Disk Drill Review | A real review (2 & 4)

By | August 22, 2019

Disk Drill Review: The other week I was given a PRO license for Disk Drill Pro by my buddy Luke Coughey from https://www.recoveryforce.com/. Yes, this is legal, he was offered licenses to give away for promotional purposes. I have looked at Disk Drill in the past and it appears not much has changed since. Which isn’t a good thing.

Update November 2023: I had another look .. 

disk drill review, not worth your time or money

Give the guy a white cane please ..

UPDATE AUG 22, 2019

Clever Files released version 4 of the data recovery product Disk Drill.

It’s good to see they stepped up to 64 bits but they don’t seem to be benefiting from it. It’s just as sluggish as the previous version, their scan modes are confusing, it seems a tad faster but hardly significant and results are way below average.

Scenario: Windows 10, NTFS, 800.000+ files.

Something as simple as loading an existing directory tree on a healthy volume (called allocating existing data in Disk Drill) takes longer than for ReclaiMe or UFS Explorer to detect all data in a RAW state! The latter two parse the complete tree of a RAW volume within a matter of a few minutes while Disk Drill takes over 30 minutes (was then stopped) to parse a healthy file system.

Comments regarding version 4 are added to tests below.

Update March 13, 2019

Some complaints in the comment section last couple of weeks about DiskDrill not working and refusal to give a refund. It is good to be aware of the CleverFiles non refund policy. In all fairness, it is in their EULA:

6. Refund Policy.

6.1. No Refunds. Because of the nature of 508 Software’s Products, all purchases and sales are FINAL. However, 508 Software reserves the right to address each refund request on a case-by-case basis and in its sole discretion. If You are seeking a refund because of a Product malfunction, bug, or similar concern, please contact 508 Software as outlined at the end of this EULA or in the Terms of Service.

But they know as well as I do 9 out of 10 will not read that. IMO, a non refund policy should be stated on their website. Refund policies are a ‘thing’ I am struggling with too I must admit. If people just buy and try rather than try and buy, it means I lose money without getting anything in return. At the same time the user has a working license key. So I feel you can’t throw this all on the plate of the software writer/seller. Seems like common sense to me that if the option is available, to first try, and if it works for you, then buy.

Disk Drill popularity

Disk Drill appears to be a popular tool. I do not have hard numbers to back up this claim, but I see people recommending it on a regular basis in various forums and other online communities. I can forgive an end user a positive review if he has nothing to compare against.

Also review sites often place Disk Drill in their top 10’s or even top 5’s. Fact that ‘professional’ review sites rate the program so high makes me wonder about their objectivity. However a fair amount of reviews covers the Mac version. Maybe it performs better than it’s Windows counter part. Or maybe it is due to the fact that there are not many data recovery tools for the Mac. In this post I will only cover the Windows version and I have no idea how the Mac and Windows versions compare.

Like many other data recovery software vendors, CleverFiles offers a free version of it’s product Disk Drill. Be sure to try that version because purchasing the Pro version is irreversible: all sales are considered final. FWIW I consider the latter reasonably fair with regards to recovery and repair type tools in general.

As with competitors offering free versions, the free part has to be taken with a grain of salt. Typically the amount of data that can be recovered is very limited, somewhere about 1 or 2 GB. Disk Drill free allows you to select and recover 500 MB. Granted, if you need to quickly undelete that one document you have been working on so hard then this may be enough, but in general I consider the free quota nothing but a cheap marketing trick. If the damage is more serious, like you accidentally formatted a whole volume, then  the free part is as good at nothing.

It also helps if you indeed can quickly recover the deleted file but you will be disappointed when you hope to be able to achieve this using Disk Drill. Scanning your disk with this file recovery software is like watching grass grow.

Disk Drill review, scenarios

I will test Disk Drill against 3 typical and common scenarios:

  1. Recover an accidentally deleted file, or undelete.
  2. Unformat type recovery: After a volume turned RAW or was accidentally formatted.
  3. Photo Recovery: Recover photos from a corrupted SD Card (JPEG photos).

Quick undelete a file from the c: drive

If you need to undelete a file, specially from the Windows c: drive, speed is of the essence unless you’re able to ‘freeze’ the drive: Turn off PC > attach drive to different PC > scan and recover from the slaved drive. Reality is, 9 out of 10 people will run the software from their c: drive. So, you need to be quick before the deleted file is overwritten.

Scenario: Windows 10, NTFS, 800.000+ files.

I fire up Disk Drill > select the c: drive > change recovery mode to ‘Quick’.

