Whether it’s a backup failure, ransomware attack, or just a dropped table, SQL recovery can be a stressful and daunting task.
In this article, we’ll examine the very best SQL recovery tools sysadmins can use to get their databases back up and running fast.
Here’s our shortlist of the best SQL recovery tools:
- SysTools SQL Database Recovery Affordable and easy to use when repairing MDF files.
- DataNumen SQL Recovery Can be run on systems as old as Windows 95.
- Diskinternals MSSQL Recovery Can recover database files on both Windows and Linux.
- Stellar SQL Repair Uses a tagging system to visibly map out corrupted database objects.
- Aryson SQL Database Recovery Focuses on streamlining the recovery process.
- Kernel SQL Database Recovery Uses a robust previewing feature suited for large database files.
- ApexSQL Recover Great for rolling back certain parts of a database and replacing objects in live environments without mounting a new database.
The best SQL recovery tools
What should you look for in an SQL recovery tool?
We reviewed the market for relational database backup and recovery systems and analyzed the options based on the following criteria:
- An efficient strategy for database backup
- Options for full, incremental, and differential backup
- Secure password locker
- Point and click recovery
- Options for rollback points
- A free trial or a demo for a risk-free assessment opportunity
- Value for money, represented by a fair price for a reliable recovery service
Using this set of criteria, we looked for backup and recovery systems for SQL Server and other relational database management systems.
1. SysTools SQL Database Recovery
If you’re in a pinch and need your SQL server up and running fast, SysTools SQL Database Recovery takes a simple no-nonsense approach to database restoration. Through a simple yet powerful interface, SysTools can repair corrupted MDF files and recover deleted database objects that were once lost.
- Backup and recover or migrate
- Database viewer
- Repair corrupted MDFs
- Extracts from database
- Object-only option without data
SysTools works in a multitude of environments and can run on 2000/2003/XP/Vista/7/8/8.1 and Windows 10, making it a great option if you’re looking to run a SQL repair on an older server. While some recovery tools only allow the recovery of tables, SysTools can retrieve and export indexes, keys, triggers, and rules, saving countless hours of rebuilding.
The built-in database viewer allows you to quickly preview your tables, and other database objects to understand the scope of what is recoverable and aid in the troubleshooting process. Exports can be done with or without schema data and auto fetching helps pull information like SQL server name when exporting databases. All these features combined help streamline the migration and recovery process of your SQL data.
When first launched, SysTools SQL Database Recovery scans the entire database for corrupted MDF files and then lists pertinent information at the end of the scan. This initial scan gives you a solid idea of just how much of your data you’ll be able to recover in your SQL recovery process. After the scan, you’ll have the option to either recover the damaged data and export it or run a repair on the faulty database.
- Supports SQL backup, recovery, and offsite replication
- Can repair corrupted databases
- Offers a simple way to visualize your database structure
- Affordable for most businesses
- Not the best option for enterprises
If you’re looking to migrate the entire database a built-in migration wizard uses SQL script to copy and move entire database files from one server to another in just a few clicks. SysTools SQL Database Recovery is currently $249.00 for a personal license and offers a site license for $1499.00. You can read more about its pricing tiers on its product page.
2. DataNumen SQL Recovery
DataNumen SQL Recovery has seen major success over the years with over 10 million users over its lifetime. A major role in this tool’s success is its ability to simplify the SQL recovery process.
- Easy to use
- MDF file analysis
- Damaged MDF repair
- Repair NDF files
The interface is extremely simple and the entire recovery process feels intuitive enough where even a junior technician would be comfortable using this tool. All you have to do is select the damaged MDF file, and specify the SQL server it originated from. If you’re unsure of what server the file came from, DataNumen will analyze the file and select the correct format automatically.
DataNumen runs dozens of fixes on the file and automatically saves the new file marked as “fixed.mdf”. In the same windows, you’ll have the ability to connect to your SQL environment and mount the newly created (and hopefully repaired) MDF file. After authentication, you’ll be able to see the SQL recovery process in action, and eventually, get a message notifying you that it has completed.
While this entire process is streamlined, DataNumen does not skip out on any details or features. The tool fully supports the latest Windows Server environments and can be run on systems as old as Windows 95. DataNumen goes beyond just data in tables and can recover views, rules, sparse columns, indexes, and triggers.
