I have been using computers since I was 13 years old on my IBM XT 8086, yup no hard drive just 2 x 5.25’ floppy drives.  From that PC to my current PC I have deleted TONS of files, some on purpose too but I have lost so many files as well, sometimes entire partitions.  This software will help you during these times because you never know when it will happen to you, if it hasn’t already.

Some of you are reading the “Windows” part in the title but you will be surprised to know that you can restore data from Windows (XP all the way to 10), Linux, UNIX and Mac systems but there is a catch, you can read about the catch later in this article.

Recovery solutions usually only recovery drives, nothing more.  This software offers the following

  • Drive Recovery
    • Internal (IDE, SATA, SCSI, etc…)
      • Lost/Formatted/Deleted Volume/Partition/File Recovery
    • External, SD card, USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt, eSATA, etc…)
    • Photo Recovery
    • Email Recovery (Outlook Express and MS Outlook)
  • CD/DVD Recovery
  • Image Creation
    • Recovery from IMG Images
  • Drive Cloning
  • Drive Status checking
  • A myriad of options

The reason I am actually reviewing this is because during the video where I installing Windows 10 from, I  wiped out one of my drives and killed my data, it was only a 64Gig SSD, but I had 51.5 gigs on it of information I was not ready to get rid of, I deleted the partition.  Tons of data all gone in one mistaken click (well, it might have been 2 or 3 clicks, but still).  There is more than 1 test done here, but I wanted to give you an example.

I had 99.1Gigs of very important data, documents, overclocks, reviews builds, personal keys, photo’s, video’s, ISO’s and more,

This drive held so many wonders and years of work and now it was all gone…  It’s OK we can rebuild it, bigger, better and faster, well maybe not faster but you get the point.

I looked for different pieces of software, making sure that the first time was the successful one that would return what was rightfully mine, and not have any failed attempts, so I came across Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery.

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Clicking on the EXE, you get all the Next prompts and I agree prompts you would normally expect.

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A few seconds later and you are done.  No confusing prompts, though some asking for where you would like the shortcuts placed, but I just click Next anyway then Finish.

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After clicking Finish, the program starts loading

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Then you are met with the menu of features it provides

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Drive Recovery, as implied lets you recover entire drive, my needed option currently, but I will come back to this.

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For “CD DVD Recovery” right when you pop in a piece of media it starts scanning the disc

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I wanted to try my very first CD written, a Maxell 650Meg CD back in 1998.

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Though it still worked, supposedly CD’s were supposed to have lost data after many years, I got 17 years so far and it’s still working.  This was made on a 1 X CD-R drive, it was either a TDK or a Maxell drive, and man it was slow.

This is more for the times when you are writing a disc and maybe the lights go out or the drive fails, it will let you recover that sort of data, it will not let you restore physically broken discs that your disc drive cannot read, I don’t know why but I tried it, magic did not happen.  This might be one of the least used features of the suite, so I will skip to the next.

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The Photo Recovery is something many people would like, though a little gimmicky for me.  A photo or video is data; this is just limiting the search though I guess better because it would take less time.  Though by less it might be only seconds, because it takes a long time but that’s OK, you want it to take as long as it wants to because you want these pictures or videos back, I get it.

The time it takes though is not fully due to the intensity of the scan, a lot of it has to do with the speed of the media you are trying to recovery.  In this test I am scanning the SD card on my camera.

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It did take some time but it recovered 7.48GB worth of pictures, 8386 files.  I only selected 1 file type, TIF to only recovery a little bit; the real recovery will be later on in the review for the data.  When you click the “Recover” button you are prompted with a choice to where to restore the files to.

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I selected a local folder, but it also gives you options I have never seen before.  Stellar Phoenix gives you the options to not only restore to a local drive, but it allows you to recovery to an FTP and even compresses the files you are restoring, that is a great feature.

Another great feature this software provides is allow you to recovery emails from PST files from Microsoft Outlook and DBX files from Outlook Express.  One of the reasons I stopped using local mail clients years ago is because I would forget to copy the PST file, then I would delete the partition and install a new OS and I would lose everything.  This could have definitely helped me.

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Talking about installing a new OS (Operating System), this also could have saved me some time.  The next set of features under “Advanced Options” are “Create Image”, “Clone Drive” and “Drive Status”

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Clicking Create Image, allows you to select the volume or hard disk (SSD also of course) you would like to make an Image/Clone/Copy of then click “Start Imaging”.  If you are going to be making an image of an Operating system install for example, I would suggest using the “Select Hard Disk to Create Image”.  Operating Systems create hidden partitions to be able to recover from, and if you select Volume, you will miss these others partitions, Hard disk will ensure you get everything.

