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9/1/06 What are my chances of recovering a deleted file?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / August 31, 2006 4:44 AM PDT

I have a hypothetical question: What if you've accidentally deleted important files, emptied them from the recycling bin, then want to get them back? If you immediately realize what you did, is there anything that can be done to get the files back? Is there any software I can purchase to recover those files? Are there any available recovery services? What other steps should I take in event like this--turning off the computer right away? Is there any hope to recover these files, or are they gone for good? I hope these questions don't sound silly to you, but I want to know just in case I ever do such an unthinkable mistake. Thanks!

Submitted by: Katherine R. of Glendale, California



Dear Katherine, your question is hardly a silly one! In fact, it is a great question, and as you'll see, the fact you are taking a proactive approach to an accidental deletion of files will prove vital in the event you encounter the situation you described.

Let's consider what happens when you move a file to the Recycling Bin and then empty the latter. Although the file is no longer listed in your Windows database, it is still in your drive, exactly where it resided before being deleted. Windows neither moves nor erases the file; instead, it simply marks the space in which it is located as available for immediate use.

Because the file in question has not been deleted, it usually can be retrieved. The trick is to do so before Windows or another program starts writing new data in that newly available space. Time is of the essence, so the first thing to do once you realize a file has mistakenly been deleted is to stop using your computer. Doing so minimizes the chances of the space in question being overwritten by Windows and other programs, thus increasing the likelihood of a successful recovery.

About the worst thing you can do is turn off and/or reboot your PC, as both processes require your operating system to write data on your hard drive. Also, if there are any disk maintenance utilities (such as a disk defragmenter) running in the background, it is imperative that you abort them at once.
To recover a deleted file (regardless of whether or not it was accidentally deleted), you will essentially need to let Windows know the space in question is no longer available, so it can write data elsewhere. Fortunately, there are "undelete" utilities designed to do just that, and one of the better ones, Restoration, is free. You can download this utility from

Here's where the proactive approach pays off. What do you think will happen if you don't already have this or a similar application in your computer, and accidentally delete an important or precious file? You will inevitably have to rely on your browser to search for an application and/or its download site, then download installation or executable files, and finally install and/or run the program. All those steps involve an awful lot of writing, and Murphy's Law all but guarantees that some of the temporary installation files will be written right over that PowerPoint document or that picture of you and Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel you are trying to save!

Restoration is very simple to use. Once you download the executable files and start the application, you simply specify the drive for recovery from the drop-down menu on the upper right corner of the application window, then click the Search Deleted Files button. There is a box above this button in which you can enter the name of the file you want to recover. You can either do so before starting the scan, or after the latter is complete to filter the results. Once you find the file in question, select it with your mouse, then click the Restore by Copying button. The application will suggest you restore to a different drive, if possible, to avoid overwriting other deleted data which you might also want to retrieve. If you need to undelete more than one file, this might be a good idea.

I have noticed that searching deleted files by name not always yields the expected results. For example, a JPEG image saved as "Twiggy," accidentally moved to the recycling bin, and subsequently deleted might not show up as "Twiggy" in the search results. However, the file is both there and recoverable; it might be listed as "Doc1.JPEG" and its location listed as something like "C:\RECYCLERS..." Thus, before you go into panic mode, it behooves you to look both at the file extension of items listed under the Name column, as well as the entries under the Modified column. If there is a JPEG file listed and it was modified five minutes ago - around the time you accidentally deleted "Twiggy" - chances are you found your file.

Remember, you have nothing to lose by restoring a deleted file. If it turns out it was the wrong file, you can try another. But consider restoring the files to a different drive to avoid accidentally overwriting the very file you are trying to recover. A USB flash drive would be a reasonable and cost-effective option if your PC only has one hard drive.

Understand, there are no guarantees that you will be able to recover a file either with Restoration, with similar software, or even with a professional data recovery service. And it is always possible for a restored file to be corrupt. But at least you tried!

If you would like to learn a bit more about recovering deleted files, the following links will take you to short, helpful articles:

Restoration is just one of a number of "undelete" utilities available, and they tend to differ in features. Some of the more powerful ones will set you back hundreds of dollars, but there are some affordable choices. Among the latter you will find Norton Utilities (now part of the Norton SystemWorks Suite, though you might be able to find a stand-alone version):

As far as professional data recovery services, they are probably overkill for the average home user. Moreover, these services are very, very expensive, so you should probably think of them as a last resort. But if circumstances warrant considering one of these outfits, you should be able to find them listed in your phone book under "Data Recovery." You can also look for them in the classified section of computer and technology magazines. You will always find a few listed in the back of PC Magazine.

Chances are, as you read about recovering deleted files, you wondered whether there is a way to make sure a deleted item stays that way - deleted, gone for good. Restoration has the capability of "erasing" files by overwriting them. When you run the application, you'll notice the word Others on the menu bar. Clicking it opens a short drop-down menu, the second option being Delete Completely. Clicking this option will overwrite the highlighted file.

You can also permanently delete files - or at least make them virtually impossible to recover by prying eyes - with the help of these nice, free "shredders:"


Simple File Shredder:

I hope you find this information helpful!

Best wishes.

Submitted by: Miguel K. of Columbus, Ohio
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by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / August 31, 2006 4:45 AM PDT

I am glad to see that you are thinking ahead, but the best contingency plan is to have an effective backup strategy in place rather then trying to recover deleted files. This way you are not only protected from accidental deletion of files, but more importantly (and more likely), you have copies of your files if your hard drive ever fails or becomes corrupted. But since you specifically asked about recovering deleted files, let me explain how you go about doing this. Simply recovering deleted files is usually not that difficult as long as you realize it early enough and you have software to do it.

Do it Yourself
If you have deleted files by mistake, first check your recycle bin. If not there for whatever reason, check your installed programs to make sure you don?t already have a utility such as Norton System Works that will recover deleted files. If you don?t have anything, you can download a free utility such as Turbo File Uneraser from . There are dozens of others as well. Once installed, running the program will scan the drive and provide you with a list of all deleted files and usually will also indicate the probability of recovering of each file. When using this type of program, you should always recover the data to a drive other than the one that you are working on such as an external USB drive. Ideally, you should really remove the drive and install it into another computer or USB enclosure, because just installing the program can write over the very data that you are trying to recover. This would not be as much of a problem if you thought ahead and already had the program installed before needing to use it. But you still should recover the data to another drive.

