TestDisk: Free Partition Recovery software for Windows

Sometimes it happens that a virus or manual error corrupts the different partitions on the hard disk. It is also possible that one can damage the boot sector or MBR in an attempt to recover partitions. It could happen with an external drive too! This is where TestDisk comes handy. TestDisk helps fix errors, fix partitions, recover files from damaged partitions, recover lost partitions & make non-booting disks bootable again.

TestDisk is powerful free data recovery software, which was primarily designed to help recover lost partitions and make non-booting disks, bootable again. It needs no installation and can be executed from pen drive or DVD. This TestDisk review checks how well it fares when coming to fulfilling its claims of recovering data and fixing boot sectors.

TestDisk Partition recovery software

TestDisk Partition Recovery Software

The best method to use TestDisk is to boot from a DVD and then use a thumb/flash drive to run the TestDisk utility. That way, you can check all the partitions available on the hard disk(s) in case the master boot record is damaged. Then you can initiate the necessary commands to fix the MBR. I said “commands” because TestDisk is entirely based on command line interface. It has no graphical user interface.

One might want to compare it with EaseUS Partition Recovery, but TestDisk lets you do a little more. It can:

  1. Fix partition table errors
  2. Recovers deleted partitions
  3. Rebuild boot sectors
  4. Fix File Allocation Tables (FAT)
  5. Create and recover NTFS boot sector backups
  6. Undelete and thereby recover lost files on any type of partitions

Operating TestDisk software will need some experience as one has to understand the data visible on the screen. Though contextual help is provided, only mature computer users can understand it.

For people who use less of computers, or do not go about fixing computers, it is advised that they do not use this tool as they may damage their disk drives logically and might need help of technicians.

Once you download TestDisk, you have to unzip the file to any location that is convenient to you. Since all the contents of the zip file are at the same location, you need not worry about copying files to Windows folder or to the System32 folder. Such actions are not required. This is a complete portable tool and hence can be copied to pen drives and then used to troubleshoot and fix computer boot records or to recover missing data from hard disk drives.

Once you have all the files locally, you need to double click on testdisk_win.exe to start using it.

Using TestDisk To Recover Partitions

When you launch TestDisk, it will open up in a DOS window. The first screen asks you if you wish to create a new log file, append to existing log file or skip writing a log file. I would suggest selecting “create a new log file” as it will have all the fresh information. Remember that you have to move among options using arrow keys and select an option using the Enter key.

Once you choose to create a new log file, the second screen will show you a list of options from which you select hard disk format type. If you are using Windows PC, select Intel and then hit Enter.

From the third screen, select Analyze Disk Partitions. This will take a while depending upon the number of disk drives you have and the capacity of each drive. The results shown should match the configuration you had when you created the disk drives: primary, extended and logical. If you see anything missing, you can select Quick Search. This will return the broken partitions. You will then have to select the broken partitions and select Write to save the partition.

It can be useful if you receive a You need to format the disk in drive before you can use it error message.

Recover Lost Data with TestDisk

To recover lost data, select Advanced instead of Analyze Disk Partitions. TestDisk will scan the partition that you select in the next screen and return filenames. To recover a file, select it using arrow keys and press C. You will be asked to select a destination. You select a destination where the missing files are to be written. After the recovery is completed, move to Quit using arrow keys and then press Enter to exit the program.

TestDisk free download

The tool is good for all the purposes listed above: Recovering partitions, fixing partitions and boot records, recovering files etc. However, the interface is too complicated for those who do not know much about troubleshooting. For experts, the tool is quite handy and is recommended. For people who are confused, there is extensive documentation available with screenshots etc. Still, going by my version of this review of Testdisk, I would recommend this program only to users with good experience in troubleshooting computers as the command line interface can be very confusing for others.

Download this useful partition recovery software from CGSecurity.org.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN