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Common Problems with Disk Drill Data Recovery Software

April 5, 2023

Disk Drill is a (mostly) free data recovery utility for Windows and Mac OS X operating systems. The software claims to be able to recover files from “virtually any storage device,” including internal hard disk drives (HDDs), solid-state drives (SSDs), USB drives, virtual hard drives, RAID arrays, and more.

At, we do not endorse data recovery software. Running software can cause additional damage, particularly if your storage media has lost data due to a physical issue (such as a hard drive head crash or printed circuit board failure). 

However, we’re realistic — we know that most consumers would rather recover data themselves, and while we strongly recommend seeking a risk-free media evaluation before trying software, we recognize that this isn’t always practical guidance. 

In this article, we’ll explain how Disk Drill works and review some common issues that may prevent the software from recovering data.

If you’ve encountered issues when using Disk Drill, here’s the good news: Your files may still be recoverable. We provide free evaluations, and every case is supported with our no data, no charge guarantee — if we cannot recover your files, you do not pay for the attempt. 

Call us at 1-800-237-4200 or submit a case online to get started. 

Disk Drill’s Data Recovery Capabilities: An Overview

Disk Drill is not intended as a professional data recovery tool — it’s designed for consumers, and it features an intuitive user interface and simple controls. 

That simplicity comes with a tradeoff, of course; the software has limited capabilities for treating data corruption, particularly for multimedia files. With that said, it may be effective for treating certain data loss scenarios including:

  • Deleted files on hard drives and other non-flash storage media.
  • Minor file corruption caused by software crashes or operating system crashes.
  • Minor corruption issues in virtual hard drive images (VHD and VHDX formats). 

Disk Drill also includes utilities for tracking hard drive health. Users will be prompted to back up their data if the software detects unreadable areas on an HDD (of course, you should always back up your data — learn how to avoid common backup mistakes). 

Disadvantages of Disk Drill Data Recovery Software

While Disk Drill is intuitive, the free version of the software has several significant limitations:

  • Users can only recover 500 megabytes (MB) of data with a free license.
  • Disk Drill supports raw media formats, but may have issues recovering compressed images and videos.
  • Disk Drill does not support data recovery over a network. 
  • While Disk Drill has a YouTube channel with how-to videos, we couldn’t find any phone contact information for direct support.
  • Like all data recovery programs, Disk Drill cannot recover data from physically damaged media. 
  • Running data recovery software on a damaged HDD or SSD may cause additional damage.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’ve encountered some of these limitations. Below, we’ll discuss a few scenarios where Disk Drill might not be effective. 

When Disk Drill Isn’t Enough for Data Recovery

Disk Drill is most useful for recovering small numbers of deleted files in uncompressed formats. It cannot recover data in every scenario — and in certain circumstances, it can make data loss worse by contributing to file corruption or HDD platter damage. 

Scored disk platter trench

A hard drive’s platters with severe damage.

This is true for every data recovery application, but consumer-oriented software may be especially dangerous. Most computer users cannot identify the symptoms of physical media damage, and running Disk Drill (or any other data recovery application) on a failing drive will cause damage.

Disk Drill is unlikely to successfully recover data in these scenarios: 

  • Deleted data on solid-state drives and flash media.
  • Hard drive head crashes, spindle failures, and printed circuit board (PCB) failures.
  • File damage due to a virus or ransomware.
  • Extensive file corruption.

Once again, we strongly recommend seeking professional assistance to maximize your chances of a successful recovery. Disk Drill is perfectly fine for dealing with certain types of data loss, but it’s not a magic bullet.

Related: Logical Data Loss Vs. Physical Data Loss

Disk Drill’s “Recovery Chances” Aren’t Always Accurate

After a quick installation, Disk Drill can scan through storage media and provide “recovery chances” for target files. 

These “recovery chances” are estimates based on Disk Drill’s capabilities for handling corruption with specific file formats. In simple terms, data corruption occurs when software fails to write data correctly — and if the file is fairly large or compressed, data recovery software is generally less capable of repairing the damage.

It’s important to note that data recovery software has a limited ability to analyze the overall health of the storage device. If a hard drive has failed physically, Disk Drill may report a high “recovery chance,” but the drive would need professional repair before recovery would be possible. 

How Disk Drill Can Contribute to Data Loss

If you decide to use Disk Drill, follow the instructions carefully. Data recovery software may contribute to file corruption, and by extensively scanning HDDs, Disk Drill may even exacerbate certain physical issues like head crashes and spindle failures. 

To limit the chances of file damage, follow these tips:

  • Always install data recovery software on a separate computer, then connect the target storage media to that computer. Don’t run Disk Drill (or any other program) from the computer that contains the target data.
  • If you’ve accidentally deleted files, turn your computer off immediately. Don’t worry about a safe shutdown process — unplug it from the wall. Computers write data while operating, and the deleted files may be overwritten quickly. 
  • Never run Disk Drill if your hard drive makes unusual noises, fails to boot, or if you notice any other potential symptoms of physical failure.
  • Do not use data recovery software if your device is infected with viruses, malware, or ransomware.
  • Take “recovery chances” estimates with a grain of salt. These estimates are not reliable in many situations.

If Disk Drill fails to recover your data, don’t worry too much — but get your device to a professional data recovery provider as soon as possible. operates full-service laboratories at every location, and every case is protected with our no data, no charge guarantee.

Related: Before Using Data Recovery Software, Read This

Is Disk Drill a good option for data recovery?

Only for cases that involve minor data corruption or accidental file deletion. If your device has any symptoms of a physical failure — or if you absolutely need the data, and cannot accept a chance of permanent data loss — we would not recommend Disk Drill. 

We’re not picking on Disk Drill, specifically, but we don’t use it in our laboratories. Professional data recovery technicians use specialized software to repair files, and those applications have a fairly high learning curve. They’re also more powerful, especially when addressing file corruption for larger files and multimedia. 

We do not recommend specific data recovery software to consumers because every device must be thoroughly evaluated before attempting any type of recovery. If a device is functional, the safest practice is to clone the data to another device, then attempt logical (non-physical) recoveries on the clone. That maximizes the chance of a successful recovery without endangering the original data.

To learn more about our process or to schedule a risk-free evaluation, call us at 1-800-237-4200 or submit a case online.