... concerning computer system repair

Deleted files: how to recover them

When you've lost a file from your computer - perhaps you deleted some files accidentally from your hard disk or photos from media such as a flash memory card - don't suffer heart failure. You may be able to recover the document data.

It's worth carrying out a search first to see if the files can be recovered from the recycle bin. If so, getting them back is real easy - just use the 'restore' option on the recycle file menu.

Even if the documents are not available from the recycle bin, provided there hasn't been much activity on the drive since the files were deleted, it probably won't be too hard to recover them. Recovering your data may be possible because when you delete a file, the information it contains is not permanently erased from the drive: the digital system merely removes the file info from the volume's contents table. In other words, it really counts that file as having deleted status and cannot then access it by the normal means.

However, this also means that the memory space last occupied by the document file image is now available to be over-written, so when you need to recover it, it is vital that no software be allowed to write data to any part of the disk, in order that the complete file may be read. Otherwise you could end up with restored images that look a bit like the one in the sidebar above!

A feature of modern disk systems is that a format does not necessarily remove all data from the volume, for reasons similar to those in the preceding couple of paragraphs.

You'll need undelete software to perform the recovery task on your deleted files. There are a number of freeware download or shareware data recovery software utility products which run under Microsoft Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7, and which generally work well to search for, find and restore the files that are the easiest types to recover, even after drives have been formatted. Such programs can work with the different filing systems such as FAT, FAT32 or NTFS.

Have a look at Recuva, which is one of a number of free file recovery software tools available for download for Windows. To check if your choice of utilities can locate your deleted stuff, it is recommended that you should ascertain that its interface will allow you to scan and preview found original files that might be easily retrieved from the disk drive.

For partition recovery or other more advanced operations - or if your selected free application is unable to recover your deleted data - a commercial product may be needed. You may find that you can upgrade your free tool to a more capable paid version with the type of undelete features your particular project may need, as well as improved user support.

You must not install your recovery program on the same hard drive as the lost files. Save yourself some additional worry and stop your recovery data being corrupted by working from another disk - say an external USB stick - of sufficient size and copy-recover your deleted documents to a folder on that.

Following a panic project to reinstate lost documents, don't forget that it's worth being sure that your disks are virus-free at all times in order to help prevent the loss of photo or other file data in the first place. Even better, have a regular backup schedule as well. Most would agree with the simple view that it would be great not to ever have to recover deleted files!