Data Rescue 10.4.3, by ProSoft
Posted: 27-Aug-2005

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: ProSoft Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: UTILITY

Overview
Do you have a corrupt hard drive or one that no longer mounts? Are other tools failing to even recognize your bad drive? Did you accidently delete pictures from your digital camera? If you are looking for a solution to any or all of these questions, ProSoft answers this need with Data Rescue. Data Rescue is a data recovery utility for Mac OS X that recovers files from a problem hard drive. The philosophy behind Data Rescue is to try and safely recover your files from a bad drive before trying to fix the drive, since drive repair can cause a loss of your data. Data Rescue can also recover deleted digital pics from your camera media after you've deleted them or even re-formatted your camera media card. Data Rescue is designed to recover files when your hard drive won't mount, when your hard drive is corrupt and you cannot get files from it, when you accidently delete pictures from your digital camera, and when you accidently reformat your digital camera media. Data Rescue can even recover your MP3 files from a corrupted iPod.

Features

  • Recovers files from hard drives even if they fail to mount or only partially operate
  • Recovers all types of files, including their data, icons, dates, and folder hierarchy
  • Recovers deleted digital pics from your camera media after you've deleted them
  • Recover your whole drive or just the files you need
  • Leaves the original disk untouched to preserve data
  • Professional results, easy to use

Requirements

  • Mac OS X version 10.1.5 or later
  • 128 MB RAM
  • HFS or HFS+ partitions

NOTE: There's also Data Rescue Classic that runs on Mac OS 8.6 thru 9.2.2, and Data Rescue Legacy that runs on 68k Macs running OS 8.1 or higher.

Price

$89


Installation
Open the CD (or if you downloaded Data Rescue from the web, open the disk image), and drag the Data Rescue application to your Applications folder on your hard drive. That's all there is to it.

In Use
Data Rescue, much like insurance, is one of those applications that you hope you'll never need to use. However, when you experience a hard drive problem, and almost everyone experiences a hard drive problem as some point, it is really good to have a utility that is capable of reading data from that drive when no operating system can. It should be understood that there are two different kinds of hard drive problems. A permanently malfunctioning hardware problem, such as the drive makes a loud and continuous noise and never spins up, is not going cooperate with this utility (or any other). For such a serious hardware problem, you can take the drive to a professional hard drive recovery shop and hope for the best (and be prepared to shell out the bucks).

The more common problem with hard drives going bad is when just part of the hard drive mechanism becomes unreadable, whether temporary or permanent, and the volume structure for all of the files on the drive becomes corrupt. When the volume structure becomes corrupt, your OS is unable to read from it. That is where a tool like Data Rescue can help. As long as your hard drive can be read, Data Rescue can do its thing. That includes corrupted drives as well as drives that were reformatted and files that were erased.

In my case, I had a corrupted hard drive, and I was unable to repair the volume. This would have been a good opportunity to use Data Rescue to retrieve the data, but I had thought I had the data backed up. Instead, I performed a quick reformat of the drive and repartitioned it. It was not long after that when I discovered that the backup archive was corrupt. Apparently, when the source hard drive volume becomes corrupted, files that are backed up from that drive may not be backed up properly. I began to notice that several photographs had random color bands in them, or other stray defects. Movies that I had backed up played with skipped frames, corrupted frames, or didn't play at all. Audio files that I had backed up were infected with random pops throughout. Basically, it was a nightmare. I had already formatted the original corrupted source drive, so I just made sure that I did not start writing to the disk lest I overwrite any important files. Mac OS X saw only a blank drive, but because I did not do a low-level format, I knew that all of the data was still intact. I just needed a utility to get to it, and Data Rescue fit the bill.

When you start up the Data Rescue application, a "Start" splash screen is displayed. Upon clicking start, you are prompted to enter an administrator password (Data Rescue requires unrestricted access to your entire file system). The main Data Rescue window is presented with a series of large buttons: Quick Scan, Thorough Scan, Content Scan, Use Scan File, and Start Now. At the top of the window is a popup window that displays a list of internal and external hard drives (or volumes).


