6 Data Recovery Tools for SD Cards, USB Drives

6 SD Cards, USB Drives Data Recovery ToolsAs USB drives and memory cards get larger and cheaper, it’s getting easier to trust much more of your data to them. It’s also much easier to mistakenly erase data or have them hiccup on you. And if you’re in the habit of holding on to that data for too long — for example, not transferring photos from your camera’s memory card — disaster is almost guaranteed to strike at some point. What happens then?

While there’s no end of data recovery tool packages out there, most of them are primarily designed to reclaim data from system drives. In this roundup, I look at the following six packages in terms of how well they recover data from mobile storage such as flash drives and memory cards: CardRecovery, PhotoRec, Recover My Files, Recuva, Remo Recover and Undelete 360.

  • CardRecovery
    WinRecovery Software
    Price: $39.95
    OS: Windows 98 and later. (CardRescue available for Mac OS X)
  • PhotoRec
    Christophe Grenier
    Price: Free
    OS: DOS, Windows 98 and later, Mac OS X, Linux (2.4 /2.6 kernel)
  • Recover My Files
    Price: $69.95 (Standard); $99.95 (Pro); $299 (Technician). Free trial available (only previews files)
    OS: Windows 98 and later
  • Recuva
    Price: Free; home ($24.95) and business ($34.95) support available
    OS: Windows XP and later
  • Remo Recover (Windows)
    Remo Software
    Price: $39 (Basic); $49 (Media); $99 (Pro). Free trial available (only previews files)
    OS: Windows 98 and later. Versions available for Mac OS X.
  • Undelete 360
    File Recovery
    Price: Free
    OS: Windows 2000 and later

Undelete 360 worked best when dealing with recently deleted files, but anything more ambitious than that (e.g., quick-formatted media) was beyond it. CardRecovery’s biggest limitation was the limited range of file types it handles: It’s designed mainly to recover files created by cameras and almost nothing else.

Recover My Files may be costly, but I liked its tunable scan function; its professional-level support for devices like RAID drives may come in handy. Remo Recover is functionally similar to Recover My Files, but it turned up a high number of false positives during testing.

The biggest surprise was how two of the best programs cost nothing to use. While PhotoRec was the least novice-friendly — its text-only interface could scare off the uninitiated and its documentation is spotty — it was also one of the most powerful. Recuva was likewise quite strong and wasn’t lacking any functionality in its free version.

Serdar Yegulalp has been writing about computers and information technology for a variety of publications for more than 15 years.