Have you ever deleted a file, then realized three weeks later that you really needed that file? And you went to the Recycle Bin but it had already been emptied? And you started kicking yourself for being so stupid as to delete such an important file? It happens to the best of us, but fortunately there are ways to get these lost files back.
Usually when we talk about file or data recovery, we’re talking about trying to restore data from a hard drive that’s crashed or just flat out isn’t working. That’s the big time. But just because you aren’t trying to recover your entire hard drive doesn’t mean you don’t have options open to you.
It’s Almost Impossible to Remove a File From Your Computer Accidentally
When it comes to data on your computer, it is almost impossible to accidentally remove it beyond recoverability. Even if you are intentionally trying to completely wipe a file from your hard drive it is exceedingly difficult. In fact, there is an entire market of software products out there designed to help you securely remove data from your system because of the difficulty in doing so.
When you delete a file from your computer, you aren’t actually doing anything to the file itself. It stays on the hard drive right where you left it. What you’re doing is changing the way the operating system looks at the file. You’re telling the computer “This file isn’t here anymore.” Even though the file is still there, as far as the operating system is concerned it isn’t. This means that you can’t see it or open it when you are using your computer, because as far as the computer is concerned the file is gone forever.
There is one concern here. The file is still occupying space on your hard drive, but the computer isn’t viewing the file as being there. The space that file is occupying is then being viewed as free space. That means that it’s possible the computer will write new data over this old data, because it doesn’t see the file as being there. If this happens, it can make it more difficult to retrieve your data, but usually it takes even more than this for your file to be completely removed.
Undelete & File Recovery
Undelete does exactly what it sounds like. It restores deleted files, essentially “undeleting” them. The Recycle Bin mentioned above is a basic form of undelete software. When files are deleted, the Recycle Bin holds the information of the file. While the file is still deleted as far as the computer is concerned, the Recycle Bin allows easy access for you to open it and find the file you want to restore. All of the information is right there in the Recycle Bin, so there is no long search for the data in order to restore the file.
The Recycle Bin is a limited program, and there is only so much data that it can hold. If a file you are deleting is too large, or there is already too much data in the Recycle Bin, it won’t be able to hold the information on the deleted file. There will be a prompt telling you this, however, and ask for confirmation to delete the file. If you have emptied the Recycle Bin since deleting a file, it also won’t be there if you later want to restore it.
If the file you’re looking for isn’t in the Recycle Bin, you’ll need a more powerful Undelete program. There are quite a few of these programs out there, a lot of them even available for free on the internet.
The way most undelete programs work is to search your hard drive for files that are located on the drive, but aren’t being read by the computer. Depending on how many files you’ve deleted, this could be quite a few files. Fortunately most undelete programs include a search function that allows you to search within the list of deleted files. This makes it quick and easy to get to exactly the file you’re looking for.
Once you’ve found your file (or files), you simply restore the file like you would from the Recycle Bin. The main difference between these programs and the Recycle Bin is that the Recycle Bin must catch the information at the time of deletion, while these programs can go into the hard drive at any time and find the file.
There are several undelete programs out there. R-Undelete and Active Undelete are two of the better ones. There are also quite a few freeware undelete programs out there. PC Inspector File Recovery is an excellent example of quality freeware undelete software.
No matter what undelete program you use, it will give you power over your files. In the best of worlds you’ll never need undelete software, but we all know that accidents happen. When they do, you’ll want to be able to repair the problem as quickly and as cheaply as possible, without having to take your hard drive to an expensive data recovery company for a single file. So undelete it, and forget about it.