Along with your standard MDF files, DataNumen can also recover and repair associated NDF files as large as 16TB and integrate its recovery tools with Windows shell.
- Can repair and analyze MDF files
- Uses a simple easy to use interface
- Can run on older Windows operating systems – great for older databases
- Supports NDF files as large as 16TB
- Better suited for smaller to medium-sized databases
DataNumen starts at $499.95 for one license and offers deep discounts for larger volumes. You can view the volume discounts in more detail on its pricing page.
3. Diskinternals MSSQL Recovery
Diskinternals MSSQL Recovery is a flexible SQL repair tool that has the ability to recover database files that were created on either Windows or Linux servers. This means Diskinternals can be used for recovery in NTFS and ReFS as well as Ext2/3/4 in Linux.
- Repair or recover
- Recover files from Windows or Linux
- Runs on Windows
The platform has two types of MSSQL recovery modes for repairing database files.
“Repair existing database” mode works around specific damaged areas to increase the likelihood you’ll be able to recover and access other tables and database objects.
“Recover Database” mode works on retrieving deleted databases and objects that can be restored directly through MSSQL Recovery.
Both of these modes allow you to navigate and view the files before the export and support all national and Unicode characters. Data recovery can be performed on servers as old as MS SQL Server 2000 and is compatible with the latest versions of Windows Server.
- Can recover NTFS, ReFS, and Ext2/3/4 formats
- Uses a simple interface that can support larger databases
- Great option for small and medium-sized databases
- Offers a free trial
- Could use more database visualization
Diskinternals MSSQL needs a minimum of 2GB of RAM, 60MB of disk space and can run on operating systems using Windows 7 or greater. Currently, Diskinternals MSSQL Recovery is available for $399.95 per license and comes with a free trial that includes all features enabled except for data export.
4. Stellar SQL Repair
Stellar SQL Repair supports the recovery of MDF and NDF files in SQL versions 2008-2019 and is a popular tool amongst sysadmins and database administrators. Stellar works as both recovery and investigation tools by allowing you to navigate through the database tables, as well as viewing objects that are marked as “suspect”.
- Repair MDF and NDF
- Identifies potential faults
- Visually explore files
As Stellar identifies potentially corrupt files, it earmarks them for you allowing you to visually see how much of your database may be impacted. Events such as SQL server crashes, limited disk space, inaccessible tables, and abrupt database termination are all reasons for Stellar to label them as suspect.
You’ll have the option to parse through the corrupted database and navigate tables through a tree-like structure. This not only helps to understand the scope of what was corrupted or deleted but also helps you verify that the data after the repair is formatted correctly. In this same view, you can also run searches based on partial and whole-word matches.
If your SQL Server log file (.LDF) is corrupted, Stellar SQL Repair can apply algorithms to both repair the MDF file, and restore access to the log file. Granular recovery of tables, keys, triggers, user-defined functions, views, and indexes are all possible through Stellar.
The recovered data can then be exported in database form, or through a variety of XML data types. This flexibility allows for queries of corrupted objects that are not repairable to be saved in text form for manual re-entry or review.
- Very easy to use tool – takes little time to learn the platform
- Supports MDF and NDF repair
- Can monitor and alert on SQL events such as limited disk space and crashes
- Offers flexibility licensing for any size organization
- Could use more database visualization
Stellar SQL Repair offers three types of lifetime licenses starting at $349.00. It’s important to note that if you want to be able to restore all types of SQL database objects you will need the Platinum version which is $449.00. A free download is available that allows you to scan and preview recoverable data.
5. Aryson SQL Database Recovery
Aryson SQL Database Recovery is another top tool admins can use to recover their corrupted or missing SQL data files. Aryson can repair both MDF and NDF for MS SQL Server 2000 to 2016 and is compatible with Windows 10 and all earlier versions of Windows. Like many of our top choices, Aryson focuses on pairing its advanced repair methods with an easy-to-use and simple interface.
- MDF and NDF repair
- MDF file viewer
- Extract data to XML
After browsing to your MDF file Aryson works to scan and fix corrupted database objects, recover deleted entities, and repair header file corruption. Once completed you’ll be able to manually navigate through the database and preview the recovered files, and even select them individually to be saved in their original format.
Files or databases can be saved in a number of different formats including XML, server compatible script, or as a database snapshot. A single license of the Aryson SQL Database Recovery Tool starts at $129.00 and is valid for five machines and an unlimited amount of recovered files.
