In the event of a system crash, concern for the data on the storage drive takes precedence over everything else. If it is the operating system that has crashed, there is almost 100 percent chances of the data being secure and undamaged. But when there is a virus attack, hard drive failure such as bad blocks and partition corruption, accidental deletion and formatting, the chances of the data being intact are remote. Though retrieving data is not completely impossible, it always depends on the state of the drive itself. If the data has been deleted or the drive accidentally formatted, the data can be recovered with almost 100 percent results provided the drive or medium is not overwritten by fresh data. But if the drive has a hardware failure, the recovery chances by the user himself becomes a major challenge. The drive needs to be repaired before the data can be recovered and this cannot be done by the user. He will have to get the data recovery done by professionals who are equipped with the tools and skills to change the hardware inside the drive. But in case of regular data loss, the user can get his data back within a few hours.
The initial screen has three tabs with four and five functions respectively
Stellar is a very well-known and highly-specialised company dealing with drive and data recovery solutions headquartered at Gurgaon in India since 1993. Apart from dealing with hard drive repairs and data recovery on a hardware and chip level, the company has also been developing data recovery software for the end user to take care of the recovery on the first level itself. Stellar Phoenix has been developing its Windows Data Recovery utility for a while now and its latest version 6 release can handle recovery from almost any storage medium available, be it optical media, hard drives, flash cards or RAID storage. The version 6 has three variants – Home, Professional and Technical. The Home version can do basic scanning and recovery from drives and media cards. The Professional version can recover from RAW media, exFAT partitions, optical drives and emails, apart from cloning drives and creating and recovering data from images. The Technical version is meant for the engineers and IT administrators in larger organisations. Using this version, one can additionally recover data from RAID drivers on servers and NAS devices and also from remote locations over the Internet or local network.
The drive recovery has four recovery methods to choose from
We received the Technical version, which includes all features of the Home and Professional versions. The utility is very simple to install and use. The user interface is very friendly and can be handled by novice users with great ease. To begin with the data recovery, one needs to confirm whether the drive (from which the data needs to be recovered) is working on the hardware front and is being detected by the operating system. If not, the data cannot be recovered by this utility and has to be sent to a professional data recovery service lab. The second criteria that is required for the recovery process is a spare medium such as an optical disk or an additional hard drive or USB storage with free storage space equal to or higher than the amount to be recovered from the damaged drive. Connect the drives and run the utility. The initial screen has three tabs – Data Recovery, Recovery from an Image and Advanced Options. The Data Recovery section has five sections.
This section deals with recovering data from hard drives or storage drives connected to the system This could be internal hard drives or ones connected to the USB interface. All one needs to do is click on the volume from which the data needs to be recovered and you will get an additional menu on the right of the screen. This includes the type of recovery mode to be initiated. You have options such as Quick Recovery (for a quick scan where you don’t want to wait too long for recently lost files), Deleted Recovery (to search for files that are deleted only), Advanced Recovery (for deep scanning of all files lost, corrupted and deleted and lastly, RAW Recovery (for formatted volumes and possibly overwritten data).
Scanning is fast. You get check boxes to choose which files and folders you want to recover
This option helps recover data from lost sessions, damaged sessions, medium to majorly scratched surfaces and in certain cases unrecognisable disks too. Caution: do not insert or try to recover data from discs that are even slightly cracked, as the data recovery procedure is intense, time consuming and can permanently damage the optical drive in case the disc shatters inside the drive. This option also supports Blu-ray discs.
Data from CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray media can be recovered
This option basically hunts for damaged, deleted and corrupted photos on the drive. The drive can be either the internal drive itself or an external USB pen drive or flash drive. This mode will save on time as it scans only for photos and not all other files.
This mode helps recover only deleted emails from Outlook and Outlook Express. All you need to do is feed in the PST file or the folder for saved emails in Outlook Express and provide the output folder. Make sure your email client is not operational or active at the time of recovery. Also recommended is taking a backup of the original files before proceeding.
Recover deleted emails from Outlook or Outlook Express
This mode is for professionals and should be handled with extreme caution. This option helps recover data from RAID drives that are used in servers and NAS drives. The RAID levels recoverable are RAID 0, RAID 5 and RAID 6 – too bad other RAID levels are not yet implemented. Usually, only the IT administrator or engineer who knows the correct order of the drives in the RAID should give it a go-ahead as an unknown person can tend to damage the data further. It is advisable to let this mode be handled by professional alone. This mode will first try to build the RAID array and volume before attempting the recovery.
Recovered emails are listed and you can check them before recovering
The other tabs are fairly simple, useful and very robust. The simplest and safest method is to first make an image of the volume or drive before attempting the final recovery. This mode mounts the image (sector by sector dump) as a virtual drive. We suggest that you create the image on a fresh drive with ample space to begin with. The image is then mounted and the recovery is done on the image. The actual drive that has crashed can be safely disconnected and kept away. This procedure ensures that the faulty drive does not lose on its lifetime, does not heat up to give additional issues and also if there are potential bad blocks, the recovery becomes even more smoother and faster. You can save multiple images on different locations and perform the recovery with ease.
Drive status gives you information about each drive's health
The last tab is the Advanced Options. Here you can create the image of a volume or drive for image-based recovery, clone drives to get rid of bad blocks or make recovery easier and get each connected drive’s status (such as labels, volumes, IDs and fitness). Last is the Remote Recovery, which is similar to using VPN. Here you can either put the PC on host mode or take over a host machine for remote recovery. All you need to do is download the free remote utility from the website and set the system as a host. Then using the remote recovery option, you can simply connect to the host using the IP address and port number.
Download and install the remote agent to put the PC on host mode for recovery
We did try to recover data from a 250GB laptop hard drive with a huge amount of bad blocks. Basic copying of the data via Windows Explorer to another location or hard drive was taking ages as the drive would stall when it hit a bad block. To make the process simpler, faster and more robust, we created an image of the volume and mounted the image as a virtual drive from the created file. The data copying from that virtual drive volume was quick an easy. The entire data to be rescued amounted to approximately 74GB and the process took us around three hours in total. We also tried recovering data from a microSD card from an Android phone. The drive was deliberately formatted and reinserted into the phone again to simulate a real-world situation. The card was then plugged into a card reader and we managed to recover almost 90 percent of the data. If the card was used for longer periods after the formatting, chances of recovering the previous data would have thinned because of the overwriting of the new data on it. Hence, we suggest against using the drive if you want to rescue any data from it.
Recover files from remote locations across the globe with the same software
Version 6 is capable of recovering data from drives larger than 2TB. The utility also features a System Startup Disk utility that helps create a bootable recovery disk for your PC or laptop. Simply boot from the disc and recover from crashed operating systems too. The utility is compatible with Windows 8 and also includes support for legacy operating systems such as DOS and Windows NT. In a nutshell, Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery is one of the easiest and most powerful do-it-yourself data recovery utility we have come across. The utility is also available for Mac and Linux operating systems.
To sum up the entire review, the Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery is a must-have utility for home, office and professionals. Using this utility, you can salvage data on the first level itself, thus saving huge amounts of money that you would spend on having the recovery done by a professional. We definitely recommend this utility to IT administrators in charge of file servers and network attached storage drives. The utility is available for Rs 2,909 for the Home version, Rs 5,818 for the Professional version and Rs 17,601 for the Technical version. For twice the cost (approximately), you can opt for the combo pack of three operating system editions too. Check out the company website for more details. Updates are free and there is a toll free number too, just in case you hit a roadblock.