We've all had that moment. You delete a file that you didn't mean to, or that you didn't think you'd need at the time; you empty the Recycle Bin; and then suddenly you realise – damn, I actually needed that! You probably also thought the file was gone for good – deleting it from the Recycle Bin was your last chance to get it back, right? Wrong!
When files are deleted in Windows, Windows simply "forgets" about the file, acting like it no longer exists; and tells the hard drive it was stored on that it can use the space owned by that file again. A file is only truly "erased" when the space it used is fully written over. This means if you act fast, you can usually recover a file that you've deleted entirely from Windows, with minimal to no damage. To do this, you need a File Recovery tool. One such tool is Mini Tool Power Data Recovery – but is it as good as it sounds? In this article, we run it through its paces.
It is not very often when reviewing software that I start by talking about the setup process itself, because most Windows software that uses an installer to set up the software for your computer works in broadly similar ways – click Next, review the Licence and agree to it (if there is one), choose where to put the software, add extra options such as Desktop Icons, and click Next again and let it do its work. The setup for MiniTool Power Data Recovery is no different, bar one exception. As I mentioned in the introduction to this review, it's important that if you are trying to recover a document, you do not write new data to the drive you are trying to recover from, because any new data could overwrite that document and make it irrecoverable. To that end, the setup for MiniTool Power Data Recovery warns you of this fact, asking you to confirm the location you want to install the program to and reminding you not to install to the same drive you want to recover from as soon as you click "Next" on "Select Destination Location" – regardless of where you install the program to.
That warning message, asking you to confirm you want to install to the specified location
To some, this message may come across as a little scary, and may suggest that any folder you install the program to is wrong. However, it is simply providing useful advice and asking you to double-check your choice to make sure you don't do something you'll regret later. Kudos, Mini Tool!
After installing MiniTool Power Data Recovery and running it for the first time, you'll be presented with the main interface for MiniTool Power Data Recovery, which will also appear first in all subsequent runs.
The main interface
MiniTool Power Data Recovery is mostly geared towards recovering lost files, whether those accidentally deleted as mentioned in my introduction, or in the case of removable media, through formatting. To that end, the tool includes three file-related recovery options – Undelete Recovery, Digital Media Recovery and CD/DVD Recovery. But MPDR (to give it a shorter title) has a far greater remit, as the tool also includes the ability to recover whole disk partitions that have been damaged (Damaged Partition Recovery) or can no longer be found by the target computer (Lost Partition Recovery). All of these tools are presented on the main interface in large, two-tone buttons (not unlike the tiled interface of more recent Windows and Windows Phone releases); and mousing over an option presents a description of the tool accompanied by a charming animation of the tool’s icon – for example, mousing over “Undelete Files” makes the trash can icon lift and shake its lid for a moment, while the label changes to explain that the tool offers the ability to “Quick scan, recover deleted files”.
Our testing methodology
Obviously, when it comes to tools that claim to recover deleted files, it’s important to test that the software can both find deleted files; and how well it recovers them. We tested Mini Tool Power Data Recovery by first creating and then permanently deleting two files to see if the software would succeed in both counts.
The first of these two files was a text file, which we called “Recoverme.txt”, containing simply a sentence of dummy text:
The second was an image, a copy of our website’s logo. This way, we would get a good measure of the tool’s ability to find and recover both small, simple files and larger, more complicated ones.
Our website’s logo, which we used as part of the test.
For many people, Undelete Recovery is likely to be the feature they will use the most. This tool is designed to help people recover individual files that have been permanently deleted or lost from their computer.
After clicking “Undelete Recovery” from the first screen
Upon clicking the icon for Undelete Recovery, there will be a quick loading bar, and the program will present you with a list of drives attached to your computer. Simply select the one where the lost files are found; and click Scan. As the description of the tool states, MiniTool Power Data Recovery performs a quick scan (no more than a minute in my tests on a 250GB hard drive); and then presents you with the files it has found which may be recoverable:
The same results in “List” view.
The results of the scan can be seen in one of two methods, which can be selected using tabs below the blue toolbar. By default, the list starts in “List” view, which presents you with a list of files and folders similar to browsing a folder tree in Explorer. In this view, files are grouped into the folder the program believes they may have come from, allowing you to find a file by where you last remember it being. There is also a “Lost Files” folder, for files that have no last known location.
The results of a test scan in “Type” view, one of the two available views.
In “Type” view, seen above, the results are organised by the type of file that the tool has found, with separate sections for “Pictures”, “Archives” (things like Zip Files and installers), and so on, with other files or those of unknown type getting placed into an “Other Files” category. This view can be useful for finding a specific file when you know what it was you need to recover, but can’t remember where it was. However, our testing returned many files that were simply classified as “other”, and only three files that were categorised in any way, suggesting this view may not always work as intended. Results will obviously vary on a person-by-person basis and the level of usage of the drive in question.
Unfortunately, because Undelete Recovery only performs quick scans, it may not search the computer very thoroughly and may miss files even if they were only recently deleted. In our test, Undelete Recovery twice failed to locate the files we created and deleted despite being ran only a short time afterwards. This means it may fail to be a solution for many people who need their files recovered without waiting for the more thorough, but longer scans to complete.
Digital Media Recovery
“Recover lost photos, mp3/mp4 files and video files from flash drives and memory sticks.” While this tool’s name and description may imply that it’s tailored mostly toward scanning SD Cards and USB Sticks etc, or for finding pictures and video, Digital Media Recovery is really MiniTool Power Data Recovery’s equivalent to a “full scan”, as opposed to Undelete Recovery’s “Quick Scan”. As a result, it takes a much longer time to complete, but finds and identifies a much wider array of files – many more than the tool’s description may suggest, including Microsoft Office and OpenOffice Files. In fact, during testing, the same 250GB hard drive that scanned in a minute using Undelete Recovery was estimated to take 9 hours in Digital Media Recovery mode.
This will take a while…
This is a preview for an upcoming article, which is not yet completed. Come back soon to read the full article!