This tradition lives on in Data Rescue 4, which isn't a revolutionary change from Data Rescue 3, but throws in interesting and useful new features such as the ability to recover data from NTFS-formatted partitions (i.e., Boot Camp) and the ability to create a BootWell partition to boot your Mac from in order to run Data Rescue 4. It's the BootWell function that might just sell you on the new version.
Open Data Rescue 4's minimal packaging and you'll find your serial number, a pamphlet advertising the company's professional-grade Data Rescue Center, and a fire engine red 16GB USB flash drive containing the application. Plug the flash drive into your Mac, and while the initial one-time opening animation is a bit overdone and annoying, it's easy enough to install and start working with the app as well as make a BootWell drive to boot from.
Data Rescue 4 still does a terrific job of data recovery. Like its preceding versions, you can set the program to ignore slow hard drive warnings and methodically pull all possible data from the hard drive, no matter how long it takes. Deleted file recovery and cloning work like a charm, and NTFS data recovery was able to pull data off my Boot Camp partition without issue. For longer recovery cycles, most processes can be suspended and resumed later, allowing you to take the recovery on the road if need be.
While Data Rescue 3 was generally stable, there were times where I felt it was best to keep the processor load light and not run too many programs alongside my data recovery effort. In contrast, Data Rescue 4 feels stable enough to run just about anything alongside it, and it was nice to get side work done while my 2013 Mac Pro recovered both found and reconstructed files from the drive it was working on. I couldn't make Data Rescue 4 crash, and the only time it felt slow was in resuming functionality after the computer was woken up from sleep.
If there are any complaints to register, it's the fact that you'll have to back your data up to an external partition to scan and recover from your internal hard drive and might have to go shopping for a second hard drive in a pinch. This isn't the worst thing in the world, but it's an extra step before you can settle in to the task at hand. Add in a $99 price tag for new users and a $49 upgrade price for owners of Data Rescue 3 and you can see where Data Rescue 4 still feels a bit like a premium utility for a focused set of professional users.
Price and need for an external hard drive aside, Data Rescue 4 remains your best hope for recovering data from a physically functional drive without having to send it to a dedicated outfit where technicians in clean rooms will replace drive components in clean rooms for hundreds--or thousands--of dollars.
Data Rescue 4's recovery functions may not be the most exciting thing to watch, but it proves that your data can be resurrected even when you thought your hard drive was dead. It also shows that slow and steady--or as long as the task needs to be done well--can still win the race.