little difficult, but keeping a data recovery software close at hand isn't.

So today I'm going to do a review of such a data recovery software from Softlogica called Handy Recovery, currently at version 4.0. At first let's take a look at the user interface.

The interface is extremely minimal, perhaps not to scare away timid users. It displays just the basic buttons like analyze, recover, filter etc. The surprising thing is: those are the only buttons. There is almost no configuration settings, no user options, no small tweaks and settings to enhance it's operation. Everything that has to be there is enabled by default and no way to turn them off. Install it and use; forget about settings and concentrate on the data recovering task at hand.

To recover files, at first you have to select a hard drive partition from a drop down list and click "Analyze". It immediately starts scanning the partition and at the same time starts displaying a list of folders and files that it has found. Each of the deleted files are tagged by a recovery probability that displays an estimate of the chances of recovering that particular file. Files are tagged with good, average and poor. Poor is their way of saying - "forget it". The time taken to scan will vary depending upon the number of files you have on the partition. The more the files you have the higher the time required. If your partition is formatted in NTFS, at first it will perform a quick scan and display the files it was able to identify. If the desired file is not in the list then you can perform an extended analysis where it will perform a detailed scan of the drive and try to identify files whose file information was lost or partially overwritten by other files. At the end it will display the deleted files neatly categorized into sections like images, office documents, media files etc. If your partition is formatted in FAT32, it goes directly into extended analysis mode. I'm not sure why the difference, but probably it has got to do with the inherent difference between the way files are stored in FAT32 and NTFS partitions.

Handy Recovery scan results

To test some of the other features I created a 10 GB NTFS partition on my hard disk and copied an assortment of files on to it. Next I deleted some of the files I copied and then copied some new files. After a number of copy-delete-copy operations with the hope of overwriting some of the deleted files, I ran Handy Recovery and it was quickly able to identify the files I deleted. I then quick formatted the drive and ran the program again. Again it was able to identify and recover the deleted files quite easily. That was good, but let me see you recover from a full formatted drive. So I formatted the drive once again and this time I did a full format and choose FAT32 (originally NTFS) to break up the clusters. Once more I ran Handy Recovery and waited till it finished scanning. Guess what? It still managed to find my files. The only difference is, this time it lost the file names and the directory structure but the files were intact. 

But I wasn't done yet. Handy Recovery has to pass one more test before I can give a verdict. This time I deleted the partition. I launched Handy Recovery once again and clicked on the "Find Partition" button. Before it started scanning the entire drive it gave me some options. I can choose to scan the entire hard disk or only a part of it, the start and end points can be indicated by means of two sliders. I moved the slider to the part I knew the partition was to save time and ran the program. Sure enough, it identified the deleted partition and so did all the files.

Handy Recovery found my lost partition! Hurray!

Handy Recovery has another extremely useful feature of creating a disk image of the drive, saving it and then recovering files from the image file. So you can make a disk image and save the image for later recovery.

Handy Recovery was impressive. It never failed to recover files that were deleted, recovered files from formatted partitions and identified partitions that were deleted. I reckon it will be able to recover files from crashed hard disks too, but I had no way of testing that. The product is priced at a competitive $39 for a single user license, which is a good $30 ~ $40 cheaper than most hard disk recovery software. Now comes the big question: Does it make sense to buy a disk recovery software when there are freeware alternatives available? In one word, Yes! I can say that with conviction because I have tested these free data recovery software myself. Believe me, non of them really works. There are too many limitations - some don't support NTFS, some can't recover formatted partition, some can't even identify deleted partition, let alone recovering files from them. When your precious data is at stake, don't rely on these freewares. Get a good commercial data recovery software, and Handy Recovery is certainly one worth considering.

You can download a 30 days trial version of the software to try. However, the evaluation version is limited to recovering only 1 file per day. All registered users of Handy Recovery versions 2.x/3.x can upgrade to 4.0 free of charge.


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