There are very few freeware file recovery programs that can compete with paid for undelete software but... here we're going to look at four programs that will give its costlier cousins a run for their money.
Before getting started, if you want to check out how documents, photos, music and other media can be lost and the steps you need to take for recovery, then just take a read of my article, How Files Are Lost and The Steps to Recovery.
Recuva Freeware Recovery is stand alone and enables you to scan your hard drive(s) or media cards for files that have been deleted or formatted. It will recover deleted files, emails, iPod music and photos.
Following a scan, the program lists files that were found, along with an assessment of their recovery potential, a preview option and a viewer to inspect the content.
Recuva also offers a dual function that also allows you to permanently erase any traces of deleted files that you don't want to recover.
"If you just want a good un-delete program with a small disk footprint (and no financial cost), then Recuva is what you're looking for... the interface is the very model of restrained style and efficiency."... PC World.
Pandora Recovery is another excellent freeware file recovery program allowing you to browse, search, preview and recover deleted files and images. But for Windows only.
The software enables you to recover accidentally deleted files from NTFS, FAT16 and FAT32 formatted drives or memory cards, even if they have been emptied from the recycle bin. It can recover not only 'regular' files, but also archived, hidden, system, sparse, encrypted and compressed files.
The scan results provide a detailed list of files that were found along with a preview of the file content and an estimated chance of recovery. You can also search for files based on their name, type, size and other criteria.
Pandora only offers a Windows program. It does not have a version compatible with the Mac, Linux, or any other non-Microsoft Operating System.
R-Undelete Home recovers files from external USB disks, digital photo and video camera memory cards and other devices with the FAT (FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, and exFAT) file system.
This free version also allows you to recover lost files from the NTFS file system but with a maximum file size of 64KB. For files larger than this you would need to upgrade to the full home version for recovery from NTFS partitions.
Glary Undelete is a easy-to-use and powerful freeware file recovery solution for Windows FAT and NTFS file systems. It will recover files from local disks or external devices, including SmartMedia, Secure Digital and MemorySticks.
Following a scan, Glary Undelete will show you a list of deleted files that have been recovered on the drive. It gives you an estimate of the probability of success of restoring them, such as "Very Good", "Good", "Medium" and "Poor". With the File Filter function, you can narrow down the list by file type, file size, deleted date, file state and file types.
Although this is a great program, there are 2 issues to contend with...