Planning Ahead
Planning ahead will definitely make recovering deleted files much easier. There are many programs available to perform this function but installing them before you have a problem may be required. Symantec has a program call Go Back that can be purchased separately or as part of their System Works Suite, that will allow you to recover deleted files as well as recover from other more major problems, but it will not do you much good unless it is already installed on your computer prior to having any problems. Keep in mind that these programs generally store their recovery information on your main hard drive, so if your drive actually fails, you are out of luck. There are also tons of other Undelete utilities available at and again many of these will be more effective if installed before you need them. Most of these programs offer a Free trial version that will let you view the files that can be recovered before having to pay for them. I have used many of these and have found that each one seems to work differently on various types of problems, but the most consistent and effective program for me has been Getdataback for really difficult recovery problems, especially on damaged drives. Please note that as you work on the drive, especially a drive that may be damaged, you may be doing more damage and thus reducing you chances of ever recovering the data. So for extremely important data, it might be best to leave it to a professional service.

Professional Services
If your data is really important and you don?t want to take any chances trying it yourself, there are specialized data recovery services, but these can cost you anywhere from $300 to well over several thousand dollars and usually are not needed unless your hard drive is actually physically damaged. I have sent a few customers with major drive problems to for recovery of data that was worth spending the money on. But there are dozens of other companies that do this as well.

General File Storage and Deleting
The hard drive is where everything is stored on your computer. If you think about your hard drive as being similar to a file cabinet, but instead of having tabs on each folder to tell you what is in there, you have all your folders numbered with a master index at the front that tells you exactly where every piece of paper is located. When you want to find something, you would check the index to tell you which numbered folder to go to. This might not be a very effective filing system for your file cabinet, but your computer handles this very well and with millions of folders. To complicate thing further, if you had a 10 page document, each page of that document might be placed in different folders. Now when you delete something from your file cabinet, you usually just pull it out of the folder and throw it away. But your computer is more environmentally friendly, when it deletes something, it simply removes it?s location from the master index but actually leaves the information in the folder. It no longer knows where it is and the index says that that folder is empty so that if it needs to use that folder again it just writes over it. Thus the reason for taking quick action after deleting something before the information gets written over.

Normally, when you delete a file from your computer it goes into your recycle bin and you can still get it back by restoring it from the recycle bin. But if you empty your recycle bin or deleted the file while holding down the shift key (this bypasses the recycle bin), then you need some special tools to try to get it back. Your chances of recovering deleted files decreases the longer you continue to use your computer after the delete, so it is important to stop what you are doing and take action. The same goes for other storage media such as digital cameras and MP3 players. If you find that you have accidentally deleted all your photos from your digital camera, stop immediately and seek help. Note: Having a drive that is close to full or heavily fragmented may also decrease your chances of recovery.

Note: When recovering data from a drive, it is highly recommended to restore the data to a drive other than the one you are working on such as an external USB drive to prevent writing over the very files that you are trying to recover.

One other note: There are some special security and privacy tools that can or may be installed on your computer that when files are deleted they are also written over, which means you will not be able to recover them. The purpose of these programs is to prevent anyone from ever viewing your deleted files or history. These can be useful for when you are selling, giving away or throwing out your old computer (or if you are just plain paranoid). The downside is that once you have used one of these programs, you have little to no chance of ever getting any data back. One example of this kind of program is R-Wipe & Clean although there are many others.

Again, having an effective backup plan in place would pretty much eliminate ever having to worry about file recovery.

Submitted by: Dana H. of Wayland, Massachussetts



Okay Katherine. There are two major ways that I have found to go about the task of recovering files.

Firstly, you should be able to download some freeware software from the Internet that is built to recover files by looking in the Temp. folders on your computer for items discarded from the Recycle Bin or equivalent. These come in all shapes and forms, but the biggest problem is finding one that fully works. Many are incapable of piecing together larger files (30MB upwards), and these often become fragmented and unusable. However, if you are simply looking to recover a Word document that you accidentally deleted, these programs should suit your needs. If you do use these, however, recover the file before turning off your computer, as you risk losing some of the Temp. files. There are several pieces of software available, but I would recommend looking on a search engine for 'file recovery' and making your own choice.

If I had to recommend any, I would probably choose software found on this page:

Again, it is up to you to find the software that suits your needs. Some, such as Fundelete make changes to your system, while others simply recover from the Temp. files. On another note, do not be tempted to buy shareware programs, as they are still limited by the computer's basic needs.

Secondly, there are several software items that have more sophisticated means of recovering files. My personal favourite, and the one I use is Norton GoBack. Normally, I would not recommend Norton products, as i have had some sour dealing with previous products, especially the Antivirus software. However, GoBack is by far their best product. It is relatively in-expensive (somewhere in the region of $40-$50US) and has an ingenious means of protecting your files and entire system. When installed, it will create a partition of your chosen Hard Drive, minimum size 5GB, maximum size of your choice. From then on, any file deleted on your system is saved to this partition. These files include all Temp. folders, as well as all discarded items from the Recycle Bin. From there, it is simply a matter of searching for the file from within the GoBack interface. Depending on how large your partition is, the more files will be saved - 5GB will back up several days of 'normal' deleted files (Word documents, MP3 files etc), as long as a far larger file is not deleted - these will then eat up your space on the partition. It also allows for you to restore files from previous revisions, such as if you wrote over your favourite picture with a truly horrendous one, you could then return to your favourite. Another bonus is that the software also enables you to back up your entire hard drive to a previous time within the limits of the partition - helpful if you delete a Windows essential file. This is performed by GoBack registering itself during the boot sequence, enabling you to recover your hard disk without having to access Window itself. Also, this works if the computer is rebooted, even several times over, meaning that you can recover files several days later. Finally, this is also good software because it does not let anyone access your old files, such as deleted bank statements etc. Upon installation, it will ask for an administrator password, as well as at least one user. Within Windows, anyone can use a user password to access old files, but during boot, only the person with the administrator password can restore the drives fully - protecting your data nonetheless. Another piece of software also worth looking at is R-Tools, with information available from:

I really hope that helps - but if all else fails - back up your files onto external media so that you always have a spare copy.

Submitted by: Alex J. of the United Kingdom



Yes Katherine, there is. If you have just emptied your recycle bin, all that has happened to this point is that the 'pointers' to the files are gone. If you do not write over the files themselves with any further activity you stand a good chance of recovering most or all of them. This can be done in a forensic lab for all of your money. Or you can try to do it yourself for a much more appealing price.

