When you lose an important file, your first reaction would normally be to restore it using any methods you can come up with and whichever tools you can get your hands on. Usually, you would look for data recovery software available on the internet next, especially free ones. But before you seek free data recovery apps on the internet, you should be aware of the risks of their use. In this article, we will talk about the risk factors of using free data recovery apps and if it is a good idea to use them. We will also briefly discuss alternative actions you should take to avoid losing your data forever.
When Should You Use a Data Recovery Application?
You might lose data from your hard disk drive for multiple reasons: physical, logical, or compound damage, and so on. However, data recovery applications available in the market for consumer usage can only restore data if your HDD has suffered from logical damage. This type of damage may occur when you accidentally perform a drive format or damage the file directory. This kind of harm and data loss can also happen because of a computer virus, malware, and accidental data overwrite.
In simple words, as long as your HDD has suffered just from logical damage, you can use the data recovery applications to restore your lost data. However, using a professional data rescue app won’t help you get your data back if your HDD is physically damaged. Quite the opposite! If your HDD suffered a mechanical or compound failure, using these applications might worsen the situation. In this case, you should immediately turn your device off and take your HDD to a data recovery specialist or a data retrieval company.
Please Note: If your HDD has suffered from physical damage, you will hear an unnatural grinding noise coming from your active device or HDD. This is the first sign of physical damage caused by mechanical or compound failure. If you hear such noise, take your HDD to data recovery experts immediately. If you keep using such an HDD or using an application for data restoration on such an HDD, it will only make the situation worse—you might never restore data.
Red Flags of Using Free Data Recovery Apps
Losing data, regardless of if it’s important, can be a bitter experience. It’s only natural that you would want to use these applications to get your lost data back. While it’s true that there are many free data recovery apps available on the internet, it doesn’t mean that there are no hidden risks. In this section, we will show you some notable warning signs of free data recovery apps you should be aware of.
Data Restoration Application Isn’t Reputable
You must never use a free application that doesn’t come from a reputable data recovery company. When you pick a free data recovery tool from the internet, make sure it has a good amount of positive third-party reviews, and a reputable data restoration company offers it. A data retrieving app from a reputable company can be free, but they would never make unrealistic promises. These tools, even if complimentary, would often have restrictions, such as limited data recovery for zero cost. Alternatively, they would come with a license, so you can only use them in one device with most of its functionality locked.
If any data recovery tool makes blatant and unrealistic promises such as unlimited data recovery for free, they are most likely illegitimate applications that might harm your device. Even if they don’t make any such guarantees, you need to make sure they have positive feedback from many third-party reviewers. Otherwise, if you download any unvetted tool and use it, you might be welcoming unknown viruses and malware, thus putting your device’s security and functionality at risk.
Free Data Recovery Apps Can Overwrite Your Data
Potential HDD data overwrite is one of the biggest risks of installing and using free data recovery software. When you accidentally delete a file from your computer, it doesn’t get erased from your computer’s HDD. In fact, the data of the file remains in the same location on the platter of your HDD even if it was deleted from your computer. As long as the data remains in the HDD, it can be retrieved.
However, when you download any app or program on your computer with a damaged HDD, there is always a chance that it will overwrite and replace some of your old deleted data. If that happens, it will be almost impossible to recover your lost data, even if you take your hard disk drive to an expert. Thus, if you want to recover your data and avoid the risk of data overwriting, make sure you download new programs, including the data recovery tools, on a separate storage device.
Free Data Recovery Apps Are Unable to Detect Technical Failures
Applications that restore data free of charge you find on the internet cannot determine the exact cause of data loss or the possible technical failures. In simple words, you don’t know why the data loss happened in the first place, so you can’t solve the underlying problem. Consequently, even if you have successfully recovered lost data, there is no guarantee it won’t be erased from your device again.
A sudden data loss may happen for multiple reasons. From a scratch on the platter to malware invasion, anything can be responsible for your data loss or file corruption. Ergo, if you want to solve the problem permanently, you have to determine what went wrong first. Recklessly trying to recover deleted data using free data recovery apps without fixing the cause of data loss might backfire. Instead, it may cause a permanent data loss. That’s why you should stay away from free data retrieval software.
Application Cannot Perform a Complete Scan of Your HDD
When you use a data restoration application, it usually scans your whole hard disk drive to look for all the available free sectors with data that haven’t been overwritten yet. Once the scan is complete, any premium data recovery software pulls out the information from these available sectors with data. As a result, you see your previously deleted file in the review section and restore them using the software later on.
However, this type of application might be unable to search your HDD effectively enough to pull out all the recoverable files. You might even have to perform tens of scans to find the file you’re looking for. This, in turn, increases the risk of overwriting the stored data on the HDD. If that happens, you can never get the files you seek back. That’s why we strongly advise not using gratis software for data recovery unless that’s the only choice you have.
Free Data Restoration Software Doesn’t Erase the Files Afterward
Once you finish recovering the files you were looking for, a good data recovery software usually overwrites the retrieved data from your HDD. They do this to prevent any sensitive data from falling into a third party’s hands. This is an extremely important step, especially if you’re planning to hand over or sell your HDD to someone else.
However, many complementary programs might not have this feature. Therefore, you cannot overwrite data you have already recovered and erase it from your old HDD forever. That’s why you should always try to avoid free data restoration apps if the data you’re trying to recover is susceptible to prying eyes. After all, it’s always better to pay a few bucks for a good tool instead of regretting the use of a free one.
Conclusion: Avoid Free Data Recovery Apps
It’s always a treacherous move to download something for free from the internet and use it. That’s true even for the free data recovery apps. One wrong move and you can lose data from your storage forever. Hence, if the data you’re trying to recover is sensitive and important, we recommend you pay for a premium data recovery application from a reputable company.
In the worst case, you should immediately take your HDD (or any storage) to a data restoration expert. This is especially important if it underwent mechanical or compound failure. Trying to fix a physically damaged HDD yourself without proper knowledge and tools can be extremely risky, so you should never do so. To put it simply, it never hurts to be too careful.