The best free data recovery software

When searching online for the best free data recovery software, you are likely doing it in reaction to something that has happened. Whether you accidentally deleted files, formatted your hard drive or had to reset your computer due to malware or other issue, it will be reactionary – most likely. Also, if you are searching for data recovery software, you must realise that it is possible. It is possible, but not always, depending on quite a few factors.

Unfortunately, in my experience using free data recovery software, there are generally two main barriers. The first barrier is what I like to call a “trial wall” – this is where restrictions are placed on the program that allow you to “trial” it. One way this is implemented is to restrict the number of files that can be recovered by the program. Another way is to restrict the amount of data that can be recovered. A third trial wall recovery software will employ, is to show you all of the files that have been recovered, but it won’t allow you to save them until you activate: read, pay for the software. In any case this doesn’t help you! This trial wall barrier is generally found with commercial or closed-source programs. The following programs fit under this barrier:

Recover My Files

  • The evaluation version of the software “is the FULL VERSION” – though you will be able to view all the recovered files, you won’t be able to save them
  • Closed-source

Disk Drill

  • Trialling this software will only allow you to recover up to 500MB – less than one CD worth of data, or about 150 – 200 photos
  • Closed-source

DiskGenius

  • Free version will not allow you to save files
  • Closed-source

GetDataBack

  • The free trial allows you to view the recovered files, but you will have to purchase it to save them
  • Closed-source

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

  • Free trial allows you to view the files, but you will not be able to save them until you purchase the full version
  • Closed-source

R-Undelete

  • Free version can recover files from FAT partitions
  • NTFS partitions (what is mostly used by people on Windows computers) in the free version are limited to 256KB per file – which is not very much – one photo from a modern camera or phone would be around 2 – 3MB, or roughly 10 times bigger
  • Closed-source

All of the programs here are quite user-friendly, that is, they are easy enough to use by non-technical people, however, they are not really free if you want to recover all of your files. There are many other tools for data recovery that come under this section, but they essentially do the same thing and have similar limitations, so it’s a bit redundant to list them all.

The second main barrier that I’ve found with free data recovery software is the level of knowledge needed to make use of it. There are two parts to this barrier, firstly the level of knowledge to use the tool to begin with, and secondly the level of knowledge to make use of the information that they provide. There are some very good open source projects and software, but they can be more difficult to use. Linux, in general, is a better operating system for these types of tools in my experience. Though when it comes to data recovery, these data recovery tools are used in the command line – people that use Windows may not be comfortable using the command line. The following data recovery software are listed below:

TestDisk

  • Powerful and completely free data recovery software
  • Can also repair disk partitions (as long as it is caused by software, and not hardware)
  • Open source

Ddrescue

  • Another powerful and completely free data recovery program
  • Similar features to TestDisk
  • Open source

These free and open source data recovery tools listed here are very powerful and can recover great amounts of information, however, there is a steep learning curve. If you are unsure about TestDisk and Ddrescue then I recommend not attempting to use them as you can potentially do more damage and lose data permanently.

PLEASE READ: If you have experienced data loss, i.e. you have accidentally formatted your hard drive, deleted files (photos, videos, documents, etc.) then it is recommended to stop using the device until you are able to begin data recovery. The reason being is that you risk losing more data by overwriting the sections where the lost data resided.


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Stop being honest, it’s putting you at risk online

There are many techniques that hackers employ (white hat and black hat, and those in between) to gain access to systems – one category of these techniques is social engineering. Have you ever created an online account, and when filling out the secret questions, wondered how this could be used by someone that’s not you? If you’re an honest person (or just simply not paranoid enough to care), you likely fill these secret questions in a way that is easy for you to remember, which is generally the truth. The problem with this is that anyone that knows you could also use this information to reset your password and gain access to that account. Even if they don’t personally know you, that won’t necessarily stop them from finding out this information – through phishing, or even just searching your online profiles they might be able to gather enough information to perform this attack.

How can you defend against this? Well, one convenient way is to make use of your password manager (which you should already be using! If not, see here). Password managers such as KeePass (or my preferred version, KeePassXC) and Bitwarden allow you to add notes to any entry, which allows you to add any secret question information. Just make sure that you also include the secret question, so you don’t get muddled up. Also, KeePassXC has a nifty feature to “protect” any note entry information (handy for mitigating against shoulder surfing) – all you have to do is edit an entry, either by double clicking it, or right click the entry and select “View/Edit Entry” as shown here,

KeePassXC Right-click
KeePassXC right-click

Then click on “Advanced” on the left-hand side, click “Add” on the right-hand side and then click “Protect” while you’re editing the entry. You can set up an entry for each secret question. There are other ways to protect your information online, though you have to keep in mind that falsifying information such as your name is against the Terms and Conditions of many websites – and may be against the law in some instances, so use caution when attempting to obfuscate certain information. Other than that, make sure you keep safe online!


Thanks for reading! As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment.

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What is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) and what use is it to me?

