MiniTool Power Data Recovery Free Edition is a free file- and data-recovery tool for Windows. It bundles several tools that together can recover lost and deleted data from hard drives, USB drives, and nearly every kind of disk or directory that can hold (and lose) data. Of course, not all lost data can be recovered, and there's no guarantee that recovered data will be intact or still usable. But MiniTool's modules are focused on specific data-recovery tasks, giving you a good chance of getting your data back. Its wizard-based operation and simple interface make it easy enough for beginners: just follow each step and you'll do fine. The free edition is limited to 1GB of data. That's a lot, and more than enough for most truly critical data, though not enough for, say, a copied DVD. A paid upgrade is available, if you need more.
MiniTool's installer warns that you should never install the program on the disk partition containing the lost data since that can cause irretrievable data loss. It's always best to run data-recovery operations from a separate, healthy disk, and usually necessary as well. MiniTool's colorful, simple user interface has large buttons for its five modules: Undelete Recovery, Damaged Partition Recovery, Lost Partition Recovery, Digital Media Recovery, and CD/DVD Recovery. Two more buttons let you contact technical support and buy a bootable CD (you can create a bootable system repair disk with your system's existing Windows Backup, too).
We strongly advise against damaging or deleting a partition on purpose, but we had no qualms about trying MiniTool on data and partitions we'd created specifically for deleting and recovering, starting with our D drive. MiniTool quickly scanned the drive and displayed the results in a neat tree view. We could click through to recover just certain files or select the whole thing via check boxes. MiniTool Power Data Recovery Free Edition will only recover partitions up to 1GB, which clearly isn't enough for today's disks, though it's enough for many USB drives, which lead hard lives and can be damaged by rough handling. Certainly we recommend trying the freeware before the premium version.