Ontrack is a brand name which brings back nothing but good memories. From the earliest days of PCs, if you wanted to get down and dirty with data on a hard drive, you needed one of Ontrack's utilities to do the housekeeping and, if necessary, resurrect lost files.
Ontrack is now Kroll Ontrack and its main data-recovery software is EasyRecovery. Version 10 of this utility is available in three versions, starting with EasyRecovery Home, moving through EasyRecovery Professional up to EasyRecovery Enterprise. There's also a Mac version. We looked at the Windows consumer edition here. See all: PC Advisor software downloads.
Kroll Ontrack EasyRecovery 10 Home is designed to be as easy-to-use as possible. Although some technical understanding is useful, the program will recover files with little more than a couple of clicks, to tell it what you want to recover and where it's located. See also: Group test: what's the best backup software?
The main control screen offers five options: Hard Drive, Memory Device, Optical Media, Multimedia/Mobile Device and RAID System, though this last isn't available in the Home version of the program.
Click on any of the other four and the program leads through selecting the type of recovery – deleted files, reformatted disk etc – and the target drive. See also: Top 5 PC optimisation tools.
Kroll Ontrack EasyRecovery 10 Home: tests
To test the software, we took the 50GB bundle of files we use when evaluating Internet Security software and copied them to an external 320GB SATA hard drive. The bundle is divided into five identical folders, each containing 1753 files in 278 sub-folders, a total of 8765 files.
We started by deleted them under Windows 7 and ran EasyRecovery Home on the drive.
The program took over three hours to complete its scan and came up with a folder tree of discovered files. At first, we thought it hadn't recovered our test bundle, because of the structure of the folder tree. The program intelligently collected together files of similar type so, for example, there were folders of zip files, folders of docx text files and folders of JPEG files.
Examining the structure more carefully, though, we found the five folders we were looking for, with all 8765 files in 283 folders.
The reason there were so many other recovered files is that the drive we used had been sourced on eBay and not securely wiped before being sold. The other files were from Mac and Linux systems. We didn't find anything incriminating, but how NCIS is that?
We went on to reformat the same hard drive and repeat the process. With a quick format, the program had little difficulty recovering the files again; but with a full format under Windows 7, it found nothing. This is what you'd expect, as a full format can wipe the drive (and check for bad sectors), leaving nothing on it that can be recovered, unless you're a Goth called Abby.
The program includes a file viewer, which can preview a good range of text and graphics files, to help you decide which ones you need to recover. As ever with this type of software, there are plenty of warnings not to recover files to a drive that contains the deleted or damaged ones.