From the lands to the north, Canadian developer MiniTool Solutions has issued forth Mac Data Recovery 3.0, a recovery utility that seeks to follow in the footsteps of established players like Prosoft’s Data Rescue line and 508 Software’s Disk Drill while adding a few new tricks in the process.
Launch the MiniTool Data Recovery program, enter your Mac’s admin password and you’re presented with four primary functions: Undelete Recovery, Damaged Partition Recovery, Lost Partition Recovery and Digital Media Recovery. The four functions are fairly self-explanatory, but MiniTool takes a different approach that has to be considered. Instead of centering itself as a Mac product, the program offers support for file architectures typically associated with Windows volumes: NTFS, FAT16, FAT32, etc. This offers an unexpected new aspect, especially if you have a Boot Camp or old hard drive from a Windows or Linux machine that you’d like to haul old files from.
Once you get down to it, MiniTool Data Recovery can perform some impressive feats, even if the path to get there doesn’t feel as refined as it could be and a few things make you scratch your head and wonder exactly what the rationale for the design was. Features like Lost Partition Recovery do a great job of scanning not just a drive’s current partition elements, but also dig up past partition elements that may have been lost or formatted over and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to recover at least some data in the process. I’ve never seen a feature quite like this before in a recovery program for the Mac and it was interesting to go through the past partitions on an old notebook hard drive and see what had been there before.
This and the Digital Media Recovery feature stand out and it was fun to take an old SD card that had been laying around for years, plug it into my MacBook Pro, run the feature and dig through hundreds of old pictures I’d long since forgotten about.
The Undelete Recovery and Damaged Partition Recovery features work as you’d expect them to, especially after seeing these standard features on competing programs. Activate either of these features and MiniTool Data Recovery will begin ferociously chugging away, locating everything it can find through the first scan of the volume, then allowing you to save whatever it can recover in categorized folders. Like Data Rescue 4, MiniTool Data Recovery can save and work with previous scan states, allowing you to work with a partially completed scan at a later point in time. Helpful if you’re working with a large volume that needs to be sifted through.
Like several of its competitors, MiniTool Data Recovery both ships with a bootable CD as well as offers a utility to create a boot volume from a CD, DVD, or USB flash drive. Launch the MiniTool Boot Media Builder application, select a CD, DVD, or USB flash drive for it to use, give it a few minutes and you now have a bootable MiniTool Data Recovery drive that you can option-boot into if need be. This function works, but isn’t integrated into the main application, which fans of Data Rescue 4 might find annoying.
While MiniTool Data Recovery packs some terrific features, there are still some caveats to contend with. The program crashed during an initial scan on a 200GB-plus recovery effort, wherein after canceling the scan, it had to be force quit, the drive pulled and reloaded. This, combined with other small oddities, such as the program being unable to run an Undelete Recovery task on an HFS+ partition and requiring a full Damaged Partition Recovery function to be run in its place makes you scratch your head and think “OK, this is a Mac-specific utility, shouldn’t it be able to do that?”
Which is where we get to the heart of the matter. MiniTool Data Recovery is a good program with a rich feature base, it offers some great technical readouts of the partitions you’re working with and customizable settings, but the look and feel of the program comes off as kludgy in terms of its user interface, as if a Windows product had been shoved towards OS X without a ton of clean up. It’s the little things that stand out in this regard, such as grammatical errors in a few of the dialog windows and a lack of an ability to run a check for an update within the application itself.
Finally, while it was easy to option-boot off the recovery volume, the program was apparently unable to recognize any media cards that were put in, instead seeing all the other volumes save for a few SD cards I wanted to work with. This probably won’t be a deal breaker for you, but it does point out a bug that might need to be looked into.
MiniTool Data Recovery’s positives outweigh its negatives and this is definitely a tool worth considering if you’re a techie tasked with recovering someone’s precious and irreplaceable data. The program offers some powerful new features to the usual mix of data recovery programs, although its could stand a few more rounds through QA to work out its kinks and rough edges. Still, this offers some interesting new features that make it worth considering as an addition to your techie arsenal.