If you’re like me and have accidentally (or purposely) deleted a file on your computer and emptied your trash can, you may be pretty sad to find out that you have lost the file forever. I’ve done this years ago with an SD card and I was not able to get the 100+ photos back that I deleted accidentally. Fortunately, there’s a program called Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery that allows you to get these files back!
How Hard Drives / File Systems Work
When you save a file on your hard drive (or SD card, flash drive, SSD, etc), it goes in the first available slots on the drive. This file can be spread out all over the hard drive because the computer will store it on the first free spaces it comes to, not the first consecutive spaces. So if you’re saving a 7MB music file, it could be spread out between 3 or 4 different spots on your storage device. It is then the operating system’s job to make sense of this and make it appear as one file to the user.
When you delete a file, it doesn’t actually go away until you write over it with another file. So if you delete that 7MB music file, it still exists on the hard drive, but by clicking delete you told the computer’s operating system to ignore its presence. If you download a 1GB movie, it will most likely overwrite the space where your music file was and then some. However, it’s never guaranteed and “deleted” files may remain on your system for years!
Learning the Interface
When I first started Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery, the amount of options was very overstimulating, even for an advanced computer user like myself. However, I really only use Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Dreamweaver, etc), Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook), Safari, iTunes, and some of Apple’s products (iMovie, GarageBand, etc). I hardly ever download oddball applications like Mac Data Recovery, so it may have just felt overstimulating at first because I’m accustomed to the way large enterprise apps are designed.
After playing around with the interface for about 5 minutes, I pretty much figured out all of the options. You do need to know a bit of hard drive terminology (such as volumes, formatted media, etc), but nothing too major. I would expect the average Mac user to be able to navigate the interface without problem.
Putting it to the Test
To test Mac Data Recovery, I used an external hard drive (one of the ones with a magnetic-based hard drive inside, not a new SSD-based one), my MacBook’s hard drive, a USB-powered flash drive, and the SD card from my Nikon D80. The program worked flawlessly with each storage media by recovering files I haven’t seen in months! To restore a file to your computer, you simply drag it out of the Mac Data Recovery window as you would if you were using Finder. I was able to recover Word documents, image files, music files, and HTML files without any corruption or broken pieces. The files returned to my computer like I had never deleted them.
To test the software even more, I used the external hard drive and I ran it through the Department of Defense compliant delete process in Apple’s Disk Utility. This is the most secure way to delete any type of storage media on a Mac and it deletes files by passing over the entire hard drive 7 times, replacing all data with binary zeros. After doing this, Mac Data Recovery was unable to recovery any of my files. This was to be expected, though, because you really shouldn’t be able to recover anything after the hard drive was swept clean 7 times.
Overall, I am very happy with Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery. It’s not something that I would recommend you buy when you get your Mac because chances are, you’re never going to need it unless you accidentally do something terrible. When you do need to recover files, though (like I did years ago before I knew about this software), this bit of software will definitely get the job done.
Disclaimer: Stellar Phoenix provided us with a full license copy of the product so we can do a thorough review and bring honest feedback to our readers. There was no other compensation besides being provided a full license copy for review and all opinions are 100% mine and mine alone.