Recover Deleted Files with Data Rescue PC3 for Windows

by Paul Mah

If you run Windows, think about adding Data Rescue PC3 to your data recovery arsenal and stop worrying about lost files.

You can’t fight the law of averages; most small businesses will delete crucial files at some point, or suffer through a destructive malware infestation that erases files from a hard disk drive (HDD). When that time comes -- and it will -- you need reliable data recovery software to restore those lost files.

Prosoft Engineering, the maker of Data Rescue PC3 for Windows, claims that the program can recover files from crashed or virus-corrupted hard drives that have Windows installed on them. Further, the company maintains that running its data recovery software should be the first thing you do. Running other repair utilities could make undesirable changes to the storage disk.

We decided to take the software through its paces to see whether it lives up to the company's claims.

About Data Rescue PC3 for Windows

According to Prosoft, Data Rescue PC3 for Windows incorporates state-of-the-art data recovery algorithms written from the ground up and refined for more than a decade by its professional data recovery service engineers. This differs from similar products from companies that may use a public domain undelete engine with their own interface plastered over.

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Figure 1: On disk drives with multiple partitions, Data Rescue PC3 prompts you to select the partition to view recoverable files.

Data Rescue PC3 for Windows supports NTFS, FAT32, FAT16, and FAT12, and works on all version of the Windows operating system including Windows 7 and Windows 8. Moreover, it works on external storage drives including media cards that have data files erased or even reformatted.

Data Rescue PC3 in Action

Data Rescue PC3 is a relatively small software file -- about 7MB. Once installed, launching the software brings up a wizard by default. This is where you select the "source" volume or drive letter you want to scan for data recovery.

Upon completion of its analysis -- more on the scanning process shortly, Data Rescue PC3 presents all detected files File-Explorer style. Disk drives with multiple partitions bring up a prompt for you to select the partition to browse; you can change this from the Menu bar under Options > Select Partition.

We really like that Data Rescue PC3 neatly sorts detected files into categories such as Archives, Pictures, Documents, Multimedia and Others. These categories break down further into subfolders where it makes sense. For example, the Pictures folder contains subfolders for different image file types: BMP, PNG, JPEG, etc.

Ultimately, this structure makes it very easy to find a file you want to recover. And if that’s not adequate, advanced search and filtering options can help you find files by either their filename or parts of a filename.

Another useful feature: you can save the results of a particular scan. This makes it possible to exit the software, or scan another drive, and then jump back in where you left off without enduring another lengthy scan.

Right-clicking on each file brings up a menu where you can then choose to either view it, get more information, or select it for a batch restore. In addition, a color-coded file indicator on the right offers an overview of the likelihood of file corruption. In our case, the software actually detected the factory reinstallation files while scanning the internal HDD of a Sony VAIO laptop.

Keep in mind that scan times vary greatly depending on the connection speed and capacity of the selected drive. An SSD-based external disk drive connected via USB 3.0 took about 40 minutes to scan, but took 2 hours when we connected the same drive using USB 2.0. A much smaller 16GB memory card took about 22 minutes.

Remember, this process takes time, and you need to allow enough of it for the scan to complete; don’t expect instant miracles.

Recovering Lost Data

Despite the "push-button" simplicity of Data Rescue PC3, it helps to have a rudimentary understanding of how the operating system "deletes" data. Understanding how data recovery software works will help you avoid elementary mistakes that could render the data unrecoverable.

The key thing to understand is that the file system on a hard drive is made up of a huge number of clusters of a certain size. Exact sizes may vary depending on the specific file system or selection during formatting, but typically clusters range from 4KB to 64KB.

Files that are larger than a cluster – which are the majority of files – are stored across multiple clusters, and indexed in a manner that allows them to be stored at non-contiguous locations on the storage drive.

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Figure 2: Data Rescue PC3 neatly sorts detected files into category folders and subfolders making it easy to find files.

In the interest of speed, deleting a file erases only the index. That's why it takes less than a second to delete a 1GB file, but a much longer time when deleting a thousand 1KB files. This characteristic also makes it possible to undelete files, though there is nothing to prevent the operating system from reusing and overwriting orphaned clusters of a deleted file.

 That's why it's imperative not to copy new data (or install software) onto the storage drive before you attempt file recovery.

Of course, many modern file systems come with advanced features -- such as journaling, encryption, compression and a range of other features -- that prevent files from being corrupted. Obviously, the sophistication of the data recovery software can have a big effect when it comes to a successful recovering your data. 

Emergency Boot CD

Data Rescue PC3 comes with an emergency bootable CD, which allows scanning to take place without loading the software. This is crucial when recovering files from the primary hard drive of a laptop, for example, that does not already have Data Rescue PC3 installed, or when the laptop won’t boot.

After booting from the CD, Data Rescue PC3 automatically accesses the drive and a wizard provides guidance through the data recovery process. You can then copy the files selected for recovery to a second HDD, an external USB or FireWire hard drive, or through the network. You need a minimum of 64MB of RAM to use the boot CD, and that the use of full disk encryption on the HDD will prevent this approach from working.

Conclusion: Data Rescue PC3

We really like how Data Rescue PC3 automatically sorts out discovered files based on file type. The emergency boot CD is a nice touch, though a bootable USB may be more useful as optical drives continue to be phased out.

Overall, Data Rescue PC3 is a polished piece of software that works as advertised. And at a price of just $99, it is certainly a worthwhile tool to keep in your small business IT arsenal.

Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.

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This article was originally published on Friday Apr 12th 2013
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