It’s the stuff of digital nightmares: you boot up your computer and the drive’s corrupt, or you plug in an external drive — or even USB drive — and it doesn’t appear on the desktop at all, or shows up without the files and data you need. Sure you can restart and hope, but a smarter strategy is to try some disk recovery software.
You can use Disk Utility that’s included with Mac OS X but it’s not going to help you recover the lost data, just fix any easy formatting hiccups on the media, commonly producing a functional but blank drive. Yikes.
Enter the awkwardly named Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery Software application. A quick download, it does a good job of scanning broken or corrupt drives and making recovery of the information thereon a breeze…
One of the biggest challenges with data recovery is that the program can’t trust the file system information tables so it can’t show you the file and directory structure that you think is on the drive. The bigger the drive, the more of a pain this is. A USB drive with a dozen PSD files from your latest Photoshop project? No worries. A photo archive of 10,000 RAW and PNG files? That’s going to be a bit of work if you need to just extract a dozen from six months ago.
As is common with these type of programs, Stellar Phoenix Mac actually scans the entire drive to identify every file it can find, typically even including those that have been deleted. In fact, one of its capabilities is to help you recover files that you might have already accidentally dropped into the trash and deleted. Handy in a crisis!
Let’s see how it works with recovering a pretty big 32G USB drive that isn’t properly mounted on my system.
At the point I start up the program, I’ve already tried other apps and not gotten very far with recovering any of the data on the USB drive. The opening screen gives me a few options, and I bet you can guess which I choose:
Now it shows me the media options it can find:
On the right you can see the specs on this drive: 31.4GB capacity, 0B available. Totally full? Nope, but for the recovery software there’s no way for it to know what files are present, so it assumes that it’s wall-to-wall at capacity. No worries, it hasn’t scanned anything yet to analyze the contents.
Chose the correct drive and continue. Now the program will scan the media…
What’s really helpful is that you don’t have to recover blindly because along the top are three tiny buttons, one of which — the “eye” — lets you quick preview the file you’re about to recover:
Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery. $99 download only, $119 w/ CDROM copy, from Stellar Data Recovery. Recommended.