Data Rescue 3 clones disks and recovers your own file types

For many years now, Prosoft Engineering has been developing Data Rescue. This application is to data recovery what DiskWarrior is to disk catalogue recovery: it has become an industry standard and an essential tool for Mac users who want to be sure they can recover from disaster in 99% of the cases.Data Rescue 3 is the latest version of Data Rescue and it’s the most advanced data recovery tool that is available to professional disk recovery experts and Mac users in general. It can be used on disk drives with volumes that refuse to mount, on disks with damages partition maps, on some non-HFS/HFS+ file systems, on large volumes and even on password-protected ones (as long as the data itself isn’t encrypted).

The most obvious visible change from the previous version is the “Arena View” which Prosoft Engineering also uses in its Drive Genius product. The Arena View can be left for what it is, but although it takes some getting used to, it’s actually a very efficient way of representing the available functionality modules of the application. The second very visible new feature is FileIQ. This is a feature that enables you to “teach” Data Rescue the “fingerprint” of files it doesn’t already support out-of-the-box.
I tested Data Rescue 3 with an external disk drive that had files on it I rarely ever use. From past experience I knew for certain Data Rescue was going to find back all the files. The only thing that I wanted to see was how the files would be presented to me, and what version 3 would have in stock in terms of easier access to recovered files, etc.

Before I start with the recovery part, though, I’d like to cover a bit more of the functionality modules. When you start Data Rescue it first asks you for a disk drive to recover. You can skip this first step and head over immediately to the Arena, where you’ll see the trusted scanning features, but also a Clone feature. In Data Rescue 3, you can clone a disk drive to another drive, which is interesting from a point of view of data recovery when the original disk drive is showing mechanical or physical problems.

This new feature allows you to use Data Rescue 3 for a common cloning operation, but it has a couple of interesting additional settings that in 99% of the cases you probably will never need to tamper with. However, if you feel you are an advanced user, you can set preferences for the way the clone is created, i.e. you might choose to create a straight clone, starting with the beginning of the source media and ending at the end, or you might want to create the clone by first duplicating the good physical blocks and the bad ones later (or skip them altogether). Again, it’s not for common usage, but it’s there when you need it.
Data Rescue 3 learns new file typesCloning is a welcome addition to Data Rescue in my opinion, because it dramatically increases the number of times you’ll be using the application. Another improvement is that you now can suspend recovery operations for an indefinite time, regardless of computer restarts, and that you can save recovery operations to a file so that you can migrate a stubborn disk drive to a less often used Mac and continue the recovery operation on that machine at a later date.

Another welcome addition and one that directly relates to cloning, is the ability to analyse a disk. This feature uses an easy to understand graph that will immediately tell you if your disk drive is still working well enough to be reliable for the time needed to clone to another disk, or to recover data from.

What you won’t see in Arena View, nor in Expert View are the block editing tools that used to sit under the Expert menu. If you want to access those—they’re still there, of course—you can turn on a special Expert mode in the application’s Preferences.

FileIQ is Data Rescue 3’s most innovative new feature. I found it very strange Prosoft Engineering not making a whole lot more of noise about that. In order to recover your files, Data Rescue needs to recognise file types. To make that possible, the application comes with a sort of fingerprint of every common file type—some 150 in all. Those file types are listed in a Preference panel, but in Arena and Expert View, you can also create your own file types using the new FileIQ.
The process is very simple: you drag a number of good sample files to the FileIQ window and et Data Rescue do the rest. If your files are already supported, Data Rescue will tell you. If your files are exotic—perhaps Camera RAW files of an uncommon camera brand, or some proprietary file type generated by a rarely used application—and you have enough data files of that type to teach Data Rescue the files’ characteristics, you can add these types to Data Rescue and have them recovered correctly afterwards.

Data Rescue 3 can also handle RAID, as long as the Mac can see the disks as a RAID device and not as a bunch of disks.

As I said in the beginning of this article, I let Data Rescue do its thing on a disk drive with seldom used files. I had the program do a Quick Scan and then took a look at how the files were shown. Well, I must admit that it was a nice surprise to see Data Rescue has learned a few new tricks in that area too.

For example, the file browser has a button that reads “Preview”, and indeed you can now preview found files, which is a relief when hundreds of JPEGs are listed, each with a useless three-letter-and-four-digits name. It became even better. If you are looking for a specific file, you can now search in the Data Rescue file browser as you would in the Finder using Spotlight.
Of course, even Data Rescue 3 is not a sorcerer, and can’t recreate file names as they appeared before your disk broke down, or before you deleted them—you can still also scan for deleted files. So, you’ll still have to do some of the work, and in some cases the word “some” means several hours if not days.

In my opinion, Data Rescue 3 is not just more powerful than its predecessor, it’s also more useful. Many of the new features enable you to use it for more purposes, which is always a good thing. For 99.00 USd you can buy a personal copy that will recover all the volumes that are yours. For 249.00 USD you can start your own repair shop.

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