Restore Deleted Files – The Basics

by Rod Dunne on November 8, 2010

in Data Recovery

Restore Deleted Files - The Basics
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Using data recovery software to restore deleted files is one of the simpler computer maintenance and repair tasks to do. At its most basic, you are simply running an application to scan the hard drive for files which you can then clone. This article steps through the tools and processes involved to find deleted files and give some pointers on how to improve your prospects of successful recovery.

Before you start to restore deleted files using software

Deleted file recovery is possible due to the fact that your deleted data is not immediately wiped from the disk. The data clusters which represent the files contents will still be intact on the hard drive memory, but crucially these are marked available to reuse for storing any new files (so will in time be overwritten).

Your starting point for trying to recover deleted files is to check the recycle bin first. Each drive has its own bin so make sure you look in the right one. Simply select the documents you want and choose restore from the context menu to recover lost files.

Deleted file recovery software suggestions

The following tools can effectively retrieve deleted files from FAT/NTFS formatted hard drives and also work on a number of different external storage devices (e.g. Flash memory devices).

  • Remo Undelete: FAT/NTFS support, All Windows OS; Free trial scan.

Remo Undelete | PC Maintenance Software | Click Here For A Free Scan

Recover deleted files in 4 steps

If the recycle bin has been emptied then you will need to resort to data recovery software, as follows:

  1. Install your data recovery application. Do not use the same partition in which the files were deleted as this could overwrite the clusters making data file recovery difficult, if not impossible.
  2. Start up the program and select the appropriate hard drive for a scan. You can speed up the scanning process by filtering the search by file size/file type/etc depending on which application go for.
  3. The program will run a scan and return back to you a list of found documents based on the data clusters it could identifying the disk.
  4. Pick the documents you need from the found file list and copy them to a separate partition/hard drive. Again, be careful not to copy them back onto the same drive from which they were originally deleted as this could overwrite the original clusters in the middle of the copying process.

Prospects of being able to successfully retrieve deleted files

While the recovery process itself is quite easy, these tools cannot guarantee being able to restore deleted files 100% of the time. It is therefore worth understanding what factors can affect the successful recovery of deleted documents:

  • The more your PC is used, the less files will be found. As applications are run and document stored to disk, they will gradually begin overwriting the data clusters that represent your old deleted files. Best results are achieved if you try to recover deleted files soon after they were deleted.
  • Disk repair utilities can severely impact the chances of recovery. Using a disk defragmenter or bad sector repair tool (for example Windows own disk checking utility) causes any available clusters on the disk to be considered for reuse as file fragments are removed around the disk. As a result, clusters belonging to deleted files will be reused/overwritten on many occasions destroying your chances of successfully recovering deleted files.
  • The speed at which deleted files will be overwritten accelerates if your hard drive capacity is nearing 100% full. Windows needs to use any free space for virtual memory and will endeavor to use blank clusters first. However, if the disk is exceeding 90% full capacity then it will begin using old deleted clusters so that it can continue to operate smoothly.

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