How To Recover Files
Advice on how to recover deleted files
Even the smartest computer in the world is only as smart as the person who uses it. Sure, there are safeguards in place to protect you from accidental file deletion, but the occasional lapse in judgment can still lead to deleting files anyway. Losing your data can be a major headache, but the key thing is not to panic. There are ways to recover your data, as long as you act quickly.
You might be thinking, "What do you mean I can still recover my files? The computer said that the file would be permanently deleted, and I clicked OK." Well, computers make it seem as though files just wink out of existence as soon as you empty the trash, but this illusion is in place to reduce accidental deletions. The trick to recover deleted files is to first understand that a file doesn't actually get deleted.
What happens when you empty the computer trash can is that the file you chose to delete actually becomes marked for deletion, and becomes invisible to the operating system. This is a key distinction, as "marked for deletion" and "deleted" are two completely different things.
Files aren't ever erased; they are just overwritten with new information. When a file has been marked for deletion, the computer considers overwriting the file as a place to store new data. Depending on how often you use your computer and the amount of unused hard drive space you have, it's possible to have deleted file remain intact on your computer for days or more.
Recover Lost Files Before it's too Late
So the good news is that it's possible to recover erased files, but timing is an important factor. If you've deleted the file and continued to save additional work or defragmented your hard drive, then you've given the computer plenty of opportunity to overwrite it. The best thing to do is to stop what you're doing as soon as you realize that you deleted the wrong file. Catch yourself quickly enough and you have two ways to attempt to find file:
- File recovery software. Recovery programs are designed to find the disk space that was occupied by the file you deleted. There are no guarantees that this space is completely intact, but if you act quickly your chances are the best they'll ever be. The software will then prompt you to resave the file; it's crucial to save it onto a new location like a USB drive, external hard drive or CD/DVD, otherwise you risk destroying the file permanently.
- Commercial data recovery. This process involves accessing the hard drive with the deleted files through another operating system. This is the step to take if the deleted files are crucial to your business, in which case taking your computer to a data recovery service is your best bet. They will create an image of the disk and transfer the data from it to a different hard drive to regain access to the file. This should only be attempted by someone who is experienced in how to recover deleted files.
There are both paid and free file recovery programs available online, and commercial data recovery is often more expensive than the software. If the lost data isn't mission-critical and you want to save money, you can experiment with a free solution or just recreate the data yourself from scratch. But if you're unsure about how to recover files yourself, then the best course of action is to take the computer to a data recovery service.