[Contest] IsoBuster Pro

Nowadays data backup is a common but important task. CDs and DVDs still remain the most popular storage media. While most people believe this media is built to last, the truth is a bit different. CDs and DVDs, even handled with care, get easily scratched. Production technology is far from perfect and chemical reactions, e.g. oxidation of the reflexive layer, are the real problems here. According to some researches the approximate lifespan of a typical CD/DVD (not to be mistaken with the newly and not so popular yet M-Discs) is about 7 years.

So you’ve got your precious whatever-data collection on DVDs and you’re perfectly happy with it until the day you find out that exactly this most precious video (Oh no! It’s your kid’s birthday movie you recorded 5 years ago!) stored on that particular DVD cannot be read anymore. But worry not! Here comes IsoBuster to the rescue!

Smart Projects’ IsoBuster is all in one powerful tool for recovering files or any kind of raw data from a damaged media like CDs/DVDs/BDs or deleted files from USB flash drives, memory cards, HDDs and any storage media in general. Current version 3.5, released on December 12, 2014, supports 64 bit addressing and circumvents the limit of 2TB drives.

Installing IsoBuster is a straightforward and easy task. During installation you can select the file type associations like ISO, IMG, BIN, MDF, DSK and much more. Of course that can be done later using the Options menu. Setting the associations gives immediately a hint that not only CD/DVD/BD media, memory cards, USB sticks and HDDs but also image files are supported.

On start elevated privileges are required and when gained a two panel window with a simple main menu opens. On top is a drop down box that includes all available drives. On the left side is a tree-like list of the selected device sessions (when working with a CD/DVD/BD) or partitions (for HDD’s, USB sticks etc.) present. Since a CD/DVD can have more than one file system, for compatibility reasons, IsoBuster scans and shows all of the supported systems as distinct nodes in that visible tree-like structure with the appropriate icons. As the developer claims IsoBuster fully supports ISO9660, Joliet, Rock Ridge, Romeo, CD-I, HFS, HFS+, IFO/VOB, FAT, ExFAT, FATX, NTFS, UDF.


IsoBuster main window

There are only four buttons (including the Help and the Eject buttons) and the interface looks really simple but do not fool yourself! All the powerful IsoBuster functions are accessible through the context menu (that’s the right-click popup menu) of from the main menu.


IsoBuster context menu

It is important to note that a really detailed and useful offline-accessible help is installed with the product that can even be used for educational purposes in case you are not familiar with file systems and optical media.

While right-clicking a Session or a Track node in the left pane allows to extract the whole structure as an image like ISO or BIN for example, right-clicking in the right pane tries to extract a single file from the (damaged) media.

What makes IsoBuster unique is that it bypasses the default Windows reading capabilities and uses its own different methods and algorithms to access and read the stored raw data. It can scan an entire CD/DVD/BD and generate a list of the problematic files affected by read errors.

Since different optical drives do not handle errors and error correction equally the developer strongly recommends when dealing with badly damaged optical disc (CD/DVD/BD) to create a managed image file first. It’s done through the File menu or using right-click again over the main node in the left pane. Besides the possibility to stop and later resume an extraction from a managed file there is the advantage of using it with different drives and now that adds even more chances for successful data recovery.

Sometimes incorrectly adding files (session) to a CD/DVD may result in losing access to all the previously written data. Same thing can happen by simply deleting a file from a USB stick for example. IsoBuster easily handles situations like this. By triggering “Find missing files and folders” from the context menu a scan can be initiated and after finishing the found files can be extracted the same way as mentioned earlier. IsoBuster shows all the files that could be found based on their signature.

In case there are no more possibilities left and the damages are severe for the advanced users there is a sector viewer tool embedded that allows directly reading and extracting data blocks from the media. The use of the Sector Viewer adds another chance to restore (even partially) some precious data.


IsoBuster Sector Viewer window

IsoBuster is highly customizable tool and offers really a lot of useful options that not only include the GUI and the language preferences but more advanced settings like device finding, read retries count and read delays, read remapping, scanning, file system specific ones and more. Luckily for the average and inexperienced user there is a “Default” button also that resets all the settings to their initial state.


Another great feature is the plugin support giving additional functionality and potential. IsoBuster accepts command line parameters too.

All in all IsoBuster is one extremely powerful and promising utility that can turn out to be a life-saver. The price for the paid version is nothing compared to the price of your lost and rescued back precious data!

IsoBuster was installed and tested successfully on Microsoft Windows 8.1 Professional 64-bit and according to the developer it works under Windows 2000 SP 4, Windows 2003, Windows XP, Windows VISTA, Windows 7 and 8 (Home – Ultimate), 32 and 64 bit versions of the OS.

Visit IsoBuster homepage http://www.isobuster.com for a full features list and download your copy that can be used for free with a limited functionality.

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