Stellar Photo Recovery

      Photo Review 8.6

      In summary

      A capable file recovery program for lost images through accidental deletion, over-writing, disk crashes, corruption or memory card failure.

      When deciding whether to buy Stellar Photo Recovery, think first about how often you’ll actually use the software. If you have a number of storage devices from which you’d like to recover deleted or corrupted files, it’s probably worth paying the annual fee for the Standard program because, in most situations, it does what the manufacturer claims. You can always cancel or upgrade the subscription at the end of the initial year depending on your needs.

      Don’t be lured into thinking Stellar Photo Recovery will be a ‘quick fix’ for all your lost file problems. If you can fully recover 80% of missing files, you’ll be doing well. And remember the speed of the recovery process will depend a lot on the types of files you work with, their condition and the capacity and read speed of the drive.

      Stellar Photo Recovery for Windows
      Stellar Photo Recovery for Mac
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      Full review

      (See review of more the recent Version

      We’ve all lost files through accidental deletion or over-writing, disk crashes or corruption and memory card failure so it’s good to know there’s software that can help you to recover all or at least some of the files you may have lost. Stellar Photo Recovery is designed for just this purpose. Available on an annual subscription basis for Windows and Mac users, it’s offered in three versions, Standard, Professional and Premium, with a demo version that shows previews of the recovered and repaired files available to download so potential purchasers can try before they buy. Full functionality and access to the recovered files is only available once the software is activated.

      Discounts are often available, with the latest offer cutting $10 off the regular prices of the Standard and Professional versions and the Premium version selling for $80 less than the regular price. All three versions can recover common image, video and music files from regular storage media and support the file formats used by all major camera brands. The Professional and Premium versions add the ability to repair corrupted image files and extract thumbnails from severely corrupted photos, while the Premium version is able to repair corrupted videos and handle multiple videos and video file formats.

      Who’s it For?
      File recovery software is normally viewed as ‘insurance’ that is purchased in case you lose data through disk failures or accidental deletions. It’s not software you would use every day so potential buyers should carefully assess how often they are likely to use it given their normal work practices and decide the degree to which it represents value for money, given the annual fee.

      The software can work directly with desktop and laptop hard drives as well as external storage devices such as hard drives, SSDs and thumb drives. It is also usable with all makes and models of camera for direct scanning via USB cable, as well as all popular memory card formats – SD, Micro SD, XQD, CompactFlash, CFexpress, etc, when they are connected to a computer via a card reader.

      Which version you pick will depend on your own requirements but we think the Standard version should suit most stills photographers. This software will be of particular interest to anyone who has lost files through accidental deletion (including formatting) file corruption or device failure. It could also be seen as ‘insurance’ against possible instances of these events at a future time.

      Trial downloads are available for all three versions of the software and the company’s online chat app implied they were not time limited. But while you can see the possibilities of the data recovery offered, you will not be able to recover any files for saving.

      The User Interface
      The software is quite easy to use, thanks to a logically-designed user interface. Clicking on the desktop icon starts to open Photo Recovery by ‘initialising’ the software, a process that takes a minute or two. The program opens with the Recover Photo, Audio & Video screen (shown below) displayed.

      This screen presents list of all the storage media currently connected to your computer and detectable by the software. If you mouse over a particular drive a pop-up window will show you the temperature and health data related to that drive, as shown below. This is a handy way to see whether drives are over-heating.

      At this point it would have been useful to be able to choose which type(s) of files to look for (and, going by reviews of previous editions, it seems that feature was available in the past). It seems the only manual controls available are for turning the preview on and off and stopping the scan.

      When you select the drive you want to scan and hit the Scan button, a progress icon is displayed to give you an idea of how long the scan will take.

      Scanning times will vary, depending on the number, sizes and types of files detected on the drive. We scanned a folder containing roughly 2GB of files on our computer’s data drive and found it took only a minute or so to recover them, as shown in the screen grab above. In contrast, a folder containing 739 GB of data on the same drive took more than an hour and a half.

