Late last year, we kicked off a series of articles called The (Windows) Admin’s Toolkit. Since then, Win10.Guru has issued 9 installments. This story, about MiniTool’s Power Data Recovery (MTPDR) will be the tenth. Unlike the previous item – the MiniTool Partition Wizard (MTPW) – the free version of this program is not fully functional. Yes, it will give you a good idea of how the program works and what it can do. But it is capped at 1 GB for the amount of data it can actually recover, so it doesn’t really address much beyond the situation where you might have a smallish collection of accidentally deleted files and folders you’d like to recover.
To play for real, you must pay for the privilege
I first bought a license to this program in 2015, after I accidentally reformatted a drive. If memory serves, I was fooling around in DISKPART and ran the clean command against a backup drive for which I had no backup. This particular drive was a nominal 2 TB (with about 1560 GB of the actual 1813 GB present occupied). Thus, a 1 GB cap didn’t come anywhere close to what I needed to restore that drive’s contents.
Fortunately, I recognized my mistake immediately, and made no subsequent use of the drive. That’s good, because the secret to maximum data recovery is to write nothing (or as little as possible) to a drive before attempting recovery. Version 7 (the then-current version at the time of my “accident”) recovered and restored the entire drive without difficulty. To me, that single recovery was worth the Personal Standard program’s retail price tag of US$69 (price varies by currency and location for those outside the USA). Higher-function versions of the program are also available, including Personal Deluxe (US$89, adds snap-in WinPE boot builder) and Personal Ultimate (US$129, adds WinPE boot builder and covers up to 3 PCs on a single license).
Working with MTPDR
MTPDR uses a “point and scan” approach to data recovery. As long as Windows can see the drive that needs something recovered, you select that drive in the UI, then turn the software loose to let it detail the recoverable materials its finds thereupon. Here’s what that looks like:
MTPDR presents you with a list of drives it sees. Select the one you wish to scan and off it goes.
Note: completion time on the scan for the 1TB drive I chose is 3.5 hours!
The bigger the drive you target, the longer it takes the program to scan its contents. A 1 TB spinner (Samsung Spinpoint STL1000LM014…) takes about 3.5 hours to scan, so I switched to a frequently-used 128 GB SSD (OCZ Vertex 3) instead. Scanning this drive, which I use as my primary data drive for writing work and supporting materials, completed in a much more tolerable 22 minutes! Be prepared to wait while this process completes. And certainly, that’s no bad thing because if you have recovery in mind, you’ll want the software to find every possible item it can identify.
File and Folder Recovery
Once the scan is complete, you focus in on a disk partition where you want it to recover files on your behalf. Just for grins, I pointed it my “Existing partition” (the current data partition, which shows up as drive F: on my production PC). Then I expanded the list of “Lost Files” to see what MTPDR had discovered. Here’s the bulk of what it found (listed in right-hand column). My guess is that these are recycle bin entries that haven’t yet been overwritten. Thus, they are still candidates for possible recovery.
By default all files discovered are selected for Save (restore) operations. You can uncheck those you don’t want to recover, and target a specific directory in which they will appear.
All in all, the program is enough like File Explorer that if you know how to use that familiar Windows utility, you’ll have little trouble using MTPDR, either. Good stuff!
When MTPDR finds evidence of deleted partitions, it provides options to recover them as part of its menus. In the case of my accidentally cleaned disk, the old data partition showed up as the primary restore option as “Searched Partition #2.” Given that there was only one partition on the reformatted disk, I (rightly) reasoned that this second partition was the one I wanted to restore. And when I expanded that partition under the NTFS item that appeared in the left-hand column menu it showed me the original disk structure unaltered.
On heavily used disks, MTPDR presents an amazingly complete set of prior partitions.
In working on the data drive I chose for expansion, I learned that MTPDR can only show 10 partitions at a time. Because this was an OS disk that dates back to Windows 7, and had been through 8, 8.1 and 10 upgrades before retiring into a data-only role, this was no surprise. But it shows partitions all the way back to the original OS! The current disk map has only a single partition, but the program sees 13 in total. To me that says the programs sees pretty far back in time into the partitions created for numerous previous Windows versions.
Worth the money for DIY data recovery? Heck, Yes!
Considering that MTPDR costs US$69 – 129, and professional data recovery services typically start at US$500 and up (per drive), the software costs little enough to make it worth buying as an intermediate step on the data recovery path. If it doesn’t work, you won’t be out that much more money. And if it does work – which it has for me, whenever I’ve needed it to – it is markedly less expensive than professional data recovery service fees (not to mention added costs for shipping media to/from the recovery firm, as most people will have to do).
Author: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.