10 minutes into scan 30 minutes scanned after 1 hour scan time
disk drill review, 10 minutes of scanning 30 minutes of scanning after 1 hour of scanning

After waiting 1.5 hours and only a few thousand files detected, and NO indication at all with regards to percentage scanned so far or an ETA, I break off the scan. A typical free undelete type tool like DiskTuna’s own undelete tool or Recuva will recover such files (if recoverable) within a few minutes.

Version 2. My conclusion is that Disk Drill is completely unfit for undelete type recovery.

Version 4. Quick undelete test was a lot quicker and found about the same amount of files as FileScavenger.

Unformat type recovery: recover data from formatted or RAW volume.

Scenario: NTFS volume, approx 600 GB, 800.000+ files. I go with default recovery which includes the quick and the deep scan. Of course this will not increase speed compared to the quick scan. After over an hour of scanning Disk Drill suddenly offers some information on it’s progress! It claims it has been scanning for 3 minutes and remaining scan time is around 2+ hours (although fluctuating up to 3 hrs):

disk drill review: after 1+ hours of scanning disk drill shows an ETA

In general, with this type of damage and recovery, the tool should be able to reconstruct a more or less complete directory tree + file names are recoverable too. Reference tools like ReclaiMe are able to reconstruct a directory tree of the same drive in less than 2 minutes.

ReclaiMe detects all files + complete directory structure in less than 2 minutes!

ReclaiMe detects all files + complete directory structure in less than 2 minutes!

Finally done!

After 2+ hours of scanning Disk Drill presents it’s final result:

In total it detects 146989 ‘items’ (out of 800.000+ expected). Of those only 20407 are sorted in the directory tree and the majority, 126582 are detected by file signature. So the latter is without original file names or their original folders! This is an extremely poor result! Not only it failed to detect the majority of the files at all, it fails to reconstruct a directory structure spectacularly. Even Deep Scan, which I assume is a signature or RAW scan, fails. For example, the volume contains 100’s of intact Canon RAW photos (CR2) of which it manages to locate only 4!

There’s more totally weird behavior: If I search for ‘*.CR2’ no files are found. Using ‘CR2’ as search phrase lists the 4 CR2 files but also a folder full of JPEGs.

Disk Drill is slow, fails to detect the majority of the files on the volume and fails to reconstruct a directory tree. Totally unfit to recover data from a RAW or quick formatted NTFS volume.

Version 2. I can only come t the conclusion that Disk Drill is not suited to recover data from a RAW or quick formatted NTFS volume.

Version 4. I got the same result with version 4, it just finished a tad quicker.

Scenario 3: Photo Recovery

For this I use a sector-by-sector disk image of a SD Card. Disk Drill allows you to ‘attach’ a disk image and then offers that as location to scan in the disk list. If I go with the default scan the program crashes reproducible.

Disk Drill crash report

Disk Drill crash report

Only after I switch to deep scan, which causes the program not to scan for lost partitions, I can get it to scan. The program finds 1000 files: actually double the amount but files under the directory tree (DCIM) and RAW files (deep scan) are the same. So for each file exactly one duplicate. This is the same amount of files as the ones on the reference recovery software. Free software such as PhotoRec can recover the files as well (Tested this already in the past).

Disk Drill: satisfactory results with photo recovery

Disk Drill: satisfactory results with photo recovery

Version 2. Conclusion: Disk Drill performs satisfactory when used for photo recovery once you work around the quirks.

Disk Drill Review Conclusion

I am under the impression Disk Drill is a popular tool among end users. After reviewing it I sincerely wonder why as it is far from the best solution available: Disk Drill is extremely slow compared to other tools, delivers poor results and is buggy at some points.

Losing data is often a significant interruption of whatever you were doing. Recovering data with as minimal fuzz as possible is then desired. The file recovery software should be easy to use, quick and preferably recovers the complete directory structure and file names. At too many points Disk Drill fails to meet these requirements. With all that in mind, the price of $89 for Disk Drill against $79.95 for ReclaiMe, the latter being far superior, is plain ridiculous!

My conclusion is that Disk Drill (Windows) 2.0 isn’t worth your time or money.

However, version 4 is slightly better! I still do not like it:

  • I think it’s interface is confusing
  • It is and feels sluggish from setup to using it
  • Setup also wants a reboot which I think is very undesirable when you downloaded the tool to quickly undelete a file
  • Unformat type recovery doesn’t cut it! I consider this a major part of a generic file recovery tool.
  • If compared to other tools it certainly isn’t the best choice

Specially when you compare Disk Drill to competing tools, the difference is night and day. Confusing vs. simple and straight forward to use. Sluggish vs. snappy and responsive.


