Rumtime LogoThere are hundreds of choices in the realm of data recovery software and most offer pretty much the same set of features.  However a few stand out among their contemporaries.  GetDataBack for FAT and GetDataBack for NTFS are two such programs.  Both offer some really nice features for recovering files from these filesystems.  However it should be noted that these data recovery programs are not necessarily beginners tools.  If you are new to data recovery you might find the terminology and menu’s a bit confusing however it shouldn’t be anything that an experienced IT pro can’t quickly figure out.

GetDataBack Main MenuThe first thing you’ll notice is a rather plain, unimpressive menu asking about the type of recovery you are planning.  Don’t let the ugly interface fool you though.  Although they didn’t spend much development time on the look of it, the program has tons of under the hood features that are sure to impress once put to work.  (all pictures in this review are from the NTFS version but the FAT version is nearly identical).

After making a selection the program will then ask you to select either a physical drive or a logical drive.  If you’re just looking to get back some deleted files then you will want to select a logical drive, but if you’re looking for a lost partition or recovering from a formatted drive you will need to select a physical drive.

Hard Drive SelectionThe ability to work with a physical drive in itself sets this apart from most of your $40-$50 data recovery programs that often can only work from a logical drive on an identified partition.  I’ve used this program numerous times on drives with partition table corruption and it is quite good at finding the partitions & file tables.
GetDataBack Excessive SearchExcessive File Search Option
One feature that you may want to enable at this point in the options is the “excessive search” feature shown in this image.  This feature once enabled has the program search the actual data area of the drive, not just the file table, and identifies common known file types such as images, documents, etc.

It takes vastly longer to run the scan, generally several hours, however you will have much better results, especially on drives that have been formatted, OS reinstalled, etc.

The program then compares the found files with it’s analysis of the file tables and presents to you a list of identified file systems.

pic2In the picture to the left only one is found, as this was done on a healthy system.  However on a typical recovery you may have several listed here.  The found file systems are ordered from top to bottom based on the relative health of the file system.  Those in green are considered “healthy” and will have lots of recoverable files, those in red are usually just relics of old long since formatted file systems that will be of limited use.

After choosing a file system it will then analyze the file system (and data area – if enabled) to build a composite file system of the files that exist and can be recovered.

Directory Tree GetDataBackThis menu is a familiar file tree explorer that allows you to select files and or folders to recover.  One feature that I’d like to see implemented is check box’s next to the folders allowing you to easily select multiple main/sub folders like you see in R-studio.  However despite this limitation you can easily select multiple folders by holding the ctrl or shift key, you just can’t select some main folders and some sub folders in one pass.  You have to do it in several smaller recoveries which gets annoying.

Search for filesOne nice feature that I enjoy is the search feature.  It searches very quickly and allows you to use custom search parameters to find the specific files or file types that you are looking for. (E.G. *.jpg)  You can then opt to just recover specific files from the search results without having to recover everything.  Especially having the ability to sort by size/date allows you to just select those digital camera photos that you really want back, and not all those little junk graphics from your browser cache.

Disk ExplorerAnother really nice advanced feature that is included is the DiskExplorer program that is included and incorporated into the GetDataBack program.  It’s a hex editor of sorts that can give you a great deal of information about your partitions, boot sectors, etc.  With a quick change in the settings it can also be used to manually edit the raw data on the drive which can be useful for cloning drives/partitions.  Or for fixing up data shifts for more advanced users.  But again it’s not something the average Joe is going to know how to use.

I think the biggest drawback to both programs is the file system limitation.  The FAT version only works on FAT and the NTFS on NTFS.  Both are reasonably priced at $69 & $79 respectively.  And both offer a demo that you can use to analyze (just not recover) in case you’re not sure what filesystem you had on a formatted drive.  I’d love to see a single version of the program with multiple filesystem support including Mac and Linux similar to R-Studio.


The sheer power and advanced features of these make them invaluable tools for any data recovery pro.  For the occasional user a more well rounded site like R-Studio which supports more file system types for the price might be more appropriate to your needs.

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