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Stellar Data Recovery Premium review: Great support isn’t always enough

Stellar Data Recovery Premium appears on a PC monitor.
Stellar Data Recovery Premium
MSRP $209.99
“Stellar Data Recovery Premium is easy to use and works well on hard disk drives, but it failed in three other tests despite help from live customer support.”
Pros
  • Excellent recovery of HDD files
  • Quick file previews even with a slow drive
  • Live support 24 hours a day on weekdays
  • Offers a free version
Cons
  • Couldn't restore a lost partition from thumb drive
  • Couldn't recover SSD files
  • Small app window

Stellar Data Recovery Premium often appears on lists of the best paid file restoration software for Windows and there’s also a limited free version. I reviewed the premium app to test how well it works, how responsive customer service is, and whether the subscription plans are worth the cost.

If you’re a Mac owner, Stellar Data Recovery also works on macOS. It earned a place on our guide to the best data recovery software for Mac. This Windows version, however, doesn’t quite live up to the competition in some key ways.

Tiers and pricing

Stellar Data Recovery has three consumer subscription tiers.
Stellar Data Recovery has three consumer subscription tiers. Digital Trends

Stellar Data Recovery has a free version that’s restricted to 1GB of file restoration. That’s a sizeable amount you can use to get back over a hundred photos, several hundred documents, or thousands of text files. However, a long video could be over a gigabyte.

If you need to recover more data, you’ll need a subscription. For $60 per year, Stellar Data Recovery Standard can restore an unlimited number of files from hard disk drives (HDDs), solid-state drives (SSDs), thumb drives, USB drives, SD cards, and network attached storage (NAS).

If you have lost partitions or need to get files from an unbootable PC, you need the $90 Stellar Data Recovery Professional. It’s only $10 more to upgrade to Stellar Data Recovery Premium, which includes advanced photo and video repair capabilities. This service needs to deliver great results to be worth $100 every year.

Design

Stellar's user interface is easy to understand.
Stellar’s user interface is easy to understand. Digital Trends

I tested Stellar’s Data Recovery Premium plan. I was emailed a download link and activation code. After installation was complete, a browser tab automatically opened with a video tutorial and user guide.

Stellar's app lists sources to recover data from.
Stellar’s app lists sources to recover data from. Digital Trends

I appreciate the guide but wanted to see if I could figure it out on my own. The app is easy to understand. I select what type of files I want to restore with the default option to recover all files. Next, I pick the drive or folder to check for lost files before beginning a scan. It’s exactly what I would expect.

After a quick scan is complete, Stellar Data Recovery Premium shows a file list with previews.
After a quick scan is complete, Stellar Data Recovery Premium shows a file list with previews. Digital Trends

After a scan is complete, Stellar Data Recovery splits the window into three panes. The folder structure appears on the left, like in Windows File Explorer. The top-right pane shows a preview of a file selected from the list in the pane below. If a quick scan doesn’t find the files you need, I can select a deep scan with a button at the bottom of the window.

When I was ready to recover, a pop-up window directed me to choose a location for restored files and has advanced options like saving zip compressed files, which can help save storage space.

At the top left, there’s a menu button with settings, support, and a few other options. A toolbar to the right has buttons to return to the app’s home screen, get help, upgrade, and activate paid features after subscribing.

This is how small Stellar Data Recovery's app looks on a 16-by-9, 1440p monitor.
This is how small Stellar Data Recovery’s app looks on a 16-by-9, 1440p monitor. Digital Trends

It’s all easy to understand. My only complaint is that the window isn’t resizable. I made the Stellar Data Recovery Premium window larger in these screenshots to improve readability.

On my 1440p monitor, the app fills about half the available height and a third the width. I’d prefer to see more files at a time and a larger preview.

Features

Stellar Data Recovery Premium's quick scan found all my deleted SSD files but couldn't restore them.
Stellar Data Recovery Premium’s quick scan found all my deleted SSD files but couldn’t restore them. Digital Trends

I started testing Stellar Data Recovery Premium by deleting all files from an SSD partition, then scanned and attempted restoring those files.

The best SSD drives use a feature called TRIM to extend the life of the drive and to speed up operations. Unfortunately, that makes deleted files difficult and often impossible to recover.

With Stellar Data Recovery Premium, the list of files and folders looked good after a quick scan, but no previews were available. I did a deep scan before trying to restore files. Still, I saw no previews, and I couldn’t open any of the recovered files. In my review of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro, it also had trouble with deleted SSD files.

