Recuva handles all types of deleted files, from documents to photos to videos to emails, and it can grab them from your hard drive, a removable drive or a USB stick. The program kicks off with a wizard that asks for the type and location of the file you want to restore. You can narrow the search this way or opt to look for all files in all locations. Recuva scans your drive to display a list of deleted files. You’ll see each file’s name, location, size, its chances for recovery and a comment with more details. After you select the file you want to restore, Recuva asks where to put it. Tip: If you hope to restore additional files from the same drive, save the recovered file in a different location to avoid overwriting any more clusters.

To cut to the chase, switch to advanced mode instead of using the wizard. There, you can select a location, pick a file type and enter a specific name or wildcard combination to limit the search. If your file doesn’t pop up, try a deep scan that digs for deleted files by analyzing each sector on the disk. But be prepared to wait: The deep scan took more than two hours to complete on my 2TB hard drive with 240GB of data.

I used Recuva to bring back deleted files from a hard drive, USB stick and SD card. I was able to successfully restore all files that were rated as “excellent” for recovery state. Files that were categorized as “poor” or “very poor” were either not recoverable at all or only partially recoverable, while those ranked as “unrecoverable” sadly never stood a chance. So we’re clear, a rating of excellent describes a freshly deleted file with no clusters overwritten. Poor or very poor refers to a file with few of its clusters intact. And unrecoverable points to an older deleted file with all of its clusters overwritten.

The basic version of Recuva is free; a $19.95 Pro edition works with virtual hard drives, provides automatic updates and delivers free premium support. There’s…

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