Losing important digital media files could be a nightmare for any photographer or filmmaker, whether they are amateur or professional. With all the time and effort spent getting the right shot, nailing the video edits, or fine-tuning the audio, the last thing you want is for your files to disappear into the ether due to some technical glitch or by accidental or intentional deletion.
In cases where the media file is critical to a project, one of the best solutions for retrieval is to try a photo recovery software, like Stellar. In this review, I’ll share my experience with Stellar’s Photo Recovery Software (Windows version) and explain whether it lives up to its promise of being a high-end, all-in-one professional-grade tool.
What Is Stellar Photo Recovery & What Does It Claim to Do?
Stellar Photo Recovery is, as the name suggests, a photo recovery software that promises to retrieve lost or deleted photos, audio files, and videos in unlimited formats, including JPEG, PNG, GIF, RAW, MP4, MP3, WAV, OGS, MOV, and more.
Stellar also notes that it can recover from all types of storage media devices, including memory cards, 4K hard drives, USB flash drives, and SD cards. According to the website, it can retrieve files from all popular camera brands, as well as, from mirrorless cameras like GoPros and Garmin, and VR/4K/8K cameras.
1. System Requirements:
To run Stellar Photo Recovery, you need a Windows desktop or laptop computer with an Intel-compatible processor with an x86 or x64 architecture (most modern CPUs work in these environments). You must also have 4GB of Memory (8GB recommended), 250MB free for the installation process to complete, and be running either Windows 11, 10, 8.1, 8, or 7 as the operating system.
If you’re running an Apple Macbook, there is Stellar Photo Recovery for Mac, also known as the DIY Mac Photo Recovery Tool. Its purpose is to retrieve or recover deleted photographs from the Time machine, the Trash, or from your Photos App. It is supposedly able to recover photos also from formatted, deleted, or inaccessible Mac drives and is compatible with both M1 and T2 chip-enabled Macs.
The system requirements for Mac are the same as Windows, with the exception of the operating system, which must be: macOS Monterey 12, Big Sur 11, Catalina 10.15, 10.14, 10.13, 10.12 & 10.11.
2. System Used for This Review:
For this review, I am running a Windows 11 machine, with 16GB of installed RAM, and a 64-bit operating system (x64-based processor) on a single monitor.
Note: if you’re running a desktop setup that has dual monitors, Stellar Photo Recovery will work without a hitch according to their FAQ section.
3. Installation Process:
I found the installation process of Stellar’s Photo Recovery Software extremely easy. The steps were as follows:
- Navigate to the Stellar website, which can be found here.
- Click on the green Free Download button to download the free trial version, which allows you to scan and preview your deleted photographs/audio/video files. However, you cannot actually recover the file, as you need a license to do so.
- The initial download was only 4.7MB, which is extremely tiny.
- After clicking on the download file, a prompt popped up asking me if I wanted to proceed, and I clicked yes. I was then asked to select a language, which in my case, English.
- After selecting a language, I was taken to the Stellar Photo Recovery Installation Wizard, which just required me to follow the on-screen prompts.
- After choosing your installation path, the Wizard began the installation process. It took about 2-3 minutes for the installation to complete.
- I was then able to launch the program immediately.
First Impressions After Launching Stellar Photo Recovery
Upon launching Stellar Photo Recovery, I was met with a very familiar user interface that presented all of the locations I could scan to recover photo, audio, and video files. This included my removable USB disk, my SSD (C:), my HDD (D:), my portable external drive (E:), as well as, the physical disks of my system.
While it was effortless to recognize the locations of my storage devices, and what to do next is self-explanatory, I needed clarification. It turns out, Stellar lists down your scannable locations multiple times, which I found a little odd.
If you take a look at the screenshot I’ve attached, you can see that my USB stick is listed under the Removable Disk Category (Sandisk Cruzer Glide) AND under the Local Disk Category (as F:) (red ribbons). Stellar also do this with your physical disks as well. My SDD (C:) and HDD (D:) are also listed twice – once under the Local Disk Category and once under the Physical Disk Category via their Model Numbers.
As someone who is very familiar with my computer, which I built, this isn’t much of an issue as I know the locations of all my drives and their designated lettering. But those with pre-built computers or laptops may find this a bit confusing.
