CnW Recovery ReviewIn the world of data recovery software there are a ton of options.  And, sad to say most are pretty run of the mill ordinary software that has all the basic features you expect from mediocre software.  A few however such as R-Studio, GetDataBack, TestDisk, do manage to distinguish themselves by providing features that no one else has.  Today I’m going to review one little known data recovery program with some nice innovative features, CnW Recovery.

This data recovery program might look a bit like it was quickly thrown together for a Windows 98 operating system, but don’t let the appearance fool you.  Under the hood there are some powerful features that even a data recovery pro like me will find useful.  One feature in particular is only found in this program and no other that I know of.  But, we’ll get to that a little later.  For now let’s take a look at the basics of this program.

The Main Wizard

CnW Wizard Data RecoveryHere, we find the main wizard screen.  It’s not actually necessary to use the wizard, but certainly does make things a bit simpler.  You’re asked to select the type of recovery you need, whether it’s a memory card photo recovery, a failed/formatted hard drive, a bad DVD, etc.  By selecting the appropriate one, it’ll chose the best group of settings and configuration for the task.  It’s clear that the developer, Michael Cotgrove I believe, isn’t looking to make a flashy product with a lot of 3d flash and CGI graphics.  Just a simple interface with a few rather humorous digital photos for reference.  But, to be honest when it comes to data recovery software looks tell very little of the story.  Point in case, GetDataBack – Ugly but powerful, Tenorshare – Flashy and useless.  I guess it’s all where you put you emphasis, under the hood or body work.

The Most Powerful New Feature of CnW Recovery

Fragmented MP4 Data RecoveryThe Mp4 recovery option is by far the most powerful feature that CnW Recovery has which no one else has.  Sure, there are other programs that can recover an MP4 file based on it’s signatures from a HDD, but not like CnW does.  CnW Recovery is actually able to handle the fragmentation that occurs when certain cameras such as the GoPro write the video to an SD, CF, or other flash media.  When that happens the video sequence of data is actually broken with metadata which is written simultaneously as the video.  The result is a fragmented file.  So while other recovery software will find the files beginning and end and attempt to carve them out, they won’t play.  It’s a common gripe on a lot of forums about corrupted MP4 files after recovery.

CnW on the other hand is actually able to analyze the video frames/stream and isolate the data which doesn’t belong in the data stream.  It then reads only the sectors that belong in the video, stitches them together, rebuilds the index, and you have a playable file.  This feature was already able to help save a card full of wedding pictures that no other software could rescue.  If this were the only feature of the software, it would still be worth the purchase in my opinion.

Other Features of CnW Recovery

Image Failing Drive

This feature will attempt to create a working image of a failing drive that has bad sectors.  It’s certainly not as good as imaging with a tool like ddrescue in Linux which is able to have more direct access to 04.2 - Sector Skipthe drive without interferance from Windows Host Controller.  But for a drive with only a few bad sectors, it’s workable.  For more imaging power, check out this tutorial about how to image a failing drive in Linux – ddrescue totorial

Within the configuration settings, you can also set the number of failed reads before skipping a range of LBAs as well as set the jump size of how much to skip.  You’ll also want to be sure to uncheck the box to “Never skip sectors” as that’s likely to kill a struggling drive.  One thing I’d personally like to see added is an option to split and retry failed blocks after the initial pass of imaging.  But, it’s still a nice feature to have.

Edit: After speaking with Michael over at CnW, it turns out you can do a multi-pass image built up in stages.  The software keeps track of what blocks of data were read, so you can simply stop it adjust settings and do it again and it will only retry the unread areas.  So you can image both forward and backward to the same image set.  Also he pointed out that using the log you can simply target a single file and image it separately or as a region of the drive.  The software also has a volume shadow copy feature which can be used in conjunction with the imaging process.  After scanning the directory area of the disk the shadow copy can be mounted and then key files extracted.  If they aren’t imaged already the software will then go and read the data from the failing disk.

05 - Work from ImageWork With Image Files

After creating an image, you also obviously can then work with that image file.  This feature also can be useful to work with RAW images created by other programs such as ddrescue.

It also is able to work with both 2K and 4K block size optical image files from CDs and DVDs.  I didn’t get a chance to play with this feature, but it certainly could be helpful in some cases.


06 - Checking Fake Memory CardCheck for Fake Memory Cards

Another automated feature that you might not even notice if you aren’t watching closely is the check for Fake Memory Cards feature.  In recent years some shady overseas merchants have began selling hacked memory cards and thumb drives.  A cheap junk memory card of only a few hundred MB or less is modified to identify an artificially high capacity like 64Gb, but in reality the data just begins looping back and overwriting itself after the actual memory size is filled.  Typically these are ones ordered from China which are branded for a some company and given out as promotional items.  The makers obviously assume that no one you give it to will ever trace it back to them.

This feature will auto check for the spoofed memory and let you know if that’s the issue so you don’t waste too much time on it.  And, I suppose you could use it on a new card to test if it’s legitimate.

07 - Hex ViewerHex Viewer

There is also a very basic Hex viewer built into the program.  It seems to serve the sole purpose of being able to quickly check if a drive is blank, contains an MBR, etc.  You actually can write and save data to the drive from it (handy if you just want to quickly deactivate the MBR).  However it’s far from a full featured hex editors with more advanced views and tools.

I’d love to see a more full featured head editor with at least a search feature (Edit: Search is available in the forensic edition only).  However I suppose with so many dedicated hex programs out there, it’s really unnecessary to have it integrated into this program.  I guess R-Studio spoils us with a halfway decent one built in.


The program is surprisingly affordable as you can see below:

  • 30 Day License – $19.99
  • Full License – $34.99
  • Commercial License – $79.99


Michael at CnW has always been very helpful and quick to respond whenever you contact him.  So if you ever run into a situation where you need expert advice or even help recovering a file the software won’t recognize, expect to be impressed.  His helpfulness is actually what inspired me to write this article (good people deserve good reviews).



While it certainly isn’t going to be the one data recovery program that does it all anytime soon, it’s a very nice program with some outstanding features.  I’d love to see more file types supported in RAW recovery, or even the ability to add in custom GREP signatures, however the software does an excellent job at recovering the file types it does support.  Better than most anything else.

If you’re a data recovery pro or at least dabble in data recovery, it’s an indispensable program to add to your toolbox.  The $79 is well worth it for the Commercial License.  Visit CnW’s Homepage Here:

CnW Recovery Homepage

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