Prompted by various people accidentally losing theirÂ digital cameraÂ images/videosÂ and other peopleÂ deleting things from USB keys etc I have been doing some researchÂ into data recovery software over the past few weeks.
It comes as a surprise to many people that ‘deleted’ computer files are not in fact deleted at all by default, the space on the disk that they occupy is merely reallocated as blank space, to be written over as and when it is required, meaning that deleted files stand a relatively good chance of being recovered depending on how much the disk has been used since. Whilst there are manyÂ commercial photo recovery packages available, I wanted to avoid having toÂ steer people down this expensive and not necessarily reliable path.
Free Software provides an interesting contrast to this, with theÂ excellent PhotoRec, part of TestDisk. The Ubuntu community wiki lists several other applications for data recovery, butÂ these aren’t all cross-platform, wheras TestDisk/PhotoRec will build and runÂ on just about anything.Â Whilst it does lack the bells and whistles of the commercial packages (and it really is screaming out for a basic GUI front end to tempt people towards Free Software, and if I could write one I would!) is nevertheless is a simple and very reliable package for Photo, Video, Document and almost any other file type of dataÂ recovery.
Available for Linux/OSX/BSD/Solaris and even MS Windows, PhotoRec can recover more than 180 different file typesÂ across all of the major file systems (FAT, FAT32, NTFS, EXT2, EXT3 etc) and on just about every type of camera or removable media device there is.
DespiteÂ myÂ complaints about the lack of a basic GUI to assist theÂ less-technical users, the command line interface is almost foolproof, everythingÂ is auto-detected, and given theÂ completely read-only interface of the application it’s fairly impossible to cause any damage.
Pre-built packages are available for almost every GNU/Linux distro, and a simple “sudoÂ apt-get install testdisk” within Ubuntu will have you ready to roll in 30 seconds flat.
The screen shots below show an illustration of a data recovery being performed on a 1GB SD card.
Overall I have found PhotoRec to be one of the best-written GNU/Linux tools I have ever used, it does it’s job extremely well, is very easy to use, and is a perfect example of just how good Free Software can be. I’d advise you to bookmark the web address and grab a copy next time you or someone you know accidentally deletes something!