Deleted File Recovery – Tips And Tools

by Rod Dunne on September 27, 2010

in Data Recovery

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Accidental deletion of important files is something that everybody does at some point or another. Luckily, deleted file recovery is one of the simpler computer repairs and maintenance activities to perform. This article discusses a generic process for finding your deleted documents along with some of the factors and dependencies you should be aware of.

Act fast to recover deleted files before they are lost.

The probability that deleted file recovery software will be able to find your lost documents actually decreases over time. When a file is deleted, it is not cleared from the hard drive memory straight away (it is only the file index reference in the file allocation table which is altered so that the document no longer appears when browsing directories).

However, the data clusters on the hard drive representing your file will be marked down to the file system as available to use should any new documents need to be saved. As a result, they will in time be overwritten by new documents.

If you are trying to recover files after format of a hard disk then the chances of recovering files decreases as more applications are installed and documents saved to disk.

Find the right deleted file recovery software application.

The key to being able to restore deleted files is choosing software that supports the file system format used by your storage device. For internal hard disks on Windows computers and Flash memory devices, this would be the fat 32 file system. As this format is widely used, there are a large range of applications to choose from.

Suggested tools for fat 32 systems (hard drives/Flash memory):

If you are trying to recover deleted files from something non-standard (e.g. zip disks, hard drives that are not using FAT-32) then search online for tools which can support this format.

Using deleted file recovery freeware.

On many occasions, using deleted file recovery freeware can be quite successful. Tools such as Smart Recover, Undelete Plus and Recuva have proven themselves to be effective & popular. However, they will not have the same level of testing as the commercial tools, and may be less capable of reassembling data clusters (resulting in less files being found).

How to restore deleted files using recovery software.

So now that you have selected a suitable file recovery software tool, and installed it on your computer, the next steps to recover deleted files are usually quite standard:

  1. Launch your deleted file recovery software program.
  2. When prompted, select the hard drive on which your deleted file had previously been stored. Start a scan.
  3. The program will then analyze all the sectors on the hard disk, looking for data clusters belonging to deleted files. The file allocation table is especially useful for doing this as it contains an index of all documents, including deleted files. In fact, the index reference for deleted files will only have its ‘directory’ attribute cleared out to indicate that this file should no longer appear in Windows Explorer.
  4. When the scan completes and you are shown a list of documents it has found, you then restore deleted files by picking the ones you want to copy & paste back onto your hard drive/visible directory.

Related posts:
~ How to recover data from crashed hard drive partitions.
~ External hard drive data recovery
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