- Deep and effective scan
- Support for a very long list of file types
- Excellent filtering options
- Future data loss protection
- iOS scan and recovery, even via Wi-Fi
- Affordable pricing
- Can't recover files from SSD
- Clean-up utility is confusing
If you have ever experienced the moment when your Time Machine drive failed, then you already know what it means to lose the work of a lifetime or important files. No one wants that, and it’s an issue that CleverFiles’ Disk Drill Pro addresses. Thanks to its support for a continuously growing variety of file types and signatures, the data recovery software is very effective on hard drives and can even narrow down the scan results using its neat filters. The company behind the Atlanta, U.S.-based 508 Software takes a clever approach to customers looking for data recovery software: Disk Drill can be downloaded for macOS and Windows for free to check whether the files you are searching for are recoverable. It’s only if this is the case that you are then invited to upgrade to a lifetime license for $89.
Disk Drill’s user interface is simple and easy to understand, with all major features only one click away. The main window displays all the disks that the software recognizes, with immediate options to recover data or continue within the software. A handful of additional tools are bundled in with the software, too, such as a disk health checker, duplicate finder, and data backup – making Disk Drill a complete package.
But when it comes to just data recovery, Disk Drill for Mac isn’t short on options either, with a host of functions open to users dependent on availability:
- Undelete Protected Data.
- Rebuild HFS+ Catalog File.
- Universal Partition Search Scan for Lost HFS+ Partition.
- Quick Scan.
- Deep Scan.
Most interesting of all is the software’s ability to protect against future data loss with its additional data protection feature. Activating this will allow users to restore files sent to the Trash or a specified folder for up to a year after their deletion. This is dependent on various settings at the time, but a massive boon for those worried about losing important files.
Running the recovery scan requires users to disable System Integrity Protection (SIP) on machines running macOS Sierra or later. Although this sounds like a no-no for security-conscious users, it's important to know that Disk Drill does not affect any of the files in the system and that if SIP is enabled, then Disk Drill is unable to scan the disk. This is because with this protection active macOS enables the file system to not only protect files but also to protect the integrity of the drive itself.
We deleted the test files that included the most common file types (such as JPG, XLS, AVI, DOC, PDF) days before we ran the tests on both the internal SSD of the MacBook Pro and an HFS+ formatted 500GB external drive. Despite being able to identify more than 300 different file types, Disk Drill wasn't able to recover any data from our SSD drive. A test with a handful of recently deleted items returned results mostly showing ‘plist’ files.
This was quite the opposite when testing the HDD, however. While the results were quite limited with the quick scan option, we were able to recover most of our data by running the lengthy deep scan. For some reason, though, Disk Drill wasn't able to identify the MP3 files that we had deleted for this test, nor the AVI file. The scan took more than 10 hours, so we chose to pause and then resume the scan as time allowed without any issues. We also saved the session for later reuse, which turned out to be useful since it saved us 17 hours of our time.
However, with the data protection feature enabled, everything changed. This neat feature of Disk Drill always delivers successful data recovery results, although the major problem with it is that consumers usually turn to data recovery software after they have experienced data loss and want their files back, not before. In other words, while it is very handy and highly useful with 100% recovery results – again, depending on your data protection settings and the time between the data loss and running the recovery scan – it only works if the user already has Disk Drill installed and guaranteed recovery enabled.
All data recovery has its limitations because its success depends on multiple variables, particularly functions like secure erase on hard drives and TRIM on solid-state drives (SSDs). As such the software developer admits that SSD data recovery is due in the future as the current abilities of Disk Drill (and its peers) aren't enough, which is something that our tests confirmed.
Browsing through results would be a hassle without Disk Drill's advanced filtering options. Alongside the file type, the software lets you select data by size and the approximate time frame of when it was deleted. If this still doesn't uncover what you’re looking for, the search field is of great help. Combine that with the big thumbnail preview and you have a great user experience.
Besides data recovery, Disk Drill for Mac includes utilities such as a duplicate finder, which does a pretty good job – delivering decent results in our testing – and the clean-up feature. We tested it using the startup disk of test MacBook Pro, but the results weren't as easy to understand as they would be with Mac optimization software.
An interesting and noteworthy addition is the iOS and Android device recovery. Disk Drill recognizes mobile devices connected via Wi-Fi and lets you scan them for lost data. It is limited in its capabilities, however, and so for speed and security purposes it's better to connect the device via cable.
Disk Drill for Mac also includes a neat feature called “Disk Health”, a S.M.A.R.T. monitoring service that visualizes the health of the targeted drive.
Disk Drill for macOS comes in three flavors, Basic, Pro, and Enterprise, all serving different types of users. The free version, Basic, is essentially software that only serves the purpose of checking whether is possible to save the data of a failing startup disk or external drive. If a scan shows positive results in this regard, then users become ‘eligible’ to upgrade to the Pro version, which costs $89 per lifetime license for a single user on up to three Macs. Add $29 more and you'll instead get a lifetime upgrade.
Those using Disk Drill at a professional level by offering data recovery services can opt for the Enterprise version at $399. This provides an unlimited number of users, activated Macs, free lifetime upgrades, and a forensic data export.
However, it’s possible to save money on Disk Drill by moving over from a competing service, allowing you to get a license for half price. There's no need to worry about payment methods, either, since the company accepts all major credit and debit cards as well as PayPal, PayNearMe, wire transfer, checks, and purchase order.
When it comes to recovering lost data, it's good to have answers quickly. Disk Drill's extensive help section seeks to address that need by providing various options. Users can search through the knowledge base using the search field or, if they need assistance in getting started, can browse the same section by categories such as basics, data protection, data recovery, and more. The live chat connects users with a real person who can assist them both with their purchase and technical questions.
If chat is not your preferred way of getting an answer, then the tutorials will help in the troubleshooting process. 508 Software even has its own YouTube channel where it briefly explains the software's features. But most surprising is how promptly the company answers emails sent to support, with our email being answered within a few hours. The web form, however, didn't really work.
Disk Drill for Mac is one of the best options that customers have for data recovery. The free version first checks whether the data is even recoverable, and it’s only when needing to recover that data that the Pro version for $89 is necessary. Don't expect it to work on an SSD, though – that's currently still impossible unless you enable the neat data protection feature, which is to protect against future data loss not recover data already lost. Depending on your settings, you may have up to one year to recover deleted data, though the amount of storage is also a factor since the software needs to store a copy of the files you send to the Trash or a specified folder.
However, the advanced filtering options contribute to the long life of millions of neurons, helping to eliminate any guesswork and help users whittle down thousands of results to just a few. If you are looking for a decently priced data recovery software that has the added benefit of future protection, then Disk Drill is a service worth considering.