- Supports licensing for an unlimited number of files
- Offers a 30-day money-back guarantee
- Uses a simple and informative interface
- Supports modern and older versions of Windows Server
- Smaller businesses may not use all features in Aryson
Aryson offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and includes a free demo you can try first to view what data you’ll be able to recover.
6. Kernel SQL Database Recovery
Kernel SQL Database Recovery is a well-designed SQL repair tool that has a sleek and updated feel to its interface, making it stand out from its counterparts. Currently Kernel supports MS SQL Server 2019, 2017, 2016, 2014, 2012, 2008 R2, 2008, 2005 and 2000.
- Scans for corrupt files
- Repairs MDF and NDF files
- Insert data into databases
The tool starts by running a basic scan that looks to repair or recover MDF/NDF files. Automatic detection scans the file and can identify the SQL environment the file originated from. The advanced scan looks through your tables, triggers, primary keys, and functions for impacted areas that may need repair.
Kernel fully supports an in-depth preview feature that allows you to view tables in hierarchical order and verify the results of the repair process. While most preview features are limited to how much you can view at once, Kernel can load up to 1000 records per page, making it a good option for massive databases where an extensive review is required.
Once those areas are identified the system automatically makes those changes and saves its work as a separate file. Restored files can be saved in a number of formats, or applied directly to a live SQL server.
- Simple lightweight SQL recovery tool
- Can repair both MDF and NDF files
- Supports database visualization and data entry
- Supports up to 1000 records per page
- Is priced higher than similar tools on the list
The evaluation version allows you to view some of your data in a recovered state and can be upgraded directly from the free trial. Licensing for Kernel SQL Database Recovery starts at $299.00 for a single organization and unlimited files. If you’re looking to recover data from .bak files, restore to SQL script, or restore to a live SQL Server, you’ll need the more expensive $499.00 license.
7. ApexSQL Recover
ApexSQL Recover aids in recovering damaged, lost or dropped data from your SQL environment through a sleek interface with several unique features not listed in our previously listed tools.
- Data repair
- Backup and recovery
- Rollback system
While most tools on this list focus on fixing corrupted files, ApexSQL Recover positions itself as a part of the backup, recovery, and testing process. Apex positions itself between the backup process allowing it to capture transactions made during the backup process and replay them.
If you’ve ever accidentally dropped a table or overwritten entire datasets, you’ll know the fear of wondering if your backups really work. Apex features backup options for such occasions that can replace specific data, without rolling back the entire database.
Row-level recovery is achieved by comparing the different transaction log data files and giving you the option to recover the difference. This helps fix smaller mistakes in live environments quickly without causing database downtime. This same methodology can be applied to entire datasets through Apex’s rollback function.
Recovery options in Apex are extremely flexible and allow you to roll back to specific points in time, and replay DDL syntax from previous events. Finally, data can be pulled from backups and extracted into a live environment without having to restore to it.
ApexSQL Recover does an excellent job of guiding you through the recovery process. For example, when recovering a dropped table ApexSQL guides you through the process step-by-step and gives you a range of technical options without feeling overbearing.
- A great solution for enterprise-sized organizations
- Supports data replacement without rollbacks
- Uses a sleek and scalable interface
- Allows simple steps to BDR and dropped table replacement
- Is priced higher than similar tools on the list
Currently, ApexSQL Recover is priced at $1199.00 per instance for 12-months. A free trial is also available with limited restore functions.
Choosing an SQL Recovery Tool
If you’re in a pinch and need to recover missing data or run a SQL repair, any of these tools should get the job done right. SysTool SQL Database Recovery is our top pick for its ease of use and affordable price point when it comes to repairing corrupted files.
For a robust tool that acts more as a form of backup, ApexSQL Recover adds additional flexibility for SQL data recovery when paired with a traditional form of server backup.
SQL Recovery Tool FAQs
How do I repair a corrupt SQL database?
The easiest way to repair a damaged SQL database is to restore the instance from a backup. If you don’t have a backup system in place, your next best option is to use native recovery tools in the DBMS or a third-party tool. You also have a chance of reassembling a database by working through the database system’s log files.
How do I restore a deleted SQL database?
In order to restore a deleted database, operate the restore processes built into your DBMS or restore from a backup copy.