You may be using password managers to securely store your passwords and other information, but what happens if your master password gets discovered (perhaps through keylogging or maybe someone found that post-it note with it written on it)? Well 2FA can definitely assist with this dilemma. 2FA is an extra security step (something you have) in addition to your password (something you know). In general 2FA is a time-based code that is regenerated every so many seconds. It can be software-only (such as [Google Authenticator][play-store-google-authenticator or Authy, or hardware backed (such as a Yubikey). The reason 2FA is so beneficial is that even if your password (master password for your password manager or passwords for online accounts) is compromised, they will not be able to log in to your accounts without the 2FA code. Even if they have access to your 2FA key (especially a Yubikey), if you have set up a password on the 2FA application they still won’t be able to access your accounts. Good security practices utilise a layered approach so that if one layer becomes compromised all is not lost.


Thanks for reading! As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment.

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Password manager recommendations

Over the years I have used and tried a few different password managers – if you don’t know what a password manager is, see our post here. I am a strong proponent of open source software and definitely recommend this avenue. Open source software has the benefit of being able to be publicly vetted, whereas closed source is just that closed off software that cannot easily be audited or inspected by the public. So then what are the best password managers to use? That depends on your requirements – though instead of going into too much detail I will just jump straight into the recommendations. In my experience, the two best password managers that I have come across are KeePass (specifically, KeePassXC, which is a community fork of KeePass), and Bitwarden. Both of these password managers have their pros and cons – and for most people Bitwarden is going to be the best option. Here’s why:

Bitwarden

  • Free
  • Open source
  • Strong encryption
  • Supports many browsers:
    • Google Chrome
    • Mozilla Firefox
    • Opera
    • Microsoft Edge
    • Safari
    • Vivaldi
    • Brave
    • Tor Browser
  • Also compatible with Windows, Mac OS and Linux as desktop applications
  • Automatically syncs, with the option to host your own Bitwarden server
  • Password generator
  • Premium option ($10US / year), which includes:
    • 1GB encrypted storage
    • 2 factor authentication (2FA) login for extra security
    • Password hygiene & vault health reports
    • TOTP authenticator key storage & code generator
    • Priority customer support

KeePassXC

  • Free
  • Open source
  • Supports strong encryption
  • Offline only by default (though you can sync using a cloud service)
  • Compatible with Windows, Mac OS and Linux
  • Password generator

In any case, you should consider using a password manager if you aren’t right now. In addition to password managers you you should also consider enabling 2FA on all online accounts that support it. If you would like more information, please see our post here

If you would read some in-depth reviews of other password managers, please visit the great folks over at ConsumersAdvocate.org. They provide vetted and well-researched articles on a variety of topics. There is a great article called Best Password Manager Based on In-Depth Reviews that reviews password managers based on multiple metrics (Features, User Experience, Price, Security, Support). They even reviewed the first hardware-based password manager I ever owned, the SplashID Key Safe!


Thanks for reading! As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment.

Want a good laugh? Check out our other blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI).

I'm also testing an alternative to Facebook called Dots Mesh, developed by Ivo Petkov - my instance is available here
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What is a password manager (and what is it not)?

Password managers are a convenient way of, well, managing your passwords. This is fairly straightforward, but there are software that manage passwords – but are not in my mind password managers. For example, operating systems and browsers have password “rememberers” that store passwords for you, but they are not necessarily stored in an encrypted state. So while they offer slight convenience, there is no benefit to security because the information is kept in plain text – sometimes even if there is the option for a “master password”. For this reason it is not recommended to use these, but to opt for an actual password manager. Examples of these password “rememberers” are:

  • Internet browsers that ask you if you want to save your password (e.g. [Internet Explorer][wikipedia-internet-explorer], [Mozilla Firefox][firefox-homepage], [Google Chrome][chrome-homepage], [Safari][safari-homepage])
  • Apple’s [Keychain][what-is-keychain-access]
  • Linux Password and Keys

These are but a few examples, and is recommended not to use these because as mentioned earlier, the details are stored in plain text. What this means is that if someone gets access to your computer, they will be able to extract them and read them as if you typed them into Notepad.

So then if all these are not password managers, what are they? Password managers are actually dedicated programs, browser add-ons or websites that are designed to securely store passwords and login information. The benefits of using proper password managers are primarily convenience and security through:

  • Storing login details (and other information such as form auto-fill data) securely by encrypting everything with a master password
  • Allowing you to create much stronger passwords and different passwords for each website / service

For recommendations on which password manager you should be using, see our post here.


Thanks for reading! As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment.

Want a good laugh? Check out our other blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI).

I'm also testing an alternative to Facebook called Dots Mesh, developed by Ivo Petkov - my instance is available here
  • Because I am testing it and hosting it myself I am making it free of charge
We've done the research, so you don't have to!

[wikipedia-internet-explorer][https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Explorer] [firefox-homepage][https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/] [chrome-homepage][https://www.google.com/chrome/] [safari-homepage][https://www.apple.com/safari/] [what-is-keychain-access][https://support.apple.com/guide/keychain-access/what-is-keychain-access-kyca1083/mac] [cyklon-webshop]: https://cyklon.solutions [cyklon-ai-blog]: https://ai.cyklon.solutions

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