Using Stellar Photo Recovery to Retrieve Permanently Deleted Photographs
Now onto the real fun part: finding out how easy it is to use Stellar, and how long it takes to recover my permanently deleted photographs.
For test purposes, I created a folder on my SSD or Local C: Drive, and filled it with a few JPEGS, and an MP3 music file. I then broke the test into two parts; the first was to test the deletion and recovery of the JPEGS, while the second was to test the deletion and recovery of MP3s.
Here is how it went:
Test 1: Deleting & Recovering JPEGS.
In the test folder, I went ahead and deleted all 3 of the JPEGS. I then went to my recycle bin and permanently deleted them from there. This left the test folder empty, saved for the MP3.
Then, I went back to Stellar Photo Recovery and tried to recover the photographs by selecting my Local Disk (C:) as the location to scan. I clicked on the scan button and away we went.
According to Stellar, the scan was completed successfully and it found a whole bunch of deleted data across thousands of folders (1.90GB worth). From here, I did the following:
- Hit the okay button.
- Clicked on File Type in the left-hand sidebar.
- Clicked on Photographs – JPEG.
- In the list of recoverable items, the 3 photographs that I had deleted were available under today’s date.
- So, Stellar was able to retrieve the photographs!
Test 2: Deleting & Recovering The MP3
I repeated the steps above, and deleted the MP3 I had downloaded from my test folder on the Local Disk (C:). I opened up Stellar Photo Recovery and retraced my steps by selecting the Local Disk, hitting scan, and allowing it to work.
The results were perfect. I was able to find the MP3 I deleted under the File Type – MP3 – under Local Disk. What was cool about the MP3 file is I was actually able to preview and playback the file right in Stellar’s preview window.
In terms of how long each scan took – less than 1-minute. It was lightning fast! Now, with regards to actually recovering the files, I was unable to do this as the Stellar software requires you to have a license for the software.
With the DEMO version, you can only scan and preview deleted files, which I did perfectly with Stellar. So, it is reasonable to assume that if I had the software license, I would’ve been able to recover the deleted files.
What Are The Pros & Cons of Stellar Photo Recovery Software?
- Extremely easy to download and install.
- Fast download – the program doesn’t take up a lot of space.
- Familiar user interface across the scannable locations.
- File Type/Tree View/Deleted List with expandable/collapsible folders for precise scanning and search.
- Unlimited file types are supported for recovery.
- The preview window is super helpful for identifying the correct files.
- Quick scan is lightning fast & there is a deep scan option.
- 3 annual subscription plans – Standard, Professional, and Premium.
- Available for Windows & Mac computers.
- Ability to save scan information to resume recovery later on.
- Entire help section with guides available for using Stellar.
- Ability to activate a key/license directly in the software.
- Ability to add or edit file types.
- You can check for updates to the software directly within the program.
- The annual subscriptions are a little expensive when not on sale.
- You must upgrade to higher tier subscriptions to get advanced options like repairing corrupted photos, extracting thumbnails, repairing corrupt videos, repairing multiple videos in one go, etc.
Who Should Use Stellar Photo Recovery?
Practically anyone who has accidentally deleted or lost important data – Stellar Photo Recovery is a great option for recovering those files. It can also be a lifesaver for professionals, like photographers, filmmakers, and content creators who may have accidentally deleted a big chunk of their work.
However, Stellar Photo Recovery should not be used as the only form of backup for important files. It is always recommended to have regular backups in place to prevent data loss in the first place. It should also not be used to recover illegally obtained or copyrighted material. Stellar has a strict policy against this type of usage and will suspend licenses if they suspect such activity.
Verdict on Stellar Photo Recovery Software
Overall, Stellar Photo Recovery is a reliable and easy-to-use tool for recovering accidentally deleted or lost files. Its user-friendly interface and lightning-fast scans make it a great option for both personal and professional use.
While the annual subscription plans may be a bit pricey, Stellar offers a DEMO version for users to try out the software and preview their recoverable files before purchasing a license. Stellar Photo Recovery is definitely worth checking out for those in need of a solid data recovery solution.
Disclaimer: I utilized the DEMO version of Stellar Photo Recovery for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.