There are free and shareware applications that may or may not work for you. My experience has been that most freeware (or donationware) just won't reliably do the job. And with most shareware applications, you will be able to get just far enough along "that you can see it, but can't get there from here". Most shareware in this category would be more aptly named crippleware. You probably will be able to see your deleted files but unless they are very small, recovery will not be an option unless you buy the software.

Some of these applications do not cost all that much though. And one would probably be a wise addition to most any toolbox. My personal favorite is Active Undelete ($39.95 US from ). This application is reasonably user friendly while still being powerful enough to 'virtually' edit your drive through a Text/Hex Editor if need be.

I tried more than a few of these applications and ended up with Active Undelete. Mainly due to the fact that I could understand the manual. Most of the others-"not". Being able to understand the manual is more important than which particular application you in the end choose. This means that the application which suits you is totally subjective. The application you can understand is the one for you.

The important rules are:
Don't write anything else to the drive/partition affected if at all possible.
You can try as many recovery apps as you want to. Just don't buy or even try what you can't understand.
Until you write over the files you are trying to recover, they are still there. And they are recoverable.

The most important rule is:
If you use the Recycle Bin, Check the contents before emptying it. It is better to leave something there for a few more days than to have to try to recover it after the fact.

Submitted by: benyahuda




Your hypothetical question has already been a reality for most people, even me, for recovering accidental deleted files. And yes, there are ways to get that deleted file back; your computer puts them in a backup file location where you don't see it happening. Fortunately there are some programs offered out there on the Internet that may help you to find that location, however, CNN mentioned one that will do the job effortlessly, check it out here:

Another way to get that file back is to do a system restore from an earlier point where you had it before - your Windows system Help & Support file will help you to perform that action; or just point your mouse at "Start", "Programs", "Accessories", "System Tools", and look for "System Restore" (if you have Windows XP, the "System Restore" is located at this area). Click on the System Restore icon program and follow the prompts. If you remember when you had that file before, you can restore the system back to that point and retain the file. The only thing with this type of action is that any programs you loaded after the restore point will not be loaded and you'll have to reload those programs you want or needed since then. Good rule of thumb here is to save what you have now on either floppies or CDs or on a 2d hard drive (if you have), then do the system restore to get the file back. That way, what you've already typed up for your book will be saved onto a disk and you can always get that back onto your hard drive without losing what you already did since the restore point.

If you don't want to use the System Restore, or use the above link to get the "File Saver" program, you can look for others on the Internet by typing in "File Restore" or "deleted files" on your browsers Search bar window and look for the ones you think best to use.
Turning off your computer won't prevent that file from deletion once it's done because the action is starting once you click (double-click) it to begin. When you turn off the computer the proper way (Start, Turn Off Computer, Turn Off), the action you started has to complete itself before the computer turns off, hence, any actions you started will continue before the computer shuts down. If you turn off your computer the improper way by just turning off the on button without the proper shutdown way, you might create more problems than what you want, and your computer will have to go through a series of checks before you logon or get to your Windows open screen, so don't attempt to do that.

Your questions are never "silly" here on CNET's messageboards for people like us, and Lee Koo, are always around to help out you, and others, even me, with computer questions like this.

Hope this helps you in some way!

Submitted by: Carlene C.



Dear Katherine,

I think you will find that there are a host of software applications that are designed to recover deleted files. A google search for ?recover deleted files? will present you with many choices. My company uses a product called Active@ Undelete (, which will cost about $39.50 for an individual license or $69.50 for ten.

These applications scan the surface of your hard drive for deleted files. The more recently you deleted it, the better your chances are of recovering it. This is due to the fact that when a file is deleted, it isn?t actually removed from your hard drive. The portions of the hard drive that it used are simply reallocated as useable space and overwritten as you work with creating and saving your new and existing files. As time goes on, your odds of recovering the file decrease.

If you delete important files that are necessary for your operating system, you should try to recover them immediately BEFORE rebooting or turning your computer off. Missing OS-related files could lead to a crash on startup and cause you bunches of new more difficult problems.

I also suggest you consider purchasing a USB 2.0 or firewire (preferred) compatible external hard drive that you use periodically to store a backup of your hard drive. If you are running a Windows OS like XP, you will find a pretty nice built-in backup utility under Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools. If this is a personal residential computer, I would think that a weekly backup scheduled to run overnight would suffice. At the very least, you should make a periodic backup of your Documents folders to CD or DVD, keep the install CD?s for your applications in an accessible place, and keep your OS Install CD available.

Good luck.

Submitted by: Marc M. of Macedonia, Ohio



This is my answer to your question about recovering deleted files through recycle bin ; if they are deleted directly then the procedure might be different because the deletion without going through the recycle bin does in principle not activate the correct keys in the registry of Win XP.

Ok, assume you have deleted files in Recycle bin; the first thing to check is whether you did or did not empty the recycle bin and then discovered the mistake; assuming they are still there; just open the recycle bin, click right on a file you want to restore and you will get the command "restore" (or restore to the original place ); that's it! How simple!

Now , having really deleted files , which means that you wiped out your recycle bin , my first step would be to see whether there is any restore point in System restore function, this one you may find in many ways; start, all programs, accessories, system restore; or clicking right on the corresponding drive, you will be able to open properties and there on the next window, you will access to system restore; if you did not deactivate this function, system restore will offer you the possibility to recover your drive in a previous state; then you are done, provided this works; namely: you did discover the mistake just some days (one two or three) after committing it; the PC must be non infected and the system safe .

In case none of these steps are available, you may have recourse to:
File Undeleter from PC Tools; the program scans your hard drive in full and gives you the total list of deleted files, indicating EVENTUALLY in which condition they are to recover them; in many cases the status of the file is unknown; but if you did the mistake and realized that you deleted a useful file not to far away from deletion, there are good chances to recover them; This is my best advice; there are other programs (in particular give a look at AJS systems; but their masterpiece is to recover data from a memory card in an APM; this works very well ; for the FILES, their program is No better in my opinion than the previous one ); also there is an expansive tool from ONTRACK: File RECOVERY; unfortunately, I have been unable to get any results from that one; none of these programs are perfect ; remember that deleted files (deleted for good I mean and NOT WIPED using a strong deleting program) are just filled with zeros and ones; so, if they have been deleted a long time ago, there are poor chances to be able to read them; also forget about recovering executables that way, forget about recovering strong encrypted files; there are a lot of them that, using a recovery program , you will not be able to get back, unless you go back to a previous date, but I spoke about above using system restore.

