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Stellar Phoenix FAT & NTFS - Is Your Data Lost? Maybe Not

written by: Mojave Media Group•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 9/16/2008

Stellar Phoenix FAT & NTFS is essentially a deleted-data recovery product whose real value can't be measured in dollars, but rather over time, with each successful recovery process you make. But if you've experienced data loss due to a drive failure, chances are good Stellar Phoenix will find it.

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    A couple of years ago I suffered an apparent drive failure. On restart, the BIOS recognized the physical drive, so I started looking at drive recovery software. I found Stellar Phoenix NTFS. It was simple to use and with an advanced scan, which took half a day, it found almost all of my files. It turned out that the NTFS directory was corrupted. This more current version, Stellar Phoenix FAT and NTFS Data Recovery v3.0, is every bit as easy to use as it was when I really needed it.

    There are many situations for which this application can be valuable. It can recover deleted files after a Shift-Delete or after the Recycle Bin has been emptied. But, its real value is when more extreme events happen. Stellar Phoenix FAT and NTFS can recover data after it has been overwritten by other files, after drive formatting, and after drive repartitioning. The application scans the drive itself and does not depend on a File Allocation Table (FAT) to assemble a list of files and recoverable lost files.

    Stellar Phoenix is easy to use; it's almost intuitive. It creates a list of drives it can access. At that point, you can select a physical or logical drive and perform a basic or advanced scan. The scan may take a few minutes or many hours, depending on the amount of data, the size of the hard drive, and the performance level of the hard drive. As Stellar Phoenix finds files or folders that were deleted, they are shown with a small red "X" to mark them as deleted. Other files are not shown by name, but are listed with a folder number under a folder called Lost Folders. In most cases, the files in those folders should help you determine whether they are ones that you needed recovered. Then it is just a matter of selecting the files you want recovered and selecting a destination for them. It is best if the recovered data is saved on another physical drive. Stellar Phoenix even provides an FTP option to move the recovered data.

    Stellar Phoenix works well in recovering files, even in situations where we have been taught to think they are gone forever, such as after a drive has been formatted. It can also recover data from other media, including CDs, DVDs, floppy drives, and USB drives. I now have an empty external USB drive case for one of my computers. About once a year I experience some drive failure in my small office. I insert the hard drive into the USB drive case, connect it to my administration workstation, and use Stellar Phoenix to scan the drive and try to recover anything not backed up elsewhere. The overall value of the product has increased with each additional recovery.

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    User Interface

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    Stellar Phoenix has a simple, easy-to-use interface for drive scanning and recovery actions. There are five languages available for Stellar Phoenix: English, Italian, French, German, and Spanish. On changing languages, the interface changes without reinstalling or even restarting.

    What's Not: 
    The menu buttons do not have descriptions or labels. A mouseover will expose the function of the button, but it took some effort. The button to stop a process is a red letter "X". Normally, to me that means "delete," not "stop."

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    Price to Value

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    Ultimately, the value of this product can vary greatly with those who use it based on its success in a data-recovery scenario. Data recovery on an NTFS drive is not guaranteed, and success recovering files on a FAT partition is less assured than on NTFS-formatted partitions. How much would you pay for your lost files? I had success with the product and consider it worth the price where you have drives that seem sound but files are not accessible.  

    What's Not: 
    This product's price is excessive as a recovery product. Other applications specific to recovering deleted files are a better value in that scenario.
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    Installation & Setup

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    Installation was simple and smooth. The setup file was just under 14 MB and the installer requested typical user action, such as accepting the license agreement.

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    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    If you exercise some patience and allow the application to work, it will recover most files that are recoverable. Even the demo version will scan your drive and show recoverable files. At that point, the user can determine whether the cost of the product provides a reasonable return. Stellar Phoenix can perform data recovery from various connected sources: USB drive, DVD, CD, hard drive, and even floppy disk.

    What's Not: 
    The application has default limits on sizes of files it can recover or looks to recover. It recognizes about 300 file types, but imposes a default limit on those files. For example, it looks to recover Microsoft Word .doc files that are 2048 KB or smaller. This is a configurable filter, but larger files, especially severely fragmented ones, are decreasingly likely to be fully recovered. Stellar Phoenix appears to have these problems recovering larger files.

    Overall performance is not predictable. Advanced scans and recovery of "lost files and folders" can take many many hours. This may not be specific to this application, though.

    As more of an annoyance, the original folder names were not restored, but rather only assigned a number such as "Folder 0412." Determining the contents required viewing the files within the folder.
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    Help & Support

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    Stellar Phoenix is backed by a company with a diverse array of data recovery products across a variety of platforms. Stellar Info has been around since 1993 and is ISO9001 certified.

    I did not use their customer support in person, but found their help files and knowledge base to be sufficient for my questions. They have a web interface ( for support tickets and 24-hour tech support by phone.

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    Product Features

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    Data can be recovered from diverse media: CD, DVD, USB drive, and floppy drive and from FAT16, FAT32, VFAT, NTFS and NTFS5 formatted drives.

    Scans can take a long time. They can be saved to resume the recovery process later if interruption is necessary.

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    Stellar Phoenix - Drive Discovery at StartupStellar Phoenix - Physical Disk OptionsStellar Phoenix - Logical Disk OptionsStellar Phoenix - Directory ScanStellar Phoenix - Interface Language SelectionStellar Phoenix - PostScan Ready to Recover FilesStellar Phoenix - Data Recovery Destination SelectionStellar Phoenix - Recoverable File Types and SizesStellar Phoenix - Physical Disk Recovery AreaStellar Phoenix - Show File Detail
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    Suggested Features

    This is probably not possible or even reasonable, but I would like to see the cost of Stellar Phoenix tied to the success of its use. It seems most people do not purchase a data recovery solution until they need it, so its value is tied to its success.

    I think there is also a value in trying to assess the status of the drive as well. It might be helpful if the application can, after a scan, not only show what files can be recovered, but maybe how bad the drive is if the recovery is prompted by drive failure or bad sectors.
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    Stellar Phoenix is a strong product backed by an experienced company in a crowded market. This is a solid entry in the realm of file recovery for NTFS and FAT partitions and works for damaged drives, repartitioned drives, and even formatted drives. While its value is really measured in the success of a data recovery, there is a good chance that if data is recoverable this application will do it for you.
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