Data Rescue primary functions

Before discussing the different types of scan operations, it's helpful to understand some of the preference options. Under Data Rescue Preferences, there are 6 checkboxes that can be toggled on and off. Most of these are self-explanatory and don't need to be changed. The first checkbox, however, is one that you will toggle on and off depending up on your needs. This is the "Ignore Partitioning" checkbox. By default, this checkbox is off, and when off, the list in the popup window are all of the actual volume names of each partitioned hard drive. Prosoft recommends attempting your data rescue in this mode at first.


Data Rescue preferences

If, however, the partition table of the hard drive is corrupted, or unreadable for any other reason, you will want to check the Ignore Partitioning checkbox. In this mode, Data Rescue ignores the partitions and simply provides a list of the physical hard drive names. In the figures below, the first screen capture shows a list of volume names (e.g., Studio, Mach 10, Starbase II, etc.). The second screen capture shows a list of the actual device names (e.g., WDC WD1200JB-75CRAO Media, etc.). There are few hard drive names than volume names in this case because many of my hard drives were partitioned with multiple volumes. The one drawback of the non-partition listings is that it's very difficult to determine which drives are which. It would be nice if the software created some mechanism to help out in this regard. For instance, in the second screen shot below, you'll notice that there are two ATA Maxtor drives. Fortunately, it does display the drive size, so that helps, but in an earlier test, I had two of the same sized drives connected, making it very difficult to discern which was which. It is helpful to know that the order of the volumes is the same order as the drives (i.e., the first listing in the volume list is on the first drive in the drive list).


Data Rescue X - Selecting by volume name


Data Rescue X - Selecting by raw hard drive name


Once you've selected a volume or drive, you then want to select the type of scan: Quick, Thorough, or Content. A Quick scan is a fast scan of the hard drive's catalog file picking up files that it can determine quickly. This type of scan is going to miss a lot of data, but because it is so quick, it doesn't hurt to try this one first.

For the hard to find files, or simply for a complete restore of files, you'll want to choose one, or really both, of the other scans. A Thorough Scan is a more rigorous search through the volume's catalog. A Content scan doesn't scan the catalog at all, but reads the hard drive byte-by-byte piecing together files as it interprets them. This latter scan is particularly useful for corrupt catalogs, or for files that may have been deleted and erased from the trash. Files recovered from the Thorough scan retain their original file names, whereas files restored from the Content scan are given generic names based upon the type of data that Data Rescue detects.

As you might imagine, there is only a finite number of file types that Data Rescue can interpret for content scans. You have the option to turn any of those options off when trying to pinpoint only certain kinds of files. Under the Expert menu is a Content-scan control option that provides a dialog of different tabs: Images, Audio, Movies, Text, Docs, Misc and General. Images supports JPEG, PNG, GIF and TIFF, Audio supports MP3 and AAC, Movies supports Quicktime and MPEG, Docs supports OLE and Entourage mail, and Misc supports Stuffit. Text scans are pretty generic and can product more results that you need, so if you aren't looking for text files, it is recommended that you turn this option off.

While I wouldn't expect the program to recognize every file type out there, the current list of recognized types seems a bit limited. Granted, the current list covers all of the files that I was concerned with in my test, but there are other critical types, such as WAV, AIFF, Filemaker Pro databases, Eudora and Mail files, etc., that I would like to see included.

Once you click on "Start Now", Data Rescue analyzes your entire hard drive looking for your data, then it meticulously re-assembles your files and stores them to a different location. The Thorough scan results (which really should be referred to as a "catalog" scan) are stored in a folder under the volume name with all the sub-folder names restored from the catalog.


File browsing the Thorough Scan results

The content scan results are stored in a folder named "CBR", with a variety of sub-folders based upon the file type (aka, images, movies, etc.). If there are a lot of a files of a specific file type recovered, the files are broken into multiple folders of that type (e.g., images1, images2, and so on).


File browsing the Content Scan results

If you performed a Thorough or Content scan, you will want to save the scan file before continuing. That way if you quit Data Rescue for any reason, and decide you want to go back and browse or recover more files later, you won't have to do the scan all over again. You could simply work off of the saved scan file. Of course, if you make changes on the drive after the scan, then you will want to re-scan anyway, because the data has changed and the old scan file may not be in sync with the files you may wish to recover.