Now, the best advice I could give is to make regular backups of precious files; catastrophe is possible; it happened to me many times and I lost my precious data forever several times despite the fact that I kept my PC very clean and in good shape; but with Hard discs, you really never know, really!!!! Backing up is quite a technique and needs storage space but it is from far the Best method for having your data at hand.

Submitted by: Olivier G.



It is common to delete some important files by mistake. It happens quite often. So what to do in these situations? Well it is very simple. You have to use a DataRecoverySoftware. There are thousands of such softwares available. They can recover accidentally deleted files only if the space of the file is not occupied by some other file. There are both paid and free data recovery softwares available and for all the OS. Some of them are: -- Drive Rescue, Active@Undelete etc.Download any one of these (you can search from Google or any software download site).

When we delete a file is that it is not really deleted from the hard disk but just removed from the view. The file may still be there on the hard disk and will continue to be on the hard disk until its space is occupied by some other file. The data recovery softwares do this. They can even recover files from CD-R in the case when while burning some additional data in a multi-session disk we remove the data earlier stored on the CD-ROM.

Once you have downloaded and installed one of it open it. Run a scan on the Drive on which the deleted files were saved. If there are options such as ?Quick Scan?, ?Advanced? or like that try the quick one if you lost it recently and you have not saved some other files on that drive. Otherwise go for the Advanced Scan (or its equivalent).After the scan (it will take a few minutes or even half an hour according to the size of the disk) all the content of the drive will be shown. Navigate to the folder where the file was saved. If the file is still available then recover it to some other disk (you should recover the file to some other partition of the disk otherwise, there will be chances of the loss of the data).

I hope that this may prove helpful.

Submitted by: Areeb K. of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India



Actually... There are applications that can be had that undelete files - with some caveats:

1.) You deleted the file and IMMEDITATLEY realize this and take steps to recover it right then and there.
2.) You haven't defragged the hard drive.
3.) Other application isn't in the process of writing something to the hard drive.
4.) And finally, you haven't put the file thru a D.O.D. style file shredder.

If you didn't catch on that the file was deleted immediately and you've defragged the hard drive or have written a bunch of new files to it, or put it through a file shredder that wipes the space allocated to that file to Department of Defense level specifications, you're most likely out of luck.

There are services that do data recovery, but they ain't cheap. One of the better known apps in this arena is from a company (coincidentally also located in Glendale, CA) known as Executive Software. The Undelete application is available directly from and is currently the PC Magazine Editor's Choice winner for products in this category. Undelete version 5 has emergency disaster recovery - meaning that it can recover files from a hard drive - even when it hasn't been installed as yet. Best of all, it's only about $30.

Submitted by: Pete Z.



Hi Katherine,

Now, are we sure this is hypothetical? Just kidding...of course there are lots of great products out there to recover "lost" files from an emptied Recycle Bin.

As a brief explanation, when you "empty" your Recycle Bin, the files are not actually erased. Windows keeps an index of the physical location of every file on your hard drive. When your Recycle Bin gets emptied, Windows simply deletes the index for that file, not the actual files themselves.

A simple Google search for "Recover Lost Data" revealed hundreds of worthy products that would do exactly what you have described. If indeed these files are "lost" and a software package is unable to recover the files, there are also many companies who will allow you to send them your physical hard disk drive, and they will search the drive to their best abilities to recover as many files as possible, or specific filenames or types of files that you are searching for. I can personally recommend LC-Technologies ( for their recovery services on hard disk drives, and removable media like USB drives and digital media. Typically you are looking at at least $100 dollars to send out a drive for data recovery, depending on the size of the drive and the amount that was able to be recovered. Most of these companies will only charge a minimal fee if the data cannot be recovered.

As for steps you can take, shutting off the PC right away won't really help to much, unless the data loss is caused by a damaged drive. This can be detected by hearing "grinding" or "clicking" noises coming from the drive. Otherwise if a file is just accidentally "emptied", the only rush you need to take is to the Internet to buy a recovery program.

Finally, the BEST way to prevent accidental data loss is to BACK UP YOUR DATA. Store critical files on a separate hard drive, or external USB, ZIP, or tape drive. Maxtor makes an excellent drive that can be set up for "one-touch" backup. The CNET review can be found here:

Good luck!

Submitted by: Grant S.



My daughter mistakenly deleted several gigabytes of files on her XP NTFS laptop. This forced me to research the possibility of an undelete utility. I knew that I could theoretically restore the files by manually patching the disk directory information, but this would have been a impractically arduous task. Fortunately I found a number of programs available that do this automatically.

A free utility that can undelete files is appropriately called FREEUNDELETE. Do a search for "freeundelete" and you will find a number of download sites for this program. There are also many shareware programs to do this also. Unfortunately, all of these programs require installation prior to using them. This means that you will need to install them on a disk other than the one you want to undelete files on. Otherwise, the install process may likely overwrite some of the files you want to recover.

There is one program I did run into that does not require installation. It is small and self contained and can be placed on a USB flash drive to use. The program can be purchased at this site:

I like the program very much, but I don't agree with the marketing practices of the publisher. They use a high pressure "buy it before midnight" sales tactic. In fact, the "special offer" continues day after day! Although I find the sales tactic reprehensible, the software works very well and my experience with customer support has been good.

Submitted by: Peter S.




Simple answer for you - it's possible.

I'm no 'tech-head' but from my limited experience of computers and also conversations with my CompSci friends at university it seems that it is possible to recover deleted data.

From what I can gather, every file that goes onto a computer hard drive is like a foot print in the sand. When you 'delete' a file through whatever operating system you are using, it basically tells the computer to ignore the file footprint on the hard drive. This area is then classed as free space by the computer - but is *not* actually covered over until a new set of footprints 'walk' over it.

As for immediate steps for data recovery, I don't believe switching the machine off straight away is of any real benefit - my hard drives always seem to clunk away (yes they're that old) whilst Windows is shutting down - suggesting that it's still writing something to the hard drive - possibly writing in the area of disc where the lost data is. Also it really doesn't do your computer that much good and will only cause it to have a hissy fit at some point down the line.

There are plenty of so called 'undelete' software out there on the market, in fact there's quite a bit on the Downloads section of CNET (just type in 'undelete' as a search), some of which is free to try and you have the option to buy it afterwards - if it works to your liking. The only problem with installing this software *after* you've lost some data is the small probability that the newly installed program "walks" all over the footprints left by your lost files - making a nightmarish mess of them.

As for recovery services, there should be one in your local area or at least someone who knows somebody who can do that sort of thing. However, these usually cost money.

There's no such thing as a 'free lunch' as the saying goes.

