Photo Rec | How to Use PhotoRec Software and Alternatives

Home > HowTos > Software Reviews Updated by Robert on June 12, 2024 | Approved by Anthony Spadafora

In today's digital age, file loss can be a devastating experience. Accidental deletions, formatting errors, or even hardware failures can lead to losing precious files and memories. That's why having effective data recovery tools is crucial. This comprehensive guide will explore one of the most popular tools, Photo Rec, and discuss alternative options to help you restore the lost data effectively.

Table of contents
Section 1: Overview of PhotoRec Software
Section 2: Section 2: How does PhotoRec Work?
Section 3: Alternatives to Photo Rec
Section 4: Best Practices for Data Recovery
Section 5: FAQs

Overview of PhotoRec Software

PhotoRec, developed by CGSecurity, is a free, open-source data recovery software. Despite its name, it is not limited to photo recovery; it supports the recovery of over 480 file extensions (about 300 file families), including documents, photos, videos, and more. Its ability to work across various platforms and file systems makes it a reliable choice for format and deleted file recovery free.

Here, we will delve into the features that make Photo Rec a reliable choice, alongside its limitations, ensuring you clearly understand what it can offer.

Key Features of PhotoRec:
PhotoRec data recovery is a free cross-platform app that supports Windows, macOS, and Linux.
It supports many systems, including FAT, NTFS, exFAT, HFS+, and many more.
It is designed to recover lost files from hard disks, CD-ROMs, memory cards (CompactFlash, Memory Stick, Secure Digital/SD, etc.), and other storage media.
PhotoRec recovery software is read-only, meaning it doesn't attempt to "fix" or write to the drive you are about to recover. Therefore, it won't cause further damage to the data.
It uses a process that ignores the file system, making it possible to work even if it has been severely damaged or reformatted.
PhotoRec file recovery has a low overhead and can be run from a recovery disc if needed.
Its scan is very time-consuming and cannot be paused to recover files.
It cannot select recoverable files and only save all found items to a specified location.
Recovered files are given random names, making it challenging to identify specific files.
The Photo Rec software doesn't allow you to preview files before recovery, making it time-consuming to review files post-recovery.
Compared to many contemporary applications, the Photo Rec app operates through a command-line or basic graphical interface, which can be daunting for non-technical users.

How does Photo Rec Work?

In this section, we will provide a detailed step-by-step guide on installing, setting up, and using PhotoRec for data recovery. Each stage of the recovery process will be thoroughly explained, from selecting the storage device to choosing the file types to recover. By the end of this section, you can confidently use PhotoRec file recovery efficiently. Here are detailed steps on how to use PhotoRec in Windows, Mac and Linux:

For Windows PC and macOS:

1: PhotoRec Data Recovery using Command Prompt Interface

  1. PhotoRec Download from the official website. You can download the version according to your system.
  2. Run the PhotoRec Mac or Windows executable file.
  3. Select the disk where you lost files and press Enter.

  4. Select a volume and press Enter.

  5. Select the file system of the target drive and press Enter.

  6. Select a location to save recovered files and click "C."

  7. After waiting for the scan to complete, you can go to the location to check the found data.

2: Use Photo Rec to Recover Deleted/Lost files by Basic GUI

  1. Start PhotoRec Recovery Software.
  2. Select the target drive in the drop-down box below "Please select a media to recover from."
  3. Choose the volume where the files were lost and its file system.
  4. Choose a location to save the found files.

  5. (Optional) If you need to recover specific file types, click "File Formats" to deselect others.

  6. Click the "Search" button for PhotoRec file recovery
  7. After completing the scan, go to the folder where the recovered data is saved to check your lost items.

For Linux:

  1. Download PhotoRec for Linux.
  2. Type "sudo apt -y install testdisk" > "sudo photorec" to start it.
  3. Select the disk to restore files and press Enter.

