One of the most frustrating moments when importing a video file into an editor is to realize that it’s somehow been corrupted. Sometimes part of the frame is missing, lines obscure the footage or it may not open at all (though some of our best video editing software will mitigate the damage).
In any case, all of the hard work that went into capturing the footage likely seems wasted. If that footage was for work, you’re possibly in hot water. If it was video of a family vacation or a toddler’s first steps, you’re probably heartbroken.
While you can’t fix every corrupted file, the good news is that there are some things you can try before calling it quits. We’re going to run down a few of the best video recovery software options available, free and paid, to show you how to recover corrupted video files. For a full overview of the top recovery software (for all file types), read our best data recovery software guide.
To avoid corruption issues in the future, we’ll also take a moment to recommend backing up your video files, both locally and in the cloud. Online backup services provide versioning capabilities that let you rollback to uncorrupt copies of your files.
Backblaze will give you unlimited backup for only a few dollars per month, making it perfect for large video collections (read our Backblaze review). Also, don’t forget to check out some of our other favorites in our best online backup services roundup, too.
Stellar Video Repair (Paid)
The first option is Stellar Repair for Video. It’s available for both PC and Mac and can correct a variety of video formats, including .mov, .mp4, .wmv and .asf. The only real downside is that it isn’t free. A lifetime license of the software costs $69.99 for the standard version or $99.99 for a premium version that can also repair photos.
That cost isn’t without merit, though. Stellar can repair both video and audio from a file, separating the data for each stream and then reassembling it.
To use it, open the software up, and then drag and drop your file into the window pane or click “add file” to locate it in your file system.
Next, you’ll need to add files. Just click the “add” button in the bottom left corner and find what you need.
You can review the footage to ensure you found the right file by clicking on the preview button in the bottom right corner. After you’ve done that, check the boxes for the files you want and click “repair.”
Once completed, you’ll land on a screen with all of your repaired files. To ensure the process worked, select a file and click on “preview.”
Once you’re satisfied, click on “save” in the bottom right corner, and the files will export to your chosen destination.
The repair and export process can take a little while, so make sure you’re patient with it. While the software will cost some money, it’s justified by its ease of use and performance. If you work with many video files, then Stellar Video Repair is a tool you’ll probably want in your toolkit.
Stellar also makes a full data recovery suite that you can read about in our Stellar Data Recovery review.
Digital Video Repair (Free)
Digital Video Repair is a free alternative to Stellar. It can fix corrupted .avi, .mov, and .mp4 files that have been encoded with Xvid, DivX, MPEG4, 3ivx or Angel Potion codecs. The caveats are that the software is only for Windows and only one file can be repaired at a time.
DVR is dead simple to use. Select the file you want, choose the output directory and click repair. The capabilities are limited, but the process is straightforward. If you made a mistake and just need to repair a single video file, then this software will save you some money over a more expensive, professional tool.
That said, while DVR works in a pinch, it lacks versatility. It’s usually a good idea to have some sort of recovery tool for all the file types on your computer, not just videos, so you may want to consider upgrading at some point.
CleverFiles Disk Drill (Free & Paid)
Cleverfiles Disk Drill sits in between DVR and Stellar, with both free and paid variations. While the software isn’t specifically made for recovering video, it can still repair .mp4s, .movs and more.
The free version provides everything the Pro version does, but only recovers up to 100MB worth of data. It’s more like a trial and less like a free version, but will still get you familiar with the software and can be used to recover a few files, if that’s all you need.
The Pro version lifts the size limit for $89.. You’ll get an account for a single user, with support for up to three computers. If you need more users or installations, Disk Drill also has an enterprise version for $399.
- : Basic recovery for PC. Annual license for 1 user and 3 computers. Add lifetime upgrade for $19.
- : Basic recovery for Mac. Annual license for 1 user and 3 computers. Add lifetime upgrade for $29.
- : Basic recovery for PC. Lifetime license for unlimited users and machines.
- : Basic recovery for Mac. Lifetime license for unlimited users and machines.
In addition to recovery operations, Disk Drill has a few other unique features. One is Disk Health, which will routinely scan your drives and report any potential issues. Another is Mac Cleanup, which scans your drive and finds ways to free up space. It might suggest removing unused files, space hogs or old software files that should have been deleted after a software update.
Both Disk Health and Mac Cleanup, along with some other features of Disk Drill, are only available for MacOS, however. While the software is also available for Windows, it’s not quite as useful on that operating system.
For both plans and platforms, the process is the same. After downloading the client, open Disk Drill to main window.
Click on the downwards facing arrow that corresponds to the drive you want to recover files on.
You can choose either a deep or quick scan. The first will go through and attempt to reconstruct old files, with broken pieces of data scattered deep in your hard drive. A quick scan will attempt to restore recently deleted files, or those that don’t require much digging.
Disk Drill will display a folder hierarchy with all damaged files. There are some options on the side for filtering in case you have a lot. Check the box next to the files or folders you need to recover.
After that, choose the destination folder and click “recover.”
A deep scan can take quite awhile, so be patient. One of my drives with about 300GB of data took 12 hours to scan completely. Thankfully, you can pause or cancel the process if you find the files you need before it completes.
Read our Cleverfiles Disk Drill review for a closer look at this affordable yet comprehensive data recovery software.
Video files that have only partially downloaded, been imported improperly or have become corrupted otherwise can be both annoying and heartbreaking. Thankfully, oftentimes corrupt video files can be recovered, and each of the software options mentioned above should do the trick.
If you would like more options, check our best data recovery software reviews, if you’d like to put preventive measures in place so you don’t need to hope for a successful data recovery operation.
Have you ever dealt with a corrupted video file? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.