Once you click “Start Imaging” it will ask you where you would like to save the image to, and when selected click “Save”.  The image can only be saved to another drive; it can be an internal SATA drive or an external USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt, etc.
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The clone feature allows you to clone your hard drive to another drive.  This is incredibly handy for when you purchase a new drive and you want to copy the contents of your older drive to your newer drive.

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Some of you might not feel comfortable installing a brand new OS and that is fine, we have all been there, this will help you.  Though, you cannot image an AMD based image onto an Intel based system and visa versa, the HAL of the OS is the reason.  Though if you ran a sysprep /generalize before you shutdown the system as you were about to clone, it would help you but then you have the drivers to deal with, just know that.

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Drive Status portion of Advance Options allows you to check your drives health.  First, this will read all of the SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) attributes

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It doesn’t show up this large; I just copied all the info into 1 window so that you can see it all.

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Once the scanning starts, it will look like a Windows 98 defrag, brings back some memories.

And when it’s done.

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Now for the real reason for the review, the Drive recovery aspect.  I went back to the “Data Recovery” tab and selected “Drive Recovery” and located the drive I wanted to restore.  Though I didn’t find it on the menu.

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Well since it is a lost volume, since I deleted it, I had to click on “Click Here to Search Lost Volumes”

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In a little tiny window within that window appears all of the drives I have connected, lost or not, they could have made the window a bit bigger, but let’s move on.

Once I clicked on the drive, a side menu appeared.

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The side menu gave me the option to Search my Lost Volume, a quick or a deep scan then also a “Raw Recovery” feature when I would select the range of file types to be restore.

The quick option as it implies, scans quickly, though I am sure can leave some files behind, the Deep search option, is much slower but finds more.  Let’s run the Deep scan, something I would recommend all of you do, while it takes longer, you will find everything and then click “Search Lost Volume”.  Then the scanning starts,

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Oh, that was the quick part I guess, but it has found my partition, so now I click on the partition and select Advanced Recovery.  The drive as you can see below shows up as “Std Vol 1”.

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Here are all of the options.

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Quick Recovery, is the fastest of all of the scan processes, it will list existing and deleted files.  If not many write were performed on the disc before you started file recovery.

Deleted Recovery, can recovery files that are deleted from a volume or removable media and will only list files that have been deleted from the drive.

Advanced Recovery, can recover data from a formatted volume or removable media.  If a volume or removable media is formatted and all data is lost from that drive, you can recover that data performing this type of recovery.

With this feature, you can scan volumes either as FAT, NTFS, or exFAT.  For example, before formatting, the file system of the volume was FAT. You had formatted the volume and created new volume with NTFS file system. You can scan the new volume as FAT such that all files will be found during scanning process. Also, if before formatting the volume the file system was FAT and you selected scanning as NTFS then scanning process still finds data from that volume

Raw Recovery is based on the “file type based scanning” technique for the recovery of lost and deleted files and folders. You can scan the complete storage device or a selected region of the hard disk or scan a volume of your disk to recover data. File type gives information about a file and the name of its extension. You can add, edit, or remove file types as per your preferences.

I chose “Advanced Recovery” because that option is needed for volumes that are formatted, and the drive was previously formatted as an NTFS volume.

Now the long process starts.

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It starts going crazy finding things and the menu on the left, the “Data Recovery” side starts to populate.  Funny, I just noticed that when it does that, it goes so crazy it destroys the word data recovery.

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Wait, what happened there, it says I have 99.36GB of information, this is a 64Gig SSD?

Well, Windows keeps track of files on your hard drive with pointers, each file on the hard drive has a pointer.  When a file is deleted, the file is removed but the only time the data is removed is when the data is over written, this is why it is incredibly important to recovery as soon as you realize you have deleted something important.  Now mind you, this drive is years old so its been written to many times, so you can recover data even if it has been overwritten, but the more times you write to the drive, the more chances you will lose that data forever.

So you can look through the Tree to find that data you want to restore, so what I did was click on the root to check them all to be recovered and unchecked the ones I didn’t want.  When you remove some, you will notice the marked size of the recovery reduces; you don’t have to recovery all 99.36GB.

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Now its time to recover, so I click on the little red floppy disc on the bottom right hand corner.

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Now you will need to decide where you want to recover that 92.27GB, and click OK.

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When you click OK, they give you some great advice.

