Disk Drill Review: The other week I was given a PRO license for Disk Drill Pro by my buddy Luke Coughey from https://www.recoveryforce.com/. Yes, this is legal, he was offered licenses to give away for promotional purposes. I have looked at Disk Drill in the past and it appears not much has changed since. Which isn’t a good thing.

UPDATE AUG 22, 2019

Clever Files released version 4 of the data recovery product Disk Drill.

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It’s good to see they stepped up to 64 bits but they don’t seem to be benefiting from it. It’s just as sluggish as the previous version, their scan modes are confusing, it seems a tad faster but hardly significant and results are way below average.

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Scenario: Windows 10, NTFS, 800.000+ files.

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Something as simple as loading an existing directory tree on a healthy volume (called allocating existing data in Disk Drill) takes longer than for ReclaiMe or UFS Explorer to detect all data in a RAW state! The latter two parse the complete tree of a RAW volume within a matter of a few minutes while Disk Drill takes over 30 minutes (was then stopped) to parse a healthy file system.

Comments regarding version 4 are added to tests below.

Update March 13, 2019

Some complaints in the comment section last couple of weeks about DiskDrill not working and refusal to give a refund. It is good to be aware of the CleverFiles non refund policy. In all fairness, it is in their EULA:

6. Refund Policy.

6.1. No Refunds. Because of the nature of 508 Software’s Products, all purchases and sales are FINAL. However, 508 Software reserves the right to address each refund request on a case-by-case basis and in its sole discretion. If You are seeking a refund because of a Product malfunction, bug, or similar concern, please contact 508 Software as outlined at the end of this EULA or in the Terms of Service.

But they know as well as I do 9 out of 10 will not read that. IMO, a non refund policy should be stated on their website. Refund policies are a ‘thing’ I am struggling with too I must admit. If people just buy and try rather than try and buy, it means I lose money without getting anything in return. At the same time the user has a working license key. So I feel you can’t throw this all on the plate of the software writer/seller. Seems like common sense to me that if the option is available, to first try, and if it works for you, then buy.

Disk Drill popularity

Disk Drill appears to be a popular tool. I do not have hard numbers to back up this claim, but I see people recommending it on a regular basis in various forums and other online communities. I can forgive an end user a positive review if he has nothing to compare against.

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Also review sites often place Disk Drill in their top 10’s or even top 5’s. Fact that ‘professional’ review sites rate the program so high makes me wonder about their objectivity. However a fair amount of reviews covers the Mac version. Maybe it performs better than it’s Windows counter part. Or maybe it is due to the fact that there are not many data recovery tools for the Mac. In this post I will only cover the Windows version and I have no idea how the Mac and Windows versions compare.

Like many other data recovery software vendors, CleverFiles offers a free version of it’s product Disk Drill. Be sure to try that version because purchasing the Pro version is irreversible: all sales are considered final. FWIW I consider the latter reasonably fair with regards to recovery and repair type tools in general.

As with competitors offering free versions, the free part has to be taken with a grain of salt. Typically the amount of data that can be recovered is very limited, somewhere about 1 or 2 GB. Disk Drill free allows you to select and recover 500 MB. Granted, if you need to quickly undelete that one document you have been working on so hard then this may be enough, but in general I consider the free quota nothing but a cheap marketing trick. If the damage is more serious, like you accidentally formatted a whole volume, then the free part is as good at nothing.

It also helps if you indeed can quickly recover the deleted file but you will be disappointed when you hope to be able to achieve this using Disk Drill. Scanning your disk with this file recovery software is like watching grass grow.

Disk Drill review, scenarios

I will test Disk Drill against 3 typical and common scenarios:

  1. Recover an accidentally deleted file, or undelete.
  2. Unformat type recovery: After a volume turned RAW or was accidentally formatted.
  3. Photo Recovery: Recover photos from a corrupted SD Card (JPEG photos).

Quick undelete a file from the c: drive

If you need to undelete a file, specially from the Windows c: drive, speed is of the essence unless you’re able to ‘freeze’ the drive: Turn off PC > attach drive to different PC > scan and recover from the slaved drive. Reality is, 9 out of 10 people will run the software from their c: drive. So, you need to be quick before the deleted file is overwritten.

Scenario: Windows 10, NTFS, 800.000+ files.

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I fire up Disk Drill > select the c: drive > change recovery mode to ‘Quick’.

10 minutes into scan30 minutes scannedafter 1 hour scan time

After waiting 1.5 hours and only a few thousand files detected, and NO indication at all with regards to percentage scanned so far or an ETA, I break off the scan. A typical free undelete type tool like DiskTuna’s own undelete tool or Recuva will recover such files (if recoverable) within a few minutes.

