Stellar Data Recovery software
A few weeks ago, I was asked by Stellar Data recovery to test their software and review it from the perspective of a photographer. They provided me a 30-day license key so I could review their software from a clear and unbiased perspective. One of the most terrifying things about being a photographer is the fear of losing important images. Until recently, the only option for reliable data recovery was to send your memory cards to specialized data recovery services which cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Stellar Data Recovery Software has created a tool that can safely recover photos from your memory card, even if you have inadvertently formatted it – and at a reasonable price.
We have all been there, you are out shooting an event or taking photos of a beautiful location and without thinking, you put a new card in your camera and format it, erasing all the images from the day’s shoot. I know wedding photographers that have lost hundreds of images due to an accidental format or image erase. Losing the images from a client’s special day can not only cause you mental trauma, but this sort of mistake can open you up to legal woes. I have been there, and lost images from a once in a lifetime landscape shoot. It was a crushing experience. I learned from my mistake, and now have a process in place when I shoot to ensure I don’t relive that terrible day. I’ll fill you in on my method to protect data when I shoot in a future post, but now let’s talk about this great little tool to recover those lost images.
Stellar Data software is a Windows-only program that can recover lost data from most sources including memory cards, USB sticks and hard drives. I tested the standard edition, version 10.0.0.3. It should also be pointed out that the standard edition does not include support for recovering files from optical media, but there are other versions of the software available which will recover files from a variety of sources, including unbootable computers. The standard version I tested has the basic feature set and is perfectly suited for photographers who have lost files on their memory cards.
Purchase and installation
The standard edition of Stellar Data Recovery software costs 2,499 Indian Rupee, which equates to $34.10 in US dollars. Purchasing the software gives you a 30-day license not a permanent one, which can be easily missed when you are in panic mode looking for solutions to recover your files. I personally prefer a version license over a timed license, but since you generally need to recover your files then move on, this pricing scheme should work for most photographers who are finding themselves in a jam. I don’t consider the short license a deal breaker. I found the software in the windows store, and installing the software was uneventful and went as expected. I clicked the account silhouette icon on the main screen once the program launched and entered my license key.
I tested the Stellar Data Recovery software with a variety of old and new SD and CF cards. My computer has a built in SD and CF card reader, but I also tested with an external USB 3 Lexar card reader which works with both SD and CF cards. I even tested the software with a really old Sandisk USB 2 reader that only works with SD cards.
To torture test the software, I deleted files from the cards using a variety of hardware and methods.
Canon 5dmkIII: Erase all files and format card method.
Canon 5dmkIV: Erase all files and format card method.
Canon 7dmkI: Erase all files and format card method.
MacBook Pro: Erase all files and format card method.
Windows 10: Erase all files and format card method.
This seemed like a good cross-section of sources that a photographer might use to accidentally erase files from a memory card. So, how did the software handle the cards after the data was deleted?
When you are in a panic trying to recover your files, hands sweating, heart racing, the last thing you want is a difficult to navigate user interface. I am partially sighted and find small text and lots of options difficult to navigate, I found Stellar Data Recovery software has a simple straightforward interface. To recover files from a source, all the user has to do is click the box next to the drive to select the source then click scan to get started. The toughest part of this was that I expected to see EOS_DIGITAL as the source name for my memory card, but instead the name of the card reader was what needed to be selected. In this case, Lexar Pro
Stellar Data Recovery software comes installed ready to recover a wide variety of jpg and RAW photo and video files, and there is full functionality for the user to add additional files to be scanned for. I found that the software takes an average of one minute per GB on your card to scan for recoverable files. An older 1GB CF card took a bit over a minute and a newer 16GB 10X SD card took about 16 minutes to scan.
In this example, the older 1GB CF card which had been formatted in camera had 196 files found in 9 folders, yielding 1.45GB of data recoverable on my 1GB card.
What did it recover?
On all the cards I tested, the Stellar Data Recovery software found full size images in jpg and CR2, lower resolution thumbnails of those and other images and even the “sidecar” files the cameras use which are not generally user accessible via normal means. I also tested the recovery of audio and video files. The Stellar Data Recovery software recovered all the files on the cards that were freshly deleted via single file delete or format. The software also found and somehow recovered file that were years old, I was shocked to see that some images that were recovered were from shoots I had long forgotten about. How it recovered them I don’t know. I can’t begin to imagine how many times the cards had been formatted and written to full capacity over the years.
The software also found quite a few .flc files which are typically FLAC video or audio files. I had not copied these files onto the cards previously and the Cameras I used were not capable of recording in this format. I tried to open the files, but they had little or no data. I can only assume that these are files used by one of the cameras internally.
Would I recommend?
Stellar Data Recovery software is only available on Windows, the scope of this review did not include running the software on a Mac under bootcamp. I ran the software on a couple different Windows 10 machines, with a variety of memory cards including Sandisk (regular and extreme), Lexar (regular and PRO), Kingston, and even a few cards that just said “memory card” I found in a box of old tech junk. The software recovered a shocking amount of data I thought had been long deleted, and it was all readable and useable.
If I had formatted a card of important photos, I would not hesitate to try this software first before sending it off to the data recovery big boys.
There were a few quirks in the user interface, some strange wordings on the buttons and such, but overall for the price versus functionality I would recommend this software as a first place to start if you need to recover accidentally deleted files. If you have tried this software I would be interested to hear your thoughts and experiences with it.
I would also recommend turning off the preview button when starting a scan. This will significantly speed up the initial scan.
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