So to round up:

Yes there is software available, both to try and to buy Yes there are recovery services out there that you can try/buy BUT there's no guarantee that *all* of your data will be retrievable

In my experience, prevention is better than cure:
Make sure you've made backup copies of your data - a second hard drive, burn to cd/dvd, print the data off and keep it in a fire proof safe etc and in event of the worst case scenario - install a copy of the 'undelete' software ready for such an event - so that installing it doesn't cover over your tracks!

I hope that helps.

Submitted by: Daf K or Bristol, United Kingdom



The answer is based on the assumption that you are simply using the file-deletion capabilities of Windows rather than a utility that actually erases the file from your hard disk. If you?re in the latter category, your only option may be a data-recovery service and even that may be iffy, depending on the quality of the utility.

When you delete a file in a Microsoft OS, the file is not actually erased from the disk. Instead, the OS changes the first character of the filename to an illegal character and removes the file reference from the disk?s index. The illegal character was a question-mark in DOS ? I don?t recall what Windows uses; probably the same since one of Microsoft?s problems is the tendency to reuse old code in new products. In any even, this tells the OS that the hard disk sectors previously used by the deleted file are available for use again. But until those sectors are actually overwritten by another file, the data remains on the disk and can be recovered using any of a number of file recovery utilities. There is a good selection of these utilities at (might as well plug this host?s site) ? look in the ?File and Disk Management? section under ?Utilities and Drivers?.

The better solution is to protect yourself beforehand by using a good backup strategy. In case you accidentally delete a file, it?s much easier to restore the complete file from a recent backup than to use a file recovery utility and hope that all of the pieces are still there.

Submitted by: Mark S. of Horizon City, Texas



Deleted means deleted, not erased. That said, let me explain. Depending on the file system you are using the computer deletes files slightly differently but with the same effect. Let?s remove the recycle bin from the picture for the time being to make this easier to explain. When you delete a file the operating system alters a list of file names so that the file you deleted no longer shows up in the folder you deleted it from, this also allows it re-use the disk space where the actually file exists. Think of it like a library card catalog. If I ?Delete? a book I by just removing the card from the catalog, but leave the book on the shelf, it?s still there but I can?t find it anymore.

The sooner you realize you need the deleted file the better since the Operating System can reuse the disk space the deleted file still occupies. The steps you take to recover the file are proportional to how important the file is to you. If your life is depending on it, for instance if the file was the only copy of the list of gift ideas your wife has given you, then pull the plug, don?t shut down, pull the plug. The Operating System writes to the disk when it shuts down. The less writing to the disk the better your chances are to recover the file.

Once you decide how important the file is to you there are a wide range of programs that will do the trick, as long as the part of the disk the file was on has not been reused.

You can also seek out a real computer expert to recover the information from the drive. Be prepared to give the person EXACT words and phrases from the document. It has to be exact and words like ?the? and ?from? are not good enough, if the word or phrase is in every document on the computer it is not going to work. A real computer expert will be able to look at your drive bit by bit to try to locate the information. Recovered data done this way can either be a complete recovery or only portions of the text.

As far as exact program names, you can just ?Google? undelete files and get a list about 5,000,000 long.

In closing let me just say, I bet you don?t do that again!

Submitted by: lpeters



In that unfortunate situation which is not far from happening even to experienced users you still can hope in recovering your files.

They will not be overwritten immediately but as you mentioned a good idea would be to turn of your computer, especially if the drive, the files were on, is a system drive, that is, Windows installation folder resides on it. More than that if there?s an active swap file on it or you?re low on space you should do the same: turn it off.

The safes way of not getting those files overwritten is to take out the hard drive and mount it in a functional machine running an OS that is capable of reading from your dismantled hard drive, more precisely capable of reading its file system. For NTFS you need usually a Windows 2000, XP or 2003 ?. Having the disk mounted in a new system you should be safely protected against having your deleted files really erased. Now, there are so many applications capable of recovering those kinds of files I don?t know which one to mention. Last time I had an episode like this I simply went surfing on Internet and found tens of them, freeware and shareware. Of course I searched for some reviews on them and made a sort of a hearsay-educated guess which allowed me in the end to successfully recover my files.

In the process of recovering files you may loose some, some of the folders can loose their names but you?ll probably recognize your dear files which is the most important this. Later you can rebuild your folder structure. I was in the situation where trying to import a disk messed it up pretty bad but I still managed to recover 100% of my files.

Maybe my explanations are not very detailed but this is just a hypothetical question. More, recovering files is a very tricky process, so that?s why you shouldn?t be doing it by yourself and you should ask for supervision from a really experienced person who will know or he should know all the detail I didn?t mentioned.


Submitted by: Mircea I.



It can be done, easier than you might hope! When you delete a file, you don?t remove anything from the drive. The only thing that changes is the first character in the file?s name. Your file named ImportantData.xls is simply renamed to something like
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Other advice from our members
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / August 31, 2006 4:45 AM PDT

While there are probably 100 different tools and ways to recover your deleted data, I would like to try to offer this free one.

I tested this and it works;

1. Go to
2. Download the FTK Imager
3. Launch FTK Imager
4. Select add ?File? then ?Add Evidence Item? or just click on the first icon on the left with the green plus symbol
5. Select ?Logical Drive? from the dialog box then select next
6. Select your operating system?s hard drive from the drop down list
7. In the top left window labeled ?Evidence Tree? expand the drive tree by clicking once on the plus symbol
8. expand the directory by clicking once on the plus symbol
9. expand the ?RECYCLER? directory by clicking once on the plus symbol
10. Select the SSID (typically the first one on the list)
11. You will see a list of all the most recent documents that have been deleted from the recycle bin. These will be viewable in the bottom right window but will not typically be named the same as the original. The original name will be replaced with Dc## followed by a dot then the original 3 letter extension (doc, pdf, txt, gif)
12. After finding your deleted file, right click on the file and select ?Export Files?? then select a location to export/restore the file to.

The file will be exported/restored with the name

Submitted by: Ovie C.




The question posted by Katherine R. of Glendale, California isn't so hypothetical: deleting important files, emptying them from the recycling bin, and then realise you want to get them back happens to many people all over the world every day.

Most important is to react immediately. Data that is erased, even from the Recycle Bin, is still on your hard disk, only the name of the file is changed. The file will no longer appear in your Explorer pane, but most important, it will be overwritten as soon as you enter new date files to the hard disk.

What can you do:
Always have some Recovery program on a floppy disk. From this floppy, you can start the PC and recover almost all files that have been erased recently. The German company CONVAR offers a free utility called File Recovery 4.0.