Stellar Data Recovery Premium has an advanced repair feature that can sometimes restore photos and videos even when a deep scan fails. I didn’t expect any miracles but had to try it. Sadly, the repair failed, and nothing was recoverable.

Stellar Data Recovery Premium's advanced photo repair failed.
Stellar Data Recovery Premium’s advanced photo repair failed. Digital Trends

I tried again with an SSD test that some data recovery software can restore. I copied files to the partition, ran a quick format, and told Stellar Data Recovery Premium to scan for lost files. It found none, failing to restore any files from my SSD.

Moving on to HDD recovery, I use File Explorer to quick-format a small, slow USB drive, then scanned it with Stellar Data Recovery Premium. As expected, it took about an hour to finish, but the app showed file previews during the process that gave me confidence that it was worth the wait.

This isn’t a challenging test, and every data recovery app I’ve tested succeeds. Stellar Data Recovery Premium saved my files, but it lost the names and folder structure. Instead of restoring the folder organization I used, the app created folders for each file type. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro managed to restore the names of files and folders.

Stellar Data Recovery Premium also restored deleted HDD files and folders easily. As with any file recovery app, it’s essential to detect the problem and recover files as soon as possible. If you save data or make any changes to the drive that contains the lost files, your computer can overwrite the data, preventing restoration.

I was worried when an hour-plus Stellar Data Recovery Premium scan stopped for several minutes while showing 44 seconds remaining.
I was worried when an hour-plus scan stopped for several minutes while showing 44 seconds remaining. Digital Trends

I copied a batch of files to the drive and deleted them all for a second HDD test. A quick scan immediately found files but showed no names or previews, so I proceeded with the hour-plus deep scan.

I stepped away for a bit and returned in time to see it hang up with 44 seconds remaining on the scan. After waiting several more worrying minutes, it finally finished. Stellar Data Recovery Premium recovered all files and folders successfully.

Stellar Data Recovery Premium found my internal SSD but not my thumb drive.
Stellar Data Recovery Premium found my internal SSD but not my thumb drive. Digital Trends

My final test was of an old, damaged thumb drive. Windows couldn’t read it, but Stellar Data Recovery Premium said there were lost partitions. I scanned and it had the most complete list of files of any file restoration software I’ve tried.

Support

Stellar's customer support is the best I experienced for data recovery software.
Stellar’s customer support is the best I experienced for data recovery software. Digital Trends

To test support, I selected the question mark button in the app. At the bottom right of the support center there’s a chat button. Live agents are available 24 hours a day Monday through Friday, the best support of any data recovery software I’ve reviewed.

The person I spoke with was a bit more technical than I would have expected for live support, but I’m sure they would explain further if I didn’t understand their questions.

In my case, it simply sped up the process, and Stellar Data Recovery support only took about a minute to answer multiple questions.

Privacy and security

Stellar Data Recovery app doesn’t upload data for processing, so your files are secure. You don’t have to worry about Stellar selling, leaking, or sharing your personal data.

Stellar’s end user license agreement allows the company to use your account data for promotions about Stellar products. In my testing, I didn’t receive any marketing that seemed excessive or abusive.

Is Stellar Data Recovery Premium right for you?

Stellar Data Recovery restored all my HDD files in both tests. However, it couldn’t restore any files in either SSD test, and didn’t see my damaged thumb drive. The advanced image recovery didn’t help with my missing SSD files either.

That means the added features of the Professional and Premium plans failed, and I could have achieved the same results with Stellar Data Recovery Standard, which could have saved me $40 per year. In my review of the $25 Recuva Professional, the low-cost competitor found my lost thumb drive partition and recovered almost all my HDD files.

Customer support is excellent, but live agents can’t make the software do anything more than it’s capable of. In my tests, Stellar Data Recovery Premium was only useful for restoring files from my HDD.

That means you should try the free version before subscribing to make sure the files you hope to restore are recoverable with Stellar Data Recovery. If you have success with the free version but you hit the 1GB cap, it might be worth subscribing.

If your drive is damaged so badly that file restoration software can’t help, data recovery experts can sometimes save critical information from your hard drive.

Alan Truly
Alan is a Computing Writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. A tech-enthusiast since his youth, Alan stays current on what is…
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