Review of Steller Phoenix Macintosh Data Recovery - It Works!

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Macintosh data recovery the easy way

I had the pleasure to try out a new software solution for the Macintosh in the area of data recovery by Stellar Phoenix entitled simply, Macintosh Data Recovery. I’ve worked with many software packages that claim to be able to recover lost data due to drive formatting, accidental trash emptying, failed partitioning or the dreaded unmountable volume and many times its at best hit or miss as to whether you can recover anything at all. I decided to put StellarPhoenix to the test and try to recover lost data from failing hardware and data corruption and all in all I was pleasantly surprised at what I found out about the software.

I prepared four hard drives all with different problems on my workbench and installed the Macintosh Data Recovery software on another OS X based workhorse with an extra hard drive used for recovered data. The hard drives had he following problems-

  • Failed partition
  • accidental reformat of drive (formatted twice for good measure)
  • Hardware failure (head crash)
  • accidental trash empty - recover deleted files

Attempt at data recovery from a failed partition:

I plugged in the first drive with a failed partition and launched the utility. Almost immediately the drive was discovered and the manufacturer and size of the drive was displayed. I double clicked on it and was given three choices: Scan for Logical Volumes, Raw Data Recovery and Create Image-

I was interested in saving some PDFs I had planted into the original single partition volume and after reading some of the documentation I decided that doing a Raw Data Recovery was the best bet. Macintosh Data Recovery went to work on the drive and began building a list of file types it could find on the hard drive. The process was fairly quick for this type of data hunting and within a short time it found my PDF files. Had the drive had more data on it I believe the process would have taken a bit longer but the result would have been just as positive. Macintosh Data Recovery passes the first challenge.

Accidental reformat of drive:

In an accidental reformat of the hard drive the logical drives appear just as they did before unless you also had a partition so I selected the logical drive and began to using the Scan Volume method of recovery. The hard drive was scanned quickly and a few folders were found. After the initial scan a more detailed search began and all the data on the drive was visible in a familiar OS X system folder structure. I selected the user folder and dug down to the documents folder and was able to recover everything. Macintosh Data Recovery wins round two.

Before we move to the third recovery attempt I should note that doing a thorough scan of the entire volume takes a long time. Stellar Phoenix’s tool is no different than other utilities available on the market in this way and while it is a little snappier in giving you immediate feedback you should expect to be out of commission while its busy working. This method calls for any and all data to be discovered, unlike the Raw Data Recovery mode which scans for known file types.

Hardware failure (crashed heads):

When you experience hardware failure of this type its best not to make any attempts to recover data on your own. Spinning the platters with crashed heads (the heads are actually making physical contact with the hard drive platters) can further damage the drive by scratching or scoring the delicate magnetic surfaces within. It is possible to first cool the drive and get data from the untouched portions of the drive but it is risky. My personal suggestion, regardless of operating system, is to send your drive to a professional facility that can remove the platters from the failed hardware or replace faulty heads and properly recover your data. Sure its an expensive option but if the data is important to you it can be the only way to save your hard work. You’ll be happy to know that Stellar Phoenix also offers this service if you need it.

On the do-it-yourself front I rolled up my sleeves and plugged in the failing Hitachi hard drive which then began clicking away as expected, however, Macintosh Data Recovery saw the hardware and showed its manufacturer but did little more. I let it run for some time but was not able to make a selection or do anything more with the drive. It spun for a full day with no positive results. I need to add here that I’ve also tried other commercial solutions on this particular hard drive and the results were far less impressive. Round three is a no contest finish. I’m positive I’ve completely ruined this hard drive by now and no consumer utility is going to bring back any data from it.

Accidental trash empty:

With the other recovery attempts I was confident that this wasn’t going to be a problem for me and my Stellar Phoenix bodyguard to tackle; and I was right, it wasn’t a problem. I selected the logical volume from the listing on the left, double clicked it and selected the Deleted file scan function. This type of recovery also takes a long time which is normal as the entire hard drive is scrutinized for your deleted files. When the process was complete I was given a listing of the types of files it could find and I recovered them to another disc. My deleted files were recovered! Macintosh Data Recovery wins the final round.

Stellar Phoenix’s GUI is not the prettiest of OS X utilities on the market but I am admittedly somewhat utilitarian about the tools I use and would prefer they not be chock full of eye candy, but instead be overflowing with functionality and stability. This application also has a wealth of documentation available to walk you through each and every step of data recovery which goes unmatched in other popular titles. While it is not your grandma’s recovery utility by being cute and shiny, it is all about saving your data quickly and reliably and in the end and that’s where this tool truly shines.

I have every confidence that this tool will become more visually appealing while maintaining its functionality in future versions.


  • this software is stable and reliable
  • fast interface with loads of documentation to help with data recovery options
  • visually arranges recovery information logically and easily


  • The interface is somewhat unattractive and stiff
  • the price of this utility is easily $50 more expensive than its competition

Stellar Phoenix - Macintosh Data Recovery is a universal binary so you can run it from your Intel or PPC based Mac running OS X versions from 10.3.9 to 10.5x.

You can easily recover data from volumes formatted in HFS, HFS+ and even HSFX. I was even able to retrieve some FAT32 and NTFS data from a 2Gb USB thumbdrive as well. Don’t just take my word for it- visit their website and download a 30 day trial copy for yourself and see if its the right tool for you. I’m sure quickly find this to be one of the most valuable tools in your Macintosh data recovery or system support arsenal.

Some details of features of this application can be found here:


Advanced Search

RAW file recovery

Create an image of media

File preview of file to recover