You can browse through the scan results within the Data Rescue window by clicking the arrows next to folders to expand them, or double-clicking the folder to open it as the main list. You can also do a filename search, but this is only useful for files that were found by the Thorough scan (that uses the catalog file names). Browsing and selecting files is not as savvy as using the Finder in OS X, but it is simple enough. It would be nice to have a sort by file suffix (.doc, .ole and .xls are all intermingled in the Documents folder no matter what the sort), and a search by file content.

Recovering files is as easy as clicking on the checkbox to the left of the file, and choosing Recover. You can checkbox all of the files you want to recover first, and then click Recover to recover them all at once. I had hoped that after recovering the files that the browser window would have reflected that in some way, but it doesn't. Therefore, if you want to recover more files after the first recover operation, you have to remember to uncheck all of the files that you already checked; otherwise, it will recover the first batch of files again along with the new selections.

If you want to run another scan (say you ran a Quick scan, and then decided you wanted to run a Thorough scan), it isn't obvious on the Data Rescue results window how to do that. Intuitively, I expected there to be a "New scan" button somewhere in the window, but there wasn't. You have to go under the File menu to start a new scan.

As mentioned earlier, I ran Data Rescue on a drive that I had reformatted before I grabbed the data I needed from it. I combined the Thorough and Content scan to provide the most complete results. I saved the scan file of the results so that I could go back and browse that disk over a period of several days, recovering files as needed (just had to make sure that I didn't do any write operations on the drive). I recovered a bunch of precious photographs that had previously been found corrupted on my backup drive, and the recovered photographs were all in perfect condition.

Some of the audio files, unfortunately, had the same popping defects as the backed up versions, so the files must have been corrupted on the source drive. Unfortunately, there is no magical way to fix these files when all you have are corrupt versions.


Recovered: An old photograph of the review editor many years before his first Mac

The Data Rescue user interface is nothing fancy or spectacular, but it is functional and very simple to use. The hard disk menu could be simplified to better guide the user in understanding what disk is what, and it would definitely be better to display the disk sizes in GB versus MB. Where this utility really shines is in its consistent and reliable performance of restoring lost files.

Documentation
Data Rescue comes with an online Users Manual that is accessible from the Help menu within the application. Unfortunately, there is no decent search or navigation functions for viewing the document. It was a bit cumbersome navigating to where I wanted to go. Fortunately, Prosoft also provides the
Users Manual from their website. This downloads as a PDF, and so you can view it in Preview or Acrobat Reader where it is much easier to navigate (and optionally print). For those considering Data Rescue, I strongly recommend downloading and reading the manual to better understand how the program works. The manual is a great reference document.

Summary
Prosoft Data Rescue is a mission critical utility for Mac OS X that can be used to recover files from corrupted hard drives, or files deleted from your trash or off of your camera media card. Whether the drive was corrupted, or you just happened to format the drive and decided later than you need files from it, Data Rescue provides several scan types to locate and recover files from the drive. If the drive's partition table is corrupted, you can ignore partitions and still read and recover files. If the volume's catalog tables are corrupt, or you happen to erase some files from the catalog, Data Rescue provides an option for performing a content scan that reads data from your disk and interprets and rebuilds the files. There is room for improvement in Data Rescue's interface. The way it presents raw hard drive names can be confusing, sorting by filename suffix is currently not supported, and it does not flag files once the files have been recovered. Overall, Data Rescue is very simple to use, and it's scanning and file interpreting algorithms put it a cut above other hard drive utilities. Once you use this software to recover some critical files from a bad drive, you'll never let the application leave your hard drive. I highly recommend Data Rescue for anyone in a position of needing to recover data from a corrupted drive, as well as those who just want to be prepared just in case.
The value of having important data recovered is priceless.

Pros

  • Recovers data from corrupted drives, including drives with corrupted partition tables
  • Content scan reads drive and interprets files without needing the catalog table
  • Easy to use interface
  • Users Manual provides good information
  • File recovery is simple, reliable, and priceless!

Cons

  • Difficult to distinguish drives with "ignore partitions"
  • Tedious to navigate users manual from within the application
  • Limited number of file types for content scan (does not include WAV, Eudora, Filemaker, and others)
  • Scan results file browser could be improved


Overall Rating:

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice