Stellar Phoenix Macintosh 4.1
Monday, 28 February 2011
A normal Empty of the Trash doesn’t actually delete the file, even though we can’t find it. In effect, OS X deletes the path to the file – so we can no longer find it. This stays hidden but intact until the OS needs the space on the hard drive that it once occupied. Then it writes over it, since it assumes you didn’t want it. If you move fast and you are lucky, files are often recoverable. Smart software can find it, resurrect the path (file structure), and bingo, it’s resurrected.
Of course, this is unless you choose the Secure Empty Trash option. This deletes the path, then writes *zeros (no data) over where the file was (see the italic text, below). You will notice a Secure Empty Trash takes a lot longer than a normal Empty, and that’s why. It may still be able to resurrect a file after a Secure Empty Trash, or some of it, but it's much harder.
I have successfully used Prosoft Engineering’s Data Rescue
to save some photos a university lecturer trashed by mistake – they were super valuable photos and due for an exhibition. You have to be prepared to wait a long, long time to perform the scan of what’s recoverable on todays modern massive drives. Seriously – I’m talking like 12 hours or more – but it can be so worth it in cases of need.
*Smash that data
Before I sell a Mac, I throw everything in my Documents folder away and empty the trash, and then I either run Security Erase
in Apple’s Disk First Aid utility or Drive Genius>Shred over my hard drive, which rips up where that data was. Apple’s
Disk Utility (it’s in your Utilities folder in your Applications folder) offers several depths of passes to really do a thorough
job – each one takes longer than the lesser.
Both operations perform a retrospective zero-data on your files, making them nigh on impossible to resurrect.
I guess a comparison between PE's Data Rescue and Stellar Phoenix is inevitable. I haven’t really been aware of Stellar until recently; the company is based in India, a country which releases thousands of well trained engineers into the system every year. But it took me awhile to figure this out. Stellar also makes Mac speed-up and other software for similar price, and seems to come from a Windows software utility background.
Unlike DR, SP asks for your Mac’s password when you boot it, granting it permission to go into all of your file structure.
Stellar Phoenix costs US$99, but I like the fact you can do a free download
which offers free evaluation of the software along with a preview of all the lost files and folders that can be recovered. In other words, download it to see if it spots your missing file(s), and you’ll know whether you should buy it and do the resurrection or not.
(Data Rescue 3 also offers a free downloadable demo – this allows you to see everything that is able to be recovered, with the limitation being it only recovers 1 file from the list displayed.)
You can also order Phoenix on as a CD and Download at the same time, for US$119. (Data Rescue 3 also offers the Download and DVD for US$99 (plus US$5 for shipping).
You may well need to boot from the optical disc and recover files from the hard drive inside your Mac itself, so think hard about this before plonking down your money. (It’s always hard, if not impossible, to do serious work on the hard drive you boot from – ie, from the one your system sits on.)
Phoenix has a US$249 pricing for Administrator, US$349 for Technician and US$199 for Academic.
Data Rescue by Prosoft Engineering costs the same (US$99) and has a Professional User License (US$249). DR (below) shows you three options when you first load it up: Start New Scan, Resume Suspended Scan and Browse Completed Scans, meaning you can inspect a file structures hidden files repeatedly.
Phoenix presents a smaller window with five tabs along the top: Drive Recovery, iPod Recovery, Photo Recovery (which also looks for music and video files), Resume Recovery and Create Image. If I remember rightly, once Data Rescue has done it’s proper scan, you can then tell it what types of files to look for – images (jpegs, for example), or Word docs etc.
Phoenix is letting you look for a certain type of file from the get-go, which conceivably makes for a faster scan.
Stellar Phoenix Macintosh Data Recovery v4.1 seeks to recover all the files deleted from the Trash. It’s designed for Mac 10.3.9 and above operating systems (including Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, 10.4 Tiger). It’s compatible with the HFS, HFS+, HFSX, HFS Wrapper and FAT file system volumes. You need to follow the following steps to recover lost data after emptying the Trash:
Click Dive Recovery, choose an option (Quick Recovery is for when you thing your volume is damaged and/or acting strangely, Deleted File Recovery is for those trashed files, Formatted Media/Lost File Recovery finds lost files but also attempts to recover data from reformatted hard drives, and Search Lost/Deleted volumes scans each and every sector of a drive or remote volume.
The second two both take a lot longer than the first two.
Once you’ve chosen a method, a volume selector appears. Choose your volume, press Continue, and in the case of Quick Recovery, I had a list of deleted files in under a second. That’s fast – but so is a flash drive, and it only holds 4GB. It found 177 files in 11 folders (566.2MBs of data).
Data Rescue took a split second longer, and found the 177 files in 17 folders (594.8MBs).
To recover Alphabet Pony by the Kills, DR took 28 seconds and the file was back on my internal hard drive. Phoenix took about 1 second (hard to time!). But when I looked at the results, DR had recovered the entire album by the Kills, so that explains the time difference.
The files were all fine, though, in both cases.
Aha, so, I threw Phoenix at a 2-year-old 1TB drive I have used extensively for two years. It’s only USB2, also, not a faster FireWire 800. I expected Phoenix to quail and quiver at this job.
Well impressed – just over two minutes to discover 750,091 files in 157,122 folders, totalling 478.9GB data. Data Rescue took about the same; perhaps it was a few seconds faster.
After you have completed the scan and you click the Home button, you get the option to save the scan data for later searches – don’t save it to the same volume you just scanned, especially if you think there are problems with it.
The next option, Deleted File Recovery, takes a lot longer – on the 4GB Flash drive, the scan took 20 minutes, so about 1200 times longer if the first scan took a second. By the same time factor on the 1TB hard drive, you’re talkin’ about 40 hours, but I wasn’t game to try that and lose the use of my computer for that long. But if you’ve lost precious files, needs must!
Fortunately, there’s a filter button – with this and the drop-down menu of file types, you can narrow the search down considerably from the outset. That’s a good thing.
By comparison, once you have selected a volume in Data Rescue, the drives you have plugged in show up (plus your internal one, of course). You click the one you want, click next and your options are Quick Scan (which looks for data even on drives that won’t mount), Deep Scan (supposed to take three minutes or more per GB of drive), Deleted FIle Scan, Clone (good for copying the data of a drive you suspect is failing) Analyze which verifies the condition of your drive, and File IQ (helps DR learn new file types to look for).
You can buy a Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery Bootable DVD – the software can be provided boxed with a bootable DVD and download version. The instructions for making bootable DVD are online
Conclusion — Both utilities did a good job of finding files, and recovering them in my limited tests, whereas Data Rescue excelled when I needed it to restore those valuable photographic files as mentioned above – this was after an overnight file scan. I did not manage an equal comparison with Stellar Phoenix.
I did not manage an extensive test of SP as I don’t have the resources to tie computers and drives up for days (and I probably don't need to point out that no one’s paying me to write this, after all). However, some users that did, found issues reflected in the comments on this page
To conclude, though, Phoenix seems like a handy utility and the fact you can search immediately for the file types you think you’ve lost (music and photos do seem to be the most commonly mislaid), or on an iPod straight away, is potentially a real time saver.
As a comparison, Data Rescue’s little diagnostic feature that let’s you see how a drive is performing might be the tipping point for you; if you plump for Phoenix, there's always Apple's free Disk Utility that can do a similar thing.
As far as the interfaces go, I like Stellar’s icons but they reside in a brushed-aluminium wrapper. This look went out of fashion on Macs about four or five years ago and it really looks dated now.
So while Data Rescue’s interface looks more modern, I’ve complained before about Prosoft’s proclivity for making icons like slippery eels that are hard to click on. So Stellar’s interface is more useful, to my mind – it’s not like bobbing for apples (ha ha) to get the job done – it’s clear and easy to follow.
But Data Rescue at least lets you turn this 'Arena View' interface off (click Detail View), and Data Rescue also excels at corrupt/non-mounting hard drive recovery.
What's great — Works as advertised; initial search filter a boon; works on most Mac systems
What's not — Interface could use modernisation
Needs — trash-happy, stomach-clenching emergencies
What — Stellar Phoenix Macintosh 4.1, US$99 (about NZ$132)
System — Intel, Power PC (G4 or later); OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, 10.5 Leopard, 10.4 Tiger, and 10.3.9 Panther; 256MB RAM; 40Mb HS space; localised for English, German, French, Italian and Spanish.