I am affiliated with some file recovery products, including Disk Drill, listed on this website. This means I earn a small commission when I refer someone to specific software and that someone decides to purchase that software. However, if I think a product is bad then I will say so. If I think a product is good, whether I am affiliated to it or not, I will say that too.

Edit: CleverFiles has discontinued my affiliate account.

23 thoughts on “Disk Drill Review | A real review (2 & 4)

  1. Macster

    guess I was dumb — did not see this before purchasing. Sure wish I had.
    NOW: “disk drill” extremely high cpu 100% iMac 2020 (intel)
    nothing they have said helps or fixes it. including most recent updates
    SINCE Disk Drill is so bad, what should I use instead?

    1. Joep Post author

      DMDE is my personal daily driver, UFS Explorer is good, so is R-Studio. All these three are commonly used by data recovery professionals. I’d say, it depends very much on scenario at hand.

  2. diskDrill my ass

    so you’re part of bussines mate , are’nt you. Not allowing the comment pass thru …
    Cooworker of Mr Phlillip ?

    1. Joep Post author

      I am sorry, I need to manually approve comments. No I am not affiliated with DiskDrill. Does it sounds like I am a co-worker? Would I write a post like the above if I was?

  3. diskDrill my ass

    Phillip from “DiskDrill team” is not responding somehow…. What happened ? :D
    Unbelievable, this scumbag has even balls to come here and comment about their new version of scam !
    Are the police doing anything ?

  4. Ana San

    My Disk Drill (spam URL removed, nice try) not working its stopped again and again after every 10 minutes please tell me what I do

  5. John H

    I purchased the Pro version of Disk Drill after viewing a list of my deleted files with the Free version.

    What Disk Drill fails to inform you BEFORE purchasing is deleted files on an SSD drive are “probably not” recoverable. This means Disk Drill is completely worthless for any modern computer system built within the last 5 years. You only learn this fact AFTER purchase.

    Contacting technical support for help is a waste of time. They will ask you to provide some technical information about your computer and that’s when you find out Disk Drill is incapable of recovering deleted files from an SSD drive.

    Disk Drill will deny your request for a refund and instead lecture you about having not used their software correctly. They will then add insult to injury by referring you to their Terms of Sale page. To make matters even worse, they ridicule you by adding “the great news is that you can enjoy the amazing features of Disk Drill going forward.”

    Disk Drill is essentially a ransomware scam. It teases by showing you a list of “recoverable” files, but the end result is a bunch of unusable files. Images aren’t viewable and documents are uneditable.

  6. Somebody

    Does Disk Drill pretend to recover “FAKE PHOTOS” to lure people to buy???

    Hi guys,

    I just deep scanned a new 512GB SD card (bought in a Samsung shop!) , which I have formatted first and Disk Drill detected some 20,000 (!) jpgs that I have never seen before – they look like random pictures from www sites (celebrities, politicians, buildings, cars (with number plates plotted out!), book/record covers etc.) sometimes in b/w from the last century or so…). The definitely don’t belong to me and I have never seen them before (nor been on any of the websites from which they were probably pulled.

    My initial thought was that the SD card was not new but used – but you won’t get that in a serious shop from the original manufacturer, right? And even then, there would be real photos recovered (made with a camera from a (non-professional) individual.. This here looks like a big FAKE! All the 20,000 pics I have only seen in the pre-view window and all pics together (in the created .DDWSCAN file) have a size of only 6MB – each pic has only a few KB! I haven’t bought the pro version of DD, to extract them…

    What do you think? Anyone with similar experiences?
    What alternative (free/FLOSS) recovery programs do you recommned? PhotoRec? Recuva?


    1. Joep Post author

      No, that I do not not think, that Disk Drill embeds fake photos to show as recovery result. If recovered files only are a couple of KB in side, they sound like thumbnails. But I don’t think the scan file actually contains all files, simply pointers to them.
      With regards to the SD Card, it sounds far fetched, but if there are actually (delete) files on there it’s either not new or recycled NAND maybe even. Even a serious shop does not actually test all cards, if it’s a cheap card then everything is possible.
      Free software, in my experience may work but you get what you pay for in general.