  4. Select the partition where the deleted files were located initially.

  5. Choose the types of files you want to recover.

  6. Select the file system of the disk.

  7. Choose to scan the entire drive.
  8. Select the folder to save the recovered files and click "C."

  9. After waiting for the progress to complete, you can go to the destination location to view the recovered files.

Alternatives to PhotoRec

While Photo Rec is a robust and free data recovery software for Windows 10, 11, Mac and Linux, exploring alternatives to meet your specific needs is essential. We will discuss and compare alternative file recovery apps, including their key features, disadvantages, ease of use, and effectiveness. Considering these alternatives, you can find the best fit for your recovery requirements. Here are some popular alternatives to PhotoRec recovery software:

1. TestDisk

The same team behind PhotoRec developed it; TestDisk is another free and open-source tool. When you download PhotoRec, TestDisk will also be downloaded. It focuses on recovering lost or damaged partitions and repairing disk structures. TestDisk is particularly useful when dealing with more complex data loss scenarios.

This PhotoRec alternative software specializes in recovering lost partitions and fixing disks that don't boot.
It can fix FAT tables, rebuild the NTFS boot sector, and fix MFT using MFT mirror, among others.
Like PhotoRec, it uses a command line interface and does not have a file preview option, which is unacceptable to ordinary users.
While TestDisk can recover files, it's not its primary function, and other tools might be more efficient for this task.

2. iBeesoft Free Data Recovery

iBeesoft Free Data Recovery is a robust and user-friendly tool supporting various file types and storage devices. It's an excellent choice for those who have lost data and need an easy way to recover permanently deleted files in Windows 11, 10 and macOS.

It is designed to be user-friendly, allowing even non-tech-savvy individuals to navigate its features easily.
It's available in Windows and Mac versions, scans quickly, and allows you to preview recoverable files.
Its built-in damaged file repair function greatly improves the data recovery rate.
This Photo Rec alternative allows users to restore up to 2GB of data.

3. Recuva

Known for its user-friendly interface, Recuva is a powerful data recovery tool that only supports Windows operating systems. It offers a quick scan option for faster results and a deep scan option for more thorough recovery.

The wizard-like interface is easy for anyone to use.
Marking the health status of recoverable files allows you to identify them quickly.
The base version has limited functionality and is rarely updated.
For pictures and videos, it cannot repair the damaged parts, which means the files you recover will not be open.

4. Recoverit

It is a powerful data recovery software developed by Wondershare. This tool retrieves lost or deleted files from various devices, including computers, HDDs, SSDs, USB drives, SD memory cards, and cameras. It's available for both Windows and Mac users.

This PhotoRec software alternative can recover all file types, including documents, graphics, videos, and more.
Even if the system fails to boot, it can help you retrieve lost data.
There is no free version available to users.
The paid version is expensive.

5. R-Studio

It is a comprehensive unerase or unformat program known for handling complex data loss scenarios such as malicious attacks, hardware failures, or operating system crashes.

The software seamlessly handles hardware instability, mitigating common issues like freezes and crashes.
It also offers an affordable, feature-rich alternative for emergency data recovery over the network.
Its user interface is not as intuitive as other similar tools.
The data recovery software for Mac or Windows scanning speed is very slow.

Each alternative has its own unique features, capabilities, and user interfaces. It's important to review and compare them to determine the best fit for your specific file recovery needs. To get a more intuitive understanding of these Photo Rec alternatives, you can also view the following comparison table:

That’s all there is to know about Photo Rec and its alternatives. I believe they will be able to help you recover lost data. But to better complete this process, you can also follow these tips:

Best Practices for Data Recovery

While data recovery tools like PhotoRec and its alternatives can be highly effective, following best practices is essential to maximize your chances of successful recovery and minimize further data loss. Consider the following tips:



Data loss can be a distressing experience, but recovery is possible with the right tools and knowledge. This blog post explored PhotoRec, a powerful data recovery tool, and discussed alternative options for recovering lost files. Consider specific features, compatibility, and ease of use when choosing a data recovery tool. Following best practices and acting promptly can increase your chances of successful data recovery. Remember to back up your important files regularly to protect against future data loss. With the right tools and precautions, you can recover your lost data and restore your peace of mind.