The blog of Windows Wally, a Windows Support Technician helping common people solve frustrating computer problems.

How To Do File Recovery

Reader Question:
“Hi Wally, I accidently deleted an important folder and then emptied the recycle bin only to find that the folder was gone and i don’t have any extra copies either. This sort of thing has happened before but this time I really need those files, can I still un-delete or recover them?”   - Karen W., United Kingdom

Before addressing any computer issue, I always recommend scanning and repairing any underlying problems affecting your PC health and performance:

  • Step 1 : Download PC Repair & Optimizer Tool (WinThruster for Win7, XP, Vista – Microsoft Gold Certified).
  • Step 2 : Click “Start Scan” to find Windows registry issues that could be causing PC problems.
  • Step 3 : Click “Repair All” to fix all issues.

Setting up weekly (or daily) automatic scans will help prevent system problems and keep your PC running fast and trouble-free.

Wally’s Answer: We’ve all had this experience while using a computer when an important file is accidentally deleted from the hard drive, camera memory card, phone memory card, or pen drive. This is usually followed by panic. Since a file that has been deleted from the recycle bin or deleted in a way that it skips the recycle bin cannot be restored right? not really.

How File Recovery Works

When a file is deleted from storage media, it is simply marked-off the list of stored files though it is still physically present on the disk or storage medium. Now, when the computer needs to store something on the disk, it uses the available storage space marked-off as free space, and overwrites the old data. Therefore, you should try to minimize or stop using that disk or storage medium as soon as you realize that the file(s) was deleted by accident. Then use a recovery software and hopefully get the file back in usable condition.

File Recovery Tools

Before moving forward with the file recovery process, make sure that the file is not in the Recycle Bin or in some other folder. You may have deleted a few files or folders, but even in the case that you have accidentally formatted or wiped your hard drive, you can still use these tools to recover lost data. There are many free file recovery tools, they include PC Inspector File RecoveryRestorationUndelete PlusRecuvaand others.

Recovering lost data

Note: If you accidentally deleted data from your Windows partition or formatted it, then its better to detach the hard disk, connect it to another computer, and then scan it for best result. You can also try booting the computer with a Linux live disk and running file recovery software from there. Alternatively, you can use the Windows To Go feature of Windows 8 to run Windows 8 from USB or use BartPE and then install and run the recovery software.

Select a tool and scan your hard drive or the folder where the deleted file was stored. A sector level full scan might generate a long list of files to restore, and might take many hours if you are scanning the whole hard drive. A simple scan might find your file and take a relatively small amount of time. Keep in mind that every time you use that portion of the disk, you risk the success rate of the file recovery process. When the scan ends, you might see a list of many file names. You can sort by filename or file type to find the deleted file. Once you’ve found the file you were looking for, right click it (or select all the files you want to recover) and click restore, but restore it somewhere other than the scanned partition.

Recovering Data From a Scratched Disk

In a word where data storage space is rented and sold online, cloud computing is emerging as a reliable way of backing-up valuable data, the use of CDs and DVDs as backup tools is declining. But in case you run into a situation where you really need to get data off-of a scratched CD or DVD try using CD Recovery Toolbox or CDCheck.

Keep Backups of Important Files

Backing-up important data is a no brainer. Once your data becomes important to you, you muist start to perform regular backups. Using services like DropBox can save you a lot of trouble. It uploads your data in the DropBox folder to your online account and updates everytime you change something. This can be really helpful if your important files are uaually small in size. Other free services like GoogleDrive, and Box also have desktop client software that helps you backup your data.

Is Your PC Healthy?

I always recommend to my readers to regularly use a trusted registry cleaner and optimizer such as WinThruster or CCleaner. Many problems that you encounter can be attributed to a corrupt and bloated registry. Happy Computing! :)  

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About the Author

Windows Wally is a helpful guy. It’s just in his nature. It’s why he started a blog in the first place. He heard over and over how hard it was to find simple, plain-English solutions to Windows troubleshooting problems on the Internet. Enter: Windows Wally. Ask away, and he will answer.