We are often asked whether there are safety concerns with using data restoration software. Although we’re huge proponents of doing so, we encourage users to take precautions. That reduces any worries about ruining the “healthy” portion of data or overwriting the files they seek. We will get into those tips in detail shortly. If you are merely investigating in case file loss happens, you’re well ahead of the curve. We encourage you to create a backup of important files. That way, even if disaster strikes, you have a failsafe. Now, let’s answer the question, “are data recovery software safe to use?”
Why can software restore data after deleting?
We can restore data after a manual deleting, storage space formatting, or disastrous situations because the data still exists but is inaccessible because the system doesn’t detect it. For example, let’s take the NTFS (New Technology File System) that Windows computers predominantly use. The structure is complex, but when we store something on a storage drive, the system breaks the information into an MFT zone, a DATA zone, and other parts. When users access a file, the system reads some information from the MFT (master file table) zone such as file position, file size, creation date and modification, last visit, and so forth.
Then, based on the position, it loads the data from the DATA zone. When we delete a file, only the address and its accompanying information are erased. The DATA itself is marked as a free space, but will only disappear when it gets overwritten by new data. Data rescue software looks for fragments of data that the system marked as “deleted” and puts the information together to rebuild it. You can then save the recovered data in a new location.
Is data recovery software safe for use?
Yes, data recovery is safe to use, provided you use one with a proven reputation, clean installation, great efficiency, regular performance and security updates, and have taken the necessary steps to preserve both existing and “deleted” data. In other words, safety heavily depends on the software creator and the code they used, the success rate of scanning, where you install the software, how much data is lost, in which format and on which drive, what its condition is, and so on.
In short, the procedure of recovering data via software is safe in most cases, but there are expectations and bad practices that may diminish safety. We encourage users with a drastic loss of crucial data and no experience to reach out to the experts. You may end up doing more harm than good otherwise.
How to ensure using data recovery software is safe
You can ensure that data recovery software stays safe for use by doing these things:
1. Stop using the affected machine or storage drive
Continuing to use the computer or device affected by data loss can impact data recovery. Uninterrupted data transfer and updates overwrite deleted data over time, especially if you install the data recovery software in the same place (check tip #5). If there’s an underlying problem that leads to data loss, you also risk hardware and software problems that may make data inaccessible and data rescue software useless.
2. Pick a reputable data rescue software
To keep your data safe, only perform scans using well-known data recovery programs. Picking the best data recovery software with a great reputation and a proven track record is the most important choice you have to make. You need one with near-perfect data restoration efficiency and comprehensive scanning capabilities. Check our list of the top data restoration software for Windows to get an idea. Choosing poorly coded software can do irreparable damage. Not only will it not discover enough data, but it prevents new scans by high-quality programs and even data restoration professionals.
3. Don’t use low-quality free data retrieval software
We analyzed whether it’s a good idea to use free data recovery software. However, many users ignore our advice, largely due to financial constraints. We understand that some companies motivate users to purchase a Premium version by limiting the restoration to say, 1 GB. Others only permit viewing scan results. We urge you to stay put until you can afford the pro version or the free limit resets. Running scans and performing recovery with shoddily coded software reduces the efficiency of future data restoration procedures. They also put you at risk of exploits, malware, and backdoors.
4. Avoid the use of keygens and serial keys to “crack” software
Do not utilize serial keys, keygens, and crack tools to cheat your way to obtaining premium data recovery software. Even if it works, the crack developer may have included malicious files or built backdoors into the software. Additionally, they may be able to access sensitive data or a list of restored files and target you afterward. Simultaneously, you’re hurting the R&D (research and development) funds for data rescue companies.
5. Don’t install the data recovery software on the storage drive with loss to keep it safe
Avoid installing data recovery software on the same HDD, SSD, NVMe, or other storage mediums that contain data you want to retrieve to keep it safe. As mentioned, you risk overwriting the data that was marked as deleted, even if tens or hundreds of MBs seem insignificant. Thus, you should install data restoration software on an external drive such as a flash drive, external HDD, or another connected disk drive. The best option is to install data restoration software well ahead of time. In that case, installation after data loss is unnecessary, meaning there’s no file loss risk.
6. Don’t restore data in the file loss location
You would be shooting yourself in the foot by recovering found data in the location of data loss. Therefore, recover files you found via software to another hard drive or external storage whenever possible. Even if scanning worked and data recovery was successful, the data you got back may replace some files that weren’t discovered. Therefore, you would ruin the efficiency of future scanning. Additionally, if the storage drive or its file system is faulty, the data may get corrupted and inaccessible even after a successful recovery.
7. Avoid running scans on physically or logically damaged storage drives
Scanning physically damaged drives is playing with fire. Running scans also activates the reading process on storage drives, increasing the risk of disaster on a barely-working device. This is especially important for HDDs, where magnetic platters may suffer damage from activated read/write heads. Data recovery software may hardly find anything afterward and data recovery centers may be powerless afterward.