      The software notifies you once the scan is completed. Clicking the Close button takes you to the next screen (shown below), which gives you the option of selecting which files you want to recover.

      The results are displayed as shown above, with a Tree view showing the contents of the folder. You can preview the results by clicking on the file names. Once you’ve chosen the files you want to recover, Clicking on the Recover button initiates the recovery process.

      If the scan doesn’t find the files you wanted you can carry out a more thorough deep scan, which is selected via a button on the bottom left side of the initial screen. It’s easy to return to this screen at any time by clicking the button to the left of the Recover button. If you are scanning a drive that is encrypted using BitLocker, you will be prompted to either enter the Bitlocker password/Recovery Key or Select a Bitlocker Startup Key (.BEK file).

      It’s important to note that only one volume at a time can be selected for recovery. But it can be on any device connected to your computer, including optical disk drives. Photo Recovery software can recover data from damaged CD-ROM, CD-RW, DVD and DVD-RW discs and the application supports recovery from corrupt optical media disks burned on Windows, Linux, UNIX, and Macintosh systems.

      Other Capabilities
      Photo Recovery can also be used to create an image of different storage devices so you can keep your data intact in situations such as when you upgrade your computer or if you want to back up the contents of one drive to a different storage device. Images are saved as IMG files, which will be the same size as the originals from which they are copied. Make sure the location chosen for saving them has sufficient storage space before starting this process.

      You can save scan result of any scanning process as DAT file, regardless of whether the scan has been completed. Recovery is easily resumed by selecting the DAT file from the folder you’ve stored it in (which is normally the same as the one selected for storing the recovered files).

      The Advanced Settings tool set (shown above) lets you apply compression, change recovery options and specify which file types you want to recover.  Compression is restricted to creating Zip files but you can opt to zip each file individually or zip all to a single file.

      The next page lets you exclude or include deleted files or focus entirely on recovering deleted files. The third page allows you to choose which files you want to recover. This can be a time-saver as it lets you exclude file formats you haven’t used as well as those that aren’t relevant at the time.

      You can add additional file types to the list by clicking the Add File Type button or adjust the size of existing file types with the Edit File Type button. You must also choose a location on your computer where the recovered files will be saved. Note that Photo Recovery will change the names of the files as they are recovered.

      Sometimes major changes are made, while at other times the change may be as small as swapping the ‘I’ in IMG for and ‘X’. If duplicate file numbers are encountered, the software gives you the opportunity to over-write the existing files or save the recovered files with a different file name. Neat!


      Photo Recovery worked as well as we expected for recovering deleted image files from drives connected to and in our computers. But it wasn’t always successful, although sometimes a file that appeared to have been corrupted was recovered successfully, as shown below. And it wasn’t always quick.

      This file was recovered from a corrupted folder on a portable disk drive, even though the initial scan (shown below) displayed a corrupted thumbnail.

      Files that had simply been deleted were always recovered without problems in our tests and recovery times were usually quite short and thumbnail p[reviews were usually displayed. The screen grab below shows the scanning time for recovering a previously-deleted 2GB folder of CR2.RAW images on an external hard drive.

      However, when we tried to recover files from an 8GB Compact Flash card that we had set aside as ‘problematic’, the software indicated it would take more than 35 hours to scan the files and folders on the disk, as shown in the screen grab below.

      We decided to go ahead with this scan, on the premise that it would be possible to stop the scan in the evening and resume the following day, as shown in the screen grab below. We’d tried this several times and been successful each time.

      But when ‘knocking off’ time came, the software wouldn’t allow us to close the program so several hours of scanning were lost. Even though the program can run in the background, keeping a computer running for 35 hours is difficult to justify.

      Interestingly, when we tried re-starting the software on the following day it crashed at the first attempt. But opening it again proved successful, although it took several minutes. We were then able to select the problematic CF card again and resume the scan, which according to the program indicators took roughly 15 minutes to complete.

