Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery 5 review - Retrieve deleted photos, videos and audio files

With so many file types on offer, deselection is an option. But don’t expect this to speed up the process by much: the entire data area is still scanned. 

Back in the MacOS 9 days, Norton Utilities for Macintosh (NUM) ruled the roost where data recovery was concerned. Including tools such as Norton Disk Doctor, Speed Disk and FileSaver, no self-respecting Mac owner would have admitted to not owning NUM. Yet its most powerful tool was always unheralded: UnErase. This program rummaged through your wastebasket to find that irreplaceable file you had inadvertently deleted. Perhaps we’re viewing this through rose-tinted glasses now but since its demise there has never been a replacement on Mac OS X.

All too frequently the deleted file was an important photo. Being before the days of consumer digital cameras, recovery was Mac based. Now, such an app also needs to work on a camera’s memory card, mounted on a Mac desktop. And this is where Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery 5 comes in, which claims to recover all lost and deleted photo, video and audio files. As long as the drive or card can be mounted on your Mac’s desktop, it can be scanned – all the way up to 2TB capacity.

Live preview shows enough to allow you to stop the scan and recover a particular file.

On launch there are three options: start a scan, resume recovery or create a disk image. Starting a scan provides access to the internal hard drive or any mounted USB drives or digital cameras. Over 50 media file types are recognisable including those from specific cameras, Mac apps and almost any generic ones you can think of (with the notable exception of flash video files). Before scanning there is the option to narrow down the file types although this doesn’t save much time as the entire data area is still searched.

Scans can be stopped once started to work with the results up until then. The live preview window is useful here (something neither Lexar’s Image Rescue 4 nor SanDisk’s RescuePro offer) as scans are very slow and there is no indication of projected scan time. A 160GB drive took over seven hours (about twice as long as Image Rescue); a 2TB drive could take upwards of three-and-a-half days! Once scanned, images can be saved to disk (with a suitable warning about not saving back to the scanned media).

A scan reveals all files found in the data area, not just the deleted ones. This could amount to tens of thousands of files…

Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery 5 suffers from the same problem as every other current similar app: it does not find deleted files – it finds ALL files, erased or otherwise and does not differentiate between them. As it is working with a data scan rather than reading entries in a directory it does not know the files names either. This means that the list of files can be very long indeed. This would be less of a problem if the list could be re-ordered by size but Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery 5 does not support this.

It is possible to save a scan’s information once it has been completed but a little disconcerting to double-click on it and find it opening in TextEdit rather than launching Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery 5. Not a big deal but hardly what you would expect from such an app.

In terms of finding files, with photos we achieved near-100% success but less so with audio and video files where various mp3s and mp4s were missed. 

OUR VERDICT

The upside of using Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery 5 is the live preview window. Once you see the file you want you can stop the scan and save it. But in tests it missed a number of audio and video files which, coupled with the slow scan rate, make it difficult to recommend if you want to use it as a general media recovery app.

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