Review: 6 data recovery tools for USB flash drives and more

Accidentally deleted an important document, picture or other file on a thumb drive or memory card? These tools can help you get it back.

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As USB thumb drives and memory cards have grown larger and cheaper over the years, it's become easier to trust more data to them. Cloud storage services notwithstanding, flash drives have remained a common way to store data and transport files from one computer to another — and it's all too easy to accidentally erase data from one or have it hiccup on you.

That’s where file recovery tools come in; they restore deleted files from hard drives and other storage devices. For this roundup, we tested how effectively six tools recover data from USB flash drives.

Most data recovery tools work similarly: Through their interfaces, you select the storage device (flash drive, hard drive, SSD, memory card) from which your files went missing. Then you pick another storage device (such as your computer’s own hard drive or SSD) where the recovery tool will save your recovered files to.

Next, you start the recovery tool to scan your flash drive. It generates a list of deleted files that it was able to find on the storage device, and from this list you pick the ones you want to recover from deletion. Alternatively, the recovery tool may be designed to automatically save whatever deleted files it finds as it’s scanning to the output storage device you selected.

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