      But then came the shock; the software went back to the beginning again and started to re-scan the card, initially advising it would take 135 hours and 8 minutes to complete. It then settled down to show roughly 16 hours of scanning would be required, although four hours later posted the ‘Time left’ as a little over 18 hours.

      Once again we couldn’t stop the scan at any point so we allowed it to continue in the background until it was time to shut the computer down at the end of the day. At that point, we gave up.

      Recovering files from a card that had been formatted in a camera was a bit hit-and-miss. If the card had simply been formatted, the files were usually recoverable. But if the card had been formatted and then over-written, the software returned some in their entirety but for others, only the thumbnails were recovered, which wasn’t a lot of use.

      Provision of previews was also a mixed bag. When the source storage device was uncorrupted, previews were usually displayed (as shown above). However, if there were any issues with the source device, either the thumbnail would reveal the file was probably still corrupted or No Preview Available was displayed – even for JPEG files, which we thought would be easier to handle than raw files.

      Sometimes the software managed to recover the file related to the corrupted thumbnail, and it didn’t seem to make much difference whether it was a raw file or a JPEG. The condition of recovered files was usually reflected the thumbnail image, regardless of whether the software had recovered a full image or just the thumbnail.

      When we tried to recover video clips with the Standard version of the software we had partial success. The software was able to recover a couple of video clips that had previously been deleted from a 4GB USB thumb drive more or less intact.

      But we had to access them via a two-step process starting by opening them with the manufacturer’s software from the camera used for the initial recordings. We then used MPC Viewer to view and save them, as well as for capturing the frame grab below. Playback was a bit jerky and occasionally distorted but it was possible to grab some decent stills frames from recovered clips.

      The Standard version of the software has limited video handling capabilities. We assume better results with recovering video clips would have been obtained with the Premium version. But without testing it, that can’t be confirmed.


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      Hardware: Recovers data from desktop and laptop hard drives, external hard drives, SSD drives, thumb drives, memory cards
      Systems compatibility: Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7; macOS Catalina 10.15, macOS Mojave 10.14, High Sierra 10.13, 10.12, 10.11, 10.10, 10.9, 10.8 & 10.7
      Languages supported: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish
      Disk space requirement: 250 MB
      Minimum RAM:  2 GB (4 GB recommended)
      Supported file formats: JPEG, TIFF (Motorola and Intel), BMP, GIF, PNG, PSD, EPS, INDD, PSP, PCT, and JP2
      Raw formats supported
      : Nikon (.NEF, .NRW), Kodak (.KDC, .DCS, DRF, .D25), Olympus (.ORF), Panasonic (.RAW, .RW2), Sony (.ARW, .SRF, .SR2), Fujifilm (.RAF), Sigma (.X3F), Pentax (.PEF), Minolta (.MRW), and Canon (.CRW)
      Supported audio files: RPS, MP3, AU, WAV, MIDI, OGG, AIFF, RM, WMA, RA, M4P, M4A, ACD, AMR, AT3, CAFF, DSS, IFF, M4R, NRA, SND
      Supported video files: MP4, 3GP, AVI, MPEG, MKV, AVCHD (MTS), DIVX, MOI, VOB, OGM, 3G2, ASX, MTS, AJP, F4V, VID, TOD, HDMOV, MOV, MQV, M4B, M4V, WMV, MXF movies, SVI
      Supported partition file systems: NTFS, FAT, FAT16, FAT32, exFAT, Ext2, Ext3, Ext4, HFS, HFS+, APFS
      Delivery method: Electronic (Internet connection required)
      Distributor: Stellar Information Technology Private Limited

      Stellar Photo Recovery Windows Buy Page

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      RRP: US$49.99 AU$62.99 (Standard); US$59.99 AU$79.99 (Professional); AU$108.99 (Premium) – Annual subscription

      • Features: 8.7
      • Ease of Use: 8.8
      • Performance: 8.5



      Stellar Photo Recovery Windows Buy Page

      Stellar Photo Recovery Mac Buy Page

      (Photo Review Affiliate links)