Version 2. My conclusion is that Disk Drill is completely unfit for undelete type recovery.

Version 4. Quick undelete test was a lot quicker and found about the same amount of files as FileScavenger.

Unformat type recovery: recover data from formatted or RAW volume.

Scenario: NTFS volume, approx 600 GB, 800.000+ files. I go with default recovery which includes the quick and the deep scan. Of course this will not increase speed compared to the quick scan. After over an hour of scanning Disk Drill suddenly offers some information on it’s progress! It claims it has been scanning for 3 minutes and remaining scan time is around 2+ hours (although fluctuating up to 3 hrs):

In general, with this type of damage and recovery, the tool should be able to reconstruct a more or less complete directory tree + file names are recoverable too. Reference tools like ReclaiMe are able to reconstruct a directory tree of the same drive in less than 2 minutes.

ReclaiMe detects all files + complete directory structure in less than 2 minutes!

Finally done!

After 2+ hours of scanning Disk Drill presents it’s final result:

In total it detects 146989 ‘items’ (out of 800.000+ expected). Of those only 20407 are sorted in the directory tree and the majority, 126582 are detected by file signature. So the latter is without original file names or their original folders! This is an extremely poor result! Not only it failed to detect the majority of the files at all, it fails to reconstruct a directory structure spectacularly. Even Deep Scan, which I assume is a signature or RAW scan, fails. For example, the volume contains 100’s of intact Canon RAW photos (CR2) of which it manages to locate only 4!

There’s more totally weird behavior: If I search for ‘*.CR2’ no files are found. Using ‘CR2’ as search phrase lists the 4 CR2 files but also a folder full of JPEGs.

Disk Drill is slow, fails to detect the majority of the files on the volume and fails to reconstruct a directory tree. Totally unfit to recover data from a RAW or quick formatted NTFS volume.

Version 2. I can only come t the conclusion that Disk Drill is not suited to recover data from a RAW or quick formatted NTFS volume.

Version 4. I got the same result with version 4, it just finished a tad quicker.

Scenario 3: Photo Recovery

For this I use a sector-by-sector disk image of a SD Card. Disk Drill allows you to ‘attach’ a disk image and then offers that as location to scan in the disk list. If I go with the default scan the program crashes reproducible.

Only after I switch to deep scan, which causes the program not to scan for lost partitions, I can get it to scan. The program finds 1000 files: actually double the amount but files under the directory tree (DCIM) and RAW files (deep scan) are the same. So for each file exactly one duplicate. This is the same amount of files as the ones on the reference recovery software. Free software such as PhotoRec can recover the files as well (Tested this already in the past).

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Disk Drill: satisfactory results with photo recovery

Version 2. Conclusion: Disk Drill performs satisfactory when used for photo recovery once you work around the quirks.

Disk Drill Review Conclusion

I am under the impression Disk Drill is a popular tool among end users. After reviewing it I sincerely wonder why as it is far from the best solution available: Disk Drill is extremely slow compared to other tools, delivers poor results and is buggy at some points.

Losing data is often a significant interruption of whatever you were doing. Recovering data with as minimal fuzz as possible is then desired. The file recovery software should be easy to use, quick and preferably recovers the complete directory structure and file names. At too many points Disk Drill fails to meet these requirements. With all that in mind, the price of $89 for Disk Drill against $79.95 for ReclaiMe, the latter being far superior, is plain ridiculous!

My conclusion is that Disk Drill (Windows) 2.0 isn’t worth your time or money.

However, version 4 is slightly better! I still do not like it:

  • I think it’s interface is confusing
  • It is and feels sluggish from setup to using it
  • Setup also wants a reboot which I think is very undesirable when you downloaded the tool to quickly undelete a file
  • Unformat type recovery doesn’t cut it! I consider this a major part of a generic file recovery tool.
  • If compared to other tools it certainly isn’t the best choice

Specially when you compare Disk Drill to competing tools, the difference is night and day. Confusing vs. simple and straight forward to use. Sluggish vs. snappy and responsive.

Disk Drill Pro For Free


Disk Drill For Windows Free

I am affiliated with some file recovery products, including Disk Drill, listed on this website. This means I earn a small commission when I refer someone to specific software and that someone decides to purchase that software. However, if I think a product is bad then I will say so. If I think a product is good, whether I am affiliated to it or not, I will say that too.

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Edit: CleverFiles has discontinued my affiliate account.