There are many more freeware recovery tools to find on the internet. Those who have the possibility to start the program from a floppy, USB-stick or CD-DVD are preferable above the Windows versions.

Always try to write the found (lost) data to another partition, cd, DVD, other Hard-disk, or USB-stick. This way, your rescued data will not overwrite other "lost" data.


Submitted by: Theo W. of Belgium



I have used a program called Easy Recovery Professional and it has done a great job. Recently my son accidentally formatted an external hard drive and I was able to recover all of the data. The big thing when trying to recover accidentally erased files is to try to do it before you install or put any other data in the areas where the data was that you want to recover. I have had luck with the above mentioned program recovering some data that had been overwritten, but don't count on it always being able to do it. The big secret to trying to recover data, is do it as soon as possible after you have lost it. Also, don't use your computer any more than absolutely necessary prior to trying the recovery. I hope this helps you. Good luck.

Submitted by: Steve H.



Hi Katherine,

I am just guessing that you are using windows xp so I will make this quite short and brief, back in the days of dos 3.1 their was a very simple dos command called ?undelete? which worked quite well with the old fat file system and still done the job with windows 95 and 98 but now we are using windows xp with the new ntfs file system the ?undelete? command is now none existent, instead there is a command called ?recover?, to run this, open up a command prompt window and type RECOVER [drive:][path]filename but this only works if you know the drive, path and filenames of the files you deleted, the other option would be to use a 3rd party data recovery software package, my personal favourite is ?R-Studio Data Recovery 3? which is available to download from c/net and will cost around $50 to register but this only works well as long as you use it before any further writing to your hard drive, continuing to write to your hard drive will degrade any deleted files you need to recover and would make them unreadable once recovered, but please don?t stop at this one programme there are many data recovery programmes that let you try before you buy, the other option would be to take the hard drive to a data recovery professional like ?data recovery group? but this option will probably cost you a few thousand dollars and you would have to send them your hard drive.

Submitted by: Karl K. of South Wales



I can recommend three solutions, based on the severity of the problem:

1--Norton SystemWorks, which includes Norton Antivirus, Norton Utilities, and several other tools, has a feature called the Norton Protected Recycle Bin. The installer places an icon for it on your Windows desktop. If you open it, you'll see a list of recently deleted files, Right-click on the file that you need and select Restore. If that doesn't do the trick, open the main SystemWorks application, select Norton Utilities, then select the Unerase Wizard. This will offer you a number of options that are not available in the Protected Recycle Bin.

Norton Unerase uses the fact that when you delete a file, the operating system changes the first letter of the filename to a special character, indicating that the space taken up by the file can be reused. (At least this was the case under MS-DOS. I can't say for a fact that Windows NT-based operating systems work the same way.) However, the operating system may not overwrite the data immediately. Until it does, the file remains intact. Therefore the sooner that you use the Unerase Wizard, the better your chance of recovering the file.

2--Ontrack Data Recovery publishes several software applications that have far more extensive capabilities than Norton Unerase. You can find them here:

EasyRecovery Pro is probably the most powerful of the lot. I invested in it a year or so ago, at a cost of about $500. This software will give you half a chance of recovering files even if the file allocation table and directory structure have been hosed. However, this application requires that the physical hard drive itself be working and can be recognized by the motherboard and BIOS.

3--In a worst-case scenario, Ontrack Data Recovery is often able to recover data from a dead drive. However, this service can be very expensive.

I hope that this answers your question.

Submitted by: Robert S. of Sterling, Virginia



When a file is removed from the Recycle Bin it is not really gone from the computer. It will stay on the hard drive in a ?space available? state until that area of the hard drive is overwritten with another file. This is why it is very important to make sure your old drives are cleaned before you dispose of them to prevent identity theft. There are many programs available that will recover a file that has been deleted from the Recycle Bin. I have used R-undelete, available from for $55. You could also do a search for ?undelete shareware? and find many programs available for free if you have a one time use need. Many of these programs will also work on USB flash drives and digital film media.

Submitted by: Rick S. of Brentwood, Tennessee




In regards to the QOTW for next week, I have been similarly stuck and have searched for a simple way for myself and my clients to recover files emptied from the recycle bin. Apart from the usual 'techie' type answer of delving into the system, I also tried probably a dozen or more different file recovery software, some of which were ludicrously expensive considering what you got. In the end, for all my clients I have recommended QueTek Consulting's File Scavenger. I have version 2.1 which was about $30, and V3.0 is available now for $49. This is still worth it in my opinion, because of the ease with which my clients (many of whom are not very adept with Windows) can use it.

This program works better than many solutions that are ten times the cost. Their website is


Submitted by: Brian S. of Delta, British Columbia, Canada



FileSaver is the best program I've found. If you have an immediate need, and you don't want to have to buy software before you know whether or not you really like it, a 30-day trial period with full features is available. The interface is very easy to use -- you can sort files by extension, alphabetically, date of deletion, and percentage possibility of recovery. One note, however: it is IMPERITIVE that files be recovered to another drive (zip drive, tape back-up, floppy, etc.) so that no sectors that are part of the file or other files you need to recover are written over by the file when it is recovered. Finally, unless you are a specially-trained FBI agent, or unless you want to send your hard drive to an expensive data recovery service, there is really NO guarantee that any file will be 100% recoverable. However, the sooner you attempt the recovery after you realize your mistake, the better, because there is less likelihood that the sectors formerly used by the deleted files will have been written over. Good luck!

Submitted by: David of Albany, New York



Unfortunately when you empty the recycle bin, by Windows standards your files are gone. But an image of the files still remains on the Hard disk. These files are recoverable providing they are recently deleted and weren't corrupted by any other source etc.. There is a program available for download from the web that is absolutely free called: PC Inspector File Recovery.

This program works great and as said before is absolutely free. I have used it before and it does a fantastic job. There are several programs on the market that do cost a substantial amount and do perform data recovery; I personally have never used any of them. I do however, (based on personal use) recommend PC Inspector software; it performs as expected and does a great job.

Submitted by: Compdoc



In order to prevent loss of important files, nothing beats daily backup. My company has tried all of the data-recovery software available to the general consumer, with dismal results. In spite of what the advertisements say, we have only been able to recover 20 - 30% of files on crashed systems.

The daily backup should be scheduled and run automatically, because after a while, backing up becomes a chore and people tend to forget or put it off.

