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Before Using Data Recovery Software, Read This

June 22, 2022

At, we’re not opposed to data recovery software. We use software in our laboratories (although most of our software is proprietary, and we always take precautions to safeguard the original copy of our clients’ data before making any recovery attempt). 

We also recognize that millions of consumers have successfully used consumer-oriented data recovery software to retrieve important files. If you have a fairly simple data loss scenario — for example, you accidentally deleted a file, then turned your computer off immediately after recognizing your mistake — software can be an effective solution. 

Even so, we typically tell our clients not to use data recovery software. This is a pragmatic position, not a business position: We’d rather lose potential customers to one of our competitors than find out that they lost data permanently. 

And unfortunately, data recovery software has a high potential to cause permanent data loss when used incorrectly. This usually occurs when a consumer makes a simple mistake:

  • Installing the data recovery software on the same hard drive (or other device) where data loss occurred, which overwrites the lost data
  • Operating data recovery software on a physically damaged device, which exacerbates the physical damage
  • Using software that isn’t designed for the user’s file system 
  • Using software that isn’t capable of addressing the data loss scenario

If you’ve lost data, the safest course of action is to get a media evaluation from a credentialed data recovery provider. Generally, if data is easily recoverable with software alone, the cost of the service will be low — at our laboratories, the cost of the return media would be the most expensive component of the bill — and a professional provider will take steps to prevent any chance of permanent data loss.

A Three-Step Data Recovery Software Checklist

With all of that said, if you’ve decided to use data recovery software, we want to help you avoid common mistakes. Before starting your recovery, make sure you can answer “yes” to all of these statements.

1. I’ve read the data recovery software’s documentation. 

Different software works…well, differently. Read the full product documentation before using — or even installing — your software. Make sure that you understand the product’s limitations, and make sure you know how to adjust the settings to recover your target files.

We do not recommend any specific applications designed for data recovery. However, the Reddit /r/datarecovery community has helpful suggestions and guidance for different types of data loss scenarios, and we recommend reading product reviews and other resources before making a decision.

2. My data storage device does not show symptoms of physical damage.

Software can’t fix hardware issues. Running data recovery software on a physically damaged device isn’t good practice — at best, the software will fail to recover your data. At worst, the software will make the physical damage much worse.

Common signs of physical damage for hard drives can include:

  • Clicking sounds, whirring sounds, or other unusual noises
  • Your computer cannot recognize the device (“Device Not Found” errors)
  • Extremely slow operation
  • File corruption or bad sectors

Related: How Can I Tell If My Hard Drive Is Broken?

While solid-state drives (SSD) and flash media may not exhibit physical symptoms, those devices can suffer from physical failures. Put simply, if you can’t point to a clear event that preceded the failure (for instance, “I deleted a file”), you can’t rule out the possibility of a physical issue. 

3. I’ve installed data recovery software on a secondary device.

Never install data recovery software on the target device. In other words, if you accidentally deleted files from your primary hard drive, you’ll need to install software on another computer, then hook up the hard drive as a secondary storage device. 

This might sound like an obvious tip, but it’s a common cause of permanent data loss. When you install data recovery software on the target device, you risk overwriting data — and in most cases, the data is unrecoverable. 

Exercise caution when using data recovery software

If all of these statements are applicable to your case, you can try using data recovery software — but if you’d rather not risk potential data loss, we’re here to help. offers a no data, no charge policy for all hard drive failure scenarios, which provides peace of mind as your case progresses. Each of our full-service laboratories is outfitted with industry-leading technology to ensure high success rates, low recovery costs, and fast turnaround times.

Contact us today at 1-800-237-4200 or fill out our online case form to schedule a free evaluation.