Retrieving Deleted Files – How to Recover a Lost File Quickly

Data is a fickle thing that we sometimes treat with a certain carelessness as we move, copy, email, rename and edit it to mention just a few manipulations we subject files and data to. We do not always realize just how fragile it can be when we suddenly find it gone. Accidental file deletions are commonplace at home and at work and cause untold hours of frustration and panic. However Retrieving deleted files is possible as files are not always lost on a computer once you know how data is stored.

First of all one of the most common mistakes people make is thinking that they have deleted their file when they may have just moved it into another directory accidentally. You can make sure you have not just lost a file by bringing up the search option on a windows system and typing in the file name or part of a file name. If you only know a part of the name put a * at the points you do not know the rest. So if the file was called Administration Duties.doc but you can only remember it had duties in the name somewhere enter *duties* and it will find all files with that test somewhere in the file name; this is also useful in case the name was changed. Also make sure you search from the base drive to search the whole computer so you do not miss any folders to search in.

If this does not show the file on your computer then you have probably deleted it. First check the recycle bin and see if it is there however, if it is you can drag it to the desktop or rich click and hit “restore” and it will place it back where it was deleted from. If it is not in the recycle bin and not lost somewhere in another folder then you have properly deleted it and your operating system will not be able to find it; but don’t panic yet!

You see, data stored on a computer is not removed from the hard disk when you delete a file but remains where it was stored with all data intact. The only change once you delete a file is that the computer no longer has a reference to this file anymore. The operating system has no pointer to the data and so it becomes invisible to the user and the system. This means it is theoretically possible to  recover  a lost  file  as long as you can restore the reference pointer so the operating system can display the data as a file. However data and files that have lost this pointer are considered to be in the “free space” area of a hard disk and so can be overwritten by the computer when it needs more space for other files and programs so leaving this too long will eventually destroy your file or parts of it.

There are now two ways you can get your file back. The first is by restoring your windows operating system to an earlier version. Windows can rollback changes done to it as it periodically saves versions of itself which you can rewind to in essence. This earlier version may still have your file but it may also lose newer files so that may be just as bad. The second option is to get a commercial file restoring program which has the capability of finding that lost data by scanning the hard disks “free space” and being able to identify the file even without a reference from windows.

In the end only way to really make sure you do not need to worry about retrieving deleted files is to keep regular backups. You may not always  recover  a lost  file  this way but most problems can be avoided.

Source by Michael Porteous

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