If the files are very important, such as in a home office environment, off-site backup is preferred. Also, do not neglect backing up your system files, registry and system state (Windows). In the event of a total system crash or damage to the computer, such a backup would allow the user to completely restore the entire system - operating system, programs, preferences, etc. within a matter of hours rather than weeks.

Some disk-imaging software, such as Acronis True Image, will allow someone to do this on their local computer, and some more advanced off-site backup services will also allow this.

Submitted by: Robert B. of San Antonio, Texas



A great article has been written on how to do a non-destructive rebuild of Windows. This would restore critical files that were accidentally eliminated:

Submitted by: Michael S.



Do not panic because, there is a fantastic bundled program from called System Mechanic Professional 6.0t (latest version ).

This is a feature packed maintenance,repair,recovery,system
protection,antivirus/hacker(realtime) program. Just way too many features to list them all.(Also beats out any Norton Protection Software).

I have been using System Mechanic Professional starting with version 5.0 a few years ago.

Just go to the website to check it out!! I would also recommend buying the boxed version from Walmart, they had the best price out of all of the places that I checked out, including from iolo.

Once you purchase it, there's no annual renewal fee either. Just update the license no cost.

Submitted by: John M. of Belvidere, Illinois




I have exactly the utility you need, or will need if you ever make this mistake (I already did, several times). It's called Restoration 2.5.14, and it was written by Brian Kato in Japan.

Restoration 2.5.14 is a Windows utility that performs the UnDelete function. I've used it to fix one or two client computers, and I've experimented with it extensively --- it always works! You type in all or part of a filename, the program scans for and displays every deleted file on the drive that fits your template, and offers you the opportunity to "restore by copying".

Because the restored file is a copy of the original, rather than just the original with its FAT entry corrected like in DOS, the author says you'll have better luck if you try and restore files to a different drive, then copy them back when you're done restoring; to be honest, I've done it that way, and I've just restored from C: drive to C: drive, and so far, I've not had a problem either way. (But I see his point about the possibility of over-writing pieces of a file with other pieces of the same file while restoring. Do it his way to be safest. If you only have one hard drive installed, a USB drive will work just as well.)

Restoration 2.5.14 is available on several websites. Get it from my favorite, Download.Com. Just go to , type Restoration in the Search Box, and it should be the first result on the list.

Good Luck.

Submitted by: Dale A.



Dear Katherine,

If you realise right away you deleted some important file, there's no problem at all. There's a lot of software available that can get that file back. Actually, when you remove a file from the Waste Bin, it still remains on your hard-drive, only it is now "rewritable", which means that any program has the authorization to overwrite that piece of your harddrive.

Thus, if you immediately use such software program, you can get the file back unharmed. If you wait a longer period of time, chances are pieces of the file are gone (some 0's and 1's are overwritten). Sometimes you can still recover most of these files, but mostly they are to damaged to work with.

Examples of these software packets:

? Norton Systemworks & GoBack: Probably the easiest to work with, but also the most expensive
? TuneUp Utilities: a very good and not to expensive software packet. One of the features is called TuneUp Undelete, which can bring back wrongly deleted files. But it has a lot more like a registry cleaner (that does a proper job) or a more advanced disk cleaner.

Your second question has a less solving answer. When your computer hangs and shuts down, the RAM is emptied. Any file not saved to your hard-drive is thus lost. The only proper solution I can tell you is: SAVE ENOUGH. If you save your work every 5-10 minutes, you just can't loose too much work. There's nothing more frustrating as to having to do the same 3-hours-taking job twice !!!

I know some programs (like Microsoft Office) that use another method since the XP version. They write everything you do immediately to your harddrive, which slows down the computer a bit but reassures you that you don't loose too much. But this also happens only every few minutes. When your computer restarts afterwards and you start up Word for instance, chances are Word will ask you whether you want to recover the lost file.

I hope this answer can help you in any way or at least satisfies as an answer to your questions.

Good luck on your further computing adventures.

Submitted by: Bram V.



Hi Katherine,

This is not a big problem if you have deleted your important documents and also empted your recycle Bin. There are a lot of Softwares available in market for this purpose. 'Get Data Back' is very popular software used to recover the permanent deleted files. Another software which I have used is "Recover my files". This software is very small in size and very fast in work. Just install it and get your files back. You can read how to work with this software in detail from following website link.

One thing is here if your new saved files have over write on the space of hard disk where your deleted files where located then you have lost your files permanently but don't worry it happened very rare.

For the next time to avoid such situation you should keep the back up of all your important files either in floppy, in CD or in any other hard drive. Keeping back up of important files is an excellent approach to avoid the tension in future. You can use the Microsoft windows built-in facility 'ntbackup' for this purpose.

Hope it will help for you in the future.

Best regards.

Submitted by: Kashif Q.



Recovering deleted files. There are many approaches, and much software for the purpose.

I googled "recover deleted files in xp" and got many results, such as at this URL: , featuring a supposedly free download.

Submitted by: Donald H.



Hi, When I have the same problem that I have deleted some important file by mistake then I use software named " TuneUp-Utilities-2006 " which recovers my files even I have emptied them from Recycle Bin.

After that you have installed " TuneUp-Utilities-2006 " on your computer, you have to click right click on Recycle Bin and choose Tuneup Undelete & it will restore your accidentally deleted files. Thanks.

Submitted by: Haroon A.



Short and simple, yes it is possible to recover deleted files after dumping the recycle bin. The program I use is R-Studio This is not the only program that will accomplish this task, do a google search "file recovery" you will get results for purchase and free programs. Good luck when you need to use one of these programs. Most important, BACKUP your files. I learned the hard way, now I backup daily. Lots of free programs for backup too.

Submitted by: Cliff M.



This is a gnarly problem which I have suffered upon two recent occasions (don't ask !) and I have hopefully conquered with what seems a very professional product...

Herewith is a real-life testimonial - courtesy of the most excellent site ~ -which really gives the low-down on this product. The single germane comment which I would add to the following synopsis is that I disagree with the writer in his estimation that the product is unsuitable for retrieving lost files - albeit is rather like using a meat tenderiser to swat flies !

Submitted by: Richard F.



I find File-Scavenger very useful. Its very good and also simple to use.

Active@undelete is even better but a bit more expensive

Submitted by: Nitant S.



To answer Katherine's question i would recommend the Spinrite software from , its been hi-lighted and presented often on Call for help tv on G4tv in Canada and online at so that?s my suggestion. Hope it helps someone.

Submitted by: Jacques J.



