The back story is that my dad managed to get a virus or something on his computer. He then has operating system startup issues, and proceeds to try and fix the problem by making it an even larger problem instead of just calling me when the problem was small.
It's an HP computer with a recovery partition on it, so he finds the factory restore button. That's all fine and good and what I'd end up doing, except that NONE of their data was backed up. After my mom deleted a couple years of data about 2 years ago I told them to get a backup drive. They didn't listen very well. I made them buy one now.
Generally this is pretty easy to recover most of the files that haven't been overwritten and I've done it before. However I've tried quite a few different free programs with pretty much the same result. It finds 2 different partitions, one is the newly installed OS from the factory restore, and the other looks like another generic clean install... No files are found.
Only one program I used found the files that weren't corrupted. Wondershare Data Recovery. That's all fine and great, but it costs money to get more than 100MB of data... It seems like it does something different than most other programs. It just scans the entire drive and finds files. Other programs either scan for partitions and then ask which partition, or they just ask for a partition to scan. What I've even done is use one program to mount partitions and use another to scan them. Nothing.
Programs that don't work...
TestDisk (used in the past with success)
Partiton Find and Mount
EaseUS Partiton Recovery
I know I can just give in and pay money for the one that works, but I'd rather find a free alternative.