  7. Jeff

    DO NOT BUY DISK DRILL!!!! SCAM! – How can you let this review stand? You say it is not great software and don’t recommend it. But you write as if you are dealing with a reasonable product and you are giving the developers the benefit of the doubt. THAT IS NOT THE CASE! They are CRIMINALS! They are SCAMMERS! When comment after comment reveals the truth. This is a scam company with scam software. They are very sophisticated. Their Marketing is highly effective at luring people when they are vulnerable ( having lost important data and desperately looking for a fix). They do a great job of making it seem like they can recover your files, in the free version of Disk Drill showing you the names of your files, but then if you want to recover them you have to pay $90. Then you find out after that Disk Drill only recovers piles of useless corrupted files that can’t be opened. This isn’t just occasionally, It’s the exact same experience of practically every person who comments on the internet on a review article or web forum about Disk Drill where the company doesn’t control the website. People are getting fleeced of their $90 every time, with no way to get a refund. As the author here even defends, it’s in the EULA of 508 Software/Disk Drill, which no one reads when they are trying t save their files. Yes, We are the fools who paid these con artists, but they are the parasites who darken the light of the world.

  8. Herb Waldrup

    It’s not free and produces unusable data. Just had to delete everything and buy another recovery product. Disk Drill is not a good product and they got my $90.

  9. Jonathan

    I personally lost alot of $ using Disk Drill after they said they recovered my lost files, then charged me $89, only to discover that no files were actually recovered, then they refused to refund. 😭😖

  10. Martin F.

    Scam! Took my money to “restore” files which were just corrupt, useless fakes. They refuse to refund! Please beware they are the ultimate scammers!

  11. Adam B Tolbert

    Hi Joep, I used this software along with Stellar Data Recovery Free edition and recuva. Most of the features are same in all utility except some features. But I can say these utilities are best in their field of data recovery. Thanks

    1. Joep Post author

      Recuva is fine in it’s own right, that is simple file undeletion. But stating Stellar and Disk Drill are the best data recovery utilities is plain nonsense, they only are as long as you don’t compare them to better tools. Why do you even leave nonsense comments like this if the article provides you with evidence of the contrary?

  12. C

    SCAM product! do not wast your money on disk drill pro. they take your money and promise previews and recovery then do not deliver. Bad customer service, won’t refund. SCAM SCAM – do not buy.

  13. Phillip

    Dear Joep,
    This is not the review of Disk Drill 4. We know about of glitches of Disk Drill 2 (the version on your screenshots), that’s why we have released the absolutely new improved version 4.
    Best Regards,
    Phillip with Disk Drill team

    1. Joep Post author

      When version 4 was released I assumed the previous version was 3. My mistake, I corrected that. In text there are comments where I noticed improvements with regards to version 4 vs. 2.

      I agree that version 4 is an improvement over version 2 but not compared to other tools on the market performance wise. Personally I also find the tool very confusing to use, not that I can not figure it out but non the less. Note that I have used and developed file recovery software > 20 years and that’s my perspective. Maybe I got it all wrong and from the eyes of someone performing his/her first recovery the layout and used terminology is ideal but I doubt that.

      Looking at the price I think people get more power using R-Studio, UFS Explorer or ReclaiMe at comparable prices. On top of that I find ReclaiMe far easier to use than not only the other two alternatives I mention but Disk Drill too.

      if you want me to have a second look and perform some actual recoveries I’d be more than happy to do so, in that case a license to test with is a requirement (joep@disktuna.com).

    2. Anastasios Christoforatos

      Your software sucks and your team lies. You offer a free/basic version with 500mb recover available. This is so well hidden it was impossible for me to use. Then when I purchased a license to retrieve the previewed files, It didn’t work. Now I’m out 90 dollars. DO NOT PURCHASE THIS SOFTWARE! GO ELSEWHERE!

      1. Michael

        My experience exactly. And now their support service via someone named Mit Z is essentially saying too bad I should have backed up my hard drive to keep from losing files. In summary, the free version may show you the files you lost or can no longer access but if you purchase the $90 upgrade that they say you need to recover those files, you can come up with nothing after doing so and support will only make a token effort to resolve the matter and blow you off when they can’t.

    3. Teri Carter

      Phillip he is totally correct on everything. In one night you ripped me off for 80+ dollars. You misrepresent what it can do by showing me my entire missing workload in free version then tell me to pay to actually get it because it exceeds the max for free. So knowing i have to get to work in the morning with the data or lose my job, i pay you. This is called extortion. It is by definition that. Your product is criminal. In one night, just last night actually I lost everything and paid a criminal to boot! thanks for pitching in during the pandemic… not.


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