Review: IsoBuster recovers files from just about anything

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder IsoBuster 3.1

    PCWorld Rating

    This misleadingly named but surprisingly effective recovery program for all types of media is well worth a look.

Since my visit with version 2.7 several years ago, IsoBuster has matured from a program that dealt only with optical discs and images into a program that will recover data from any type of media. Optical drives, hard drives, SSDs, camera cards, and even older removable media such as Zip and Jaz are all supported. It even handles Mac file systems, though not disks formatted with Linux ext file systems.

The free version of IsoBuster handles CD, DVD and ISO images and will extract files from those as well as create its own images of the physical media. The $40 Personal version does the same, but handles all the other media mentioned. The create image feature can be key here as creating an image that you can then try and recover data from lets you recover as much data as possible while stressing possibly deteriorating media as little as possible. The $60 Professional version adds better support and some key forensic features with multi-part/stream files.

There's nothing fancy about IsoBuster's interface. That's a good thing, as there's nothing to get in the way of the recovery or extraction process that is the program's forte.

Using IsoBuster is extremely easy, though the program opts for menu commands in lieu of buttons for the most part. I personally prefer this, but it doesn’t look fancy. In my tests, IsoBuster worked very, very well. It recovered data from my collection of bad flash and hard drives, as well as damaged CDs and DVDs.

Surprisingly, IsoBuster also recovered the header files from deleted movies made with my Canon SX-230. It's only the second program I've found that would do this, the command-line based PhotoRec being the other. IsoBuster didn't recognize them as header files (neither did PhotoRec) so I still had to reconstruct them with HxD (a great file and sector editor), but at least it pulled them off the card.

I haven't had as much time with IsoBuster as I have with my old standbys R-Studio Data Recovery and Active@ File Recovery, but that will be changing. I far prefer IsoBuster's super-clean minimalist interface and light footprint (it's only a 4.3MB download), and so far it's worked just as well as said standbys. With its unparalleled support for optical media, it's gained a permanent spot in my toolkit. Take a look.

Note: The Download button on the Product Information page takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This misleadingly named but surprisingly effective recovery program for all types of media is well worth a look.

    Pros

    • Recovers data from PC and Mac discs, hard drives, and flash drives
    • Super easy to use

    Cons

    • Doesn't support Linux ext file systems
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