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If you do save data on the same drive, as I explained before you stand the chance of losing some data.  Since it was not the same drive I selected, I just clicked YES.  Then the process starts…. It actually is recovering my old hibernation file, well I selected every so it is recovering everything.  This is the long part.   One other thing I would like to mention, the software will only restore as quick as the drives you are restoring onto, so make sure you restore to a quick drive, and if a quick one is not available then be prepared to wait, but it’s OK, you are recovering valuable pieces of information, the reason you purchased the software.

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Just as a warning, if you have a “$Extend folder”, do not recover it, it will take over 6 hours to recover it.  To save more time, deselect other folders you know you do not need, but I am selecting mostly all to make sure it works.

When the recovery is done, you will find that all of the checks are gone, they start unchecking as the directory has been recovered and you will also notice the recover button is now grayed out, meaning it is not usable.

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Once recovered, all of the files that needed to be restored.  During the recovery it asked me if I wanted to overwrite files so I selected yes.  If files have been deleted overtime and restored that have the same name, those files at times can get restored too, which is why it showed that I had more data on the drive than it could handle but only restored 58.1GB.

I chose to overwrite these because I was sure it was OK, but if this has data that you know you need, you may want to be a little more cautious.  You can choose to overwrite, rename or skip, again I chose to overwrite all.

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Another form of recovery that is popular and needed is File Deletion recovery and they got you covered too.  Like before, select the drive that you have files you have deleted, in this example I selected my thumb drive which had 101.06GB of files deleted.

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Once I select the drive, I click “Deleted Recovery” and select the “Scan As” feature for either FAT or exFAT.  In case you didn’t know, exFAT, or Extended File Allocation Table is a format by Microsoft optimized for flash drives.  It is also used for a file format when FAT32 is unacceptable because of the size of the partition (128GB in my case) and NTFS is not feasible.

After selecting “Advanced Recovery” the long process begins, I won’t lie, I am a bit nervous though this will be mainly the same as it was in the previous test.

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And after a long scan, it finds all my data and starts scanning what it wants to recover as it did before with the Advanced Recovery option.

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After you click Recover, you need to tell it where you want it to copy all of the data.  While slower, mechanical hard drives are good for something, lets restore to my E:\ drive, I also created the Restore folder, selected “All files & folders (Include Deleted) then click OK.

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And away she goes.

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One of my tests was to just delete everything off of the thumb drive and then I ran Deleted Recovery.

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Took a few minutes but then you can see, it found the original directory structure.  It seems that it also picked up the full amount of Data on the drive, 101.06GB.  Let’s restore and see what happens.  To start the process, I click on the “Recover” red disk on the bottom right hand corner.

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Once you click Recover, you will be brought to the “Choose Destination” and select the folder you would like to recover.  I created a folder on my E drive named “Restore” then I click OK.

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Then the recovery process starts.  This might take a bit.

When its done, all the check boxes are unchecked

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And we can see everything is back

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Pros:

  • Offers a lot for a decent price
    • There are lower priced solutions from Stellar Phoenix as well
  • Help section provides tons of information
  • Tiny Download (3Megs)
  • 24 hour support
  • A myriad of options

Cons:

  • Only Monday ~ Friday support, no weekend support.
  • Recovery can take hours, but it is not the software’s fault, recovery can only occur at the speed of the media you are reading and writing to. Again, not a con of the software, but it is a Con, this does not take away from the overall software.
  • A myriad of options

This offer most of everything you need, but you need to make sure you DO NOT write data back on to the drive you are trying to recover, doing so will make it more difficult to recover data from the drive.  If you are stuck, call or write support.  This was able to recover multiple recovery scenarios just fine, Deleted Partition from SSD, Data File recovery for an entire USB Thumb Drive (128GB Patriot Thumb Drive), was able to recover deleted photos from my SD card, it all worked flawlessly.  I have to give this a 5 out of 5, Editors Choice, it does everything it says it does and does it well.

I also wanted to point out, I mentioned a myriad of options both as a Pro and a Con

If you would like more information than I have provided, you can check it out on their website at: http://www.stellarinfo.com/partition-recovery-software.php

DBEditorChoice5Star

Iggy Castillo

Iggy Castillo

Senior Editor an Reviewer at Dragonblogger.com
I have spent many years in the PC boutique name space as Product Development Engineer for Alienware and later Dell through Alienware's acquisition and finally Velocity Micro. During these years I spent my time developing new configurations, products and technologies with companies such as AMD, Asus, Intel, Microsoft, NVIDIA and more. The Arts, Gaming, New & Old technologies drive my interests and passion. Now as my day job, I am an IT Manager but doing reviews on my time and my dime.
Iggy Castillo

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