Hello Katherine R,

There is a great suite of programs called Ontrack Easy Recovery Professional. It is by far the best recovery program that I have found:

I for one cannot do with out it. It is nice to know that you can accidentally delete an important document and recover it with out any problems. Ontrack has portions of the suit that you can purchase individually on line in their website.

Submitted by: Ignacio A.



I had a customer, whose computer got a very bad virus which deleted tons of business files. (He blames his teenage son that was using limewire and winmx to download mp3s and pirated games).

I found a utility called Active Undelete: which I downloaded for free. The demo is somewhat restricted but allowed me to determine what was going to be salvagable before I paid for the software.

The software was $39.95 US and worked very well. I now keep it in my arsenal of trusted utilities.

Submitted by: David C.



There are many programs that offer file recovery some programs offer it as a side feature such as TuneUp Utilities 2006 when you first download this program you gat a 30 day trial but to buy the key it costs $39.99 this is a good program because it also offers a method to securely delete files and many applications to improve your pc's performance.

Submitted by: deyanimay9



Hi, I have had frustrating experiences like this since DOS! But don't worry, there has always been help at hand! There are many data recovery software out there, however the best one of recent years is "GetDataBack" by Runtime Software. See It comes in two falvours - FAT / NTFS file systems. It is a user-friendly software with step-by-step easy to follow instructions. Just install and run on your windows OS as you would any other program. As always, to get the best recovery it is essential to keep hard disk usage to a minimum to avoid possible overwriting of vital data sectors, therefore it would be best to not use the computer until the recovery is done. Hope this helps.

Submitted by: Victor



I use File-Rescue Plus
( for recovering "permanently" deleted files. As long as the disk hasn't been written to excessively, there is usually an excellent chance to recover files with it.

Submitted by: George E.



There are many programs to recover deleted files, and some are free I use one called Smart NTFS Recovery. (Sorry; I don't have a net address on this any longer; I've had it a while.)

To do a recovery, it needs to be done IMMEDIATELY after deletion. This would be true with any program you might be using. If you continue working, surfing, whatever, the chances of the old file being overwritten--even partially--are extremely great.

Of course, if you've only dumped it in the Recycle bin, you can just restore it from there.

Submitted by: Ed B.



O & O (the people that make defragmenters) have a recovery program for apparently lost files. The name of the program is O & O Unerase 1.0, and it is a free download.

Submitted by: Patrick B.




There is a program called Recover It All that DTI data sells that will recover any deleted file. is their website. Also, will help you recover data from a hard drive for a price. Hope this helps you.

Submitted by: Mark W.



Most deleted material is still on the hard drive unless it is overwritten by adding more files. Go to and purchase File Recovery software. This worked for me. It recovered everything that was not written over. Depending on how large your hard drive is will determine how long it will take to recover your files. I suggest that you start the recovery just before you go to bed. Hopefully it will be done by the time you get up or come home from work.

Submitted by: Al Z. of Toluca Lake, California



Deleted file recovery: Aside from the normal methods of a deleted file recovery ( a Back Up, System Restore et.) I have found, and used successfully a Program called "File Recover" sold by PC Tools Software, I am sorry but I cannot recall the cost. It was not expensive or I would not have purchased it.

Thank you and best of luck.

Submitted by: John W. of Pickerington, Ohio



There are a number of products that can recover deleted files as long as you have not written over the space that they previously occupied. Most of these solutions, from Symantec and others, require purchasing the software. There is a free version of this type of software at . There are also a number of recovery CDs such as Hirem?s or Bart?s Boot CD that have these type of utilities on them also.

Submitted by: Dave L.



Check out Azoric's adventures in data recovery here:

Also his web page is: adventuresofandy

He tells a great story of how he accidentally started to reformat an external hard drive and then how he went about recovering his data off of it!

Submitted by: Mark N.
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Tom's advice for fun!
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / August 31, 2006 9:06 AM PDT

In regards to recovering deleted files:

As a retired law enforcement officer the fastest way to recover deleted files is to take the computer/hard drive to your local FBI office and tell them you believe there is child porn on it.

Trust me, they will recover everything for you no matter how long it's been deleted!!!

Submitted by: Tom
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(NT) (NT) LOL...may be the best suggestion of them all! :)
by John.Wilkinson / August 31, 2006 9:36 AM PDT
In reply to: Tom's advice for fun!
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Filescavenger serves the purpose.
by brgrja / August 31, 2006 8:13 PM PDT

File Scavenger ( has always served the purpose when other utilities failed. It's a must if you are serious about your data.

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Recovery chances are only 65 %
by yenaro / August 31, 2006 9:30 PM PDT

The recovered files are in most case incomplete. For example: color-pictures are always recovered with no colors and much areas are empty. The same way the audio files: the speech and the music are not to knowing.

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Why not delete all
by tomruffner / August 31, 2006 9:30 PM PDT

Is there any reason I would not want to delete all the "deleted" files? I ran the restoration untility and it came up with 11467 files!I have no idea what many of these files could be. I take it windows deletes things on it's own ??

Windows 2000 Pro
Dell Worksation PWS340
4 CPU 2gz 528 ram

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why not delete all
by drduke / August 31, 2006 10:58 PM PDT
In reply to: Why not delete all

i was also shocked by this when i ran it after only 2 weeks on a new computer. so i did delete all, but it took 2hours

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Reply to Why not delete all
by fjord_fox / September 1, 2006 2:30 AM PDT
In reply to: Why not delete all

I have a similar utility that is included in Norton System Works and the first time I saw so many files, it baffled me too. Even if I empty the utility, as soon as I do a virus scan, there are at least 1,500 ''deleted files'' found in that utility.

I think I have it figured out, though. If you use ''Search'' to find those files, you will find that they STILL EXIST on your hard drive. So WHY do they show up as ''deleted files''? It seems that each time your computer starts up, or each time it executes a program, there are files that are deleted and stored in memory, and then rewritten again when the system is finished with them. Each times this happens, it will show up as a ''deleted file'', so that would also explain why many of them would be repeats of the same file.

Therefore if you KNOW that you have not accidentally deleted a file, it is SAFE (and probably a good idea) to delete these files. I say it is probably a good idea, because if you DO accidentally delete a file somewhere down the line, then you DON'T want to have to find it nested in with 15,000 ''deleted files''! Ever hear of ''a needle in a haystack''? Wink

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Very good chances ...
by andy44andy / August 31, 2006 10:25 PM PDT

Your query is very genuine, every computer user faces this dilemma. Things what all Miguel said is true.The best thing to do is exit all applications running, but if the file deleted is not on the same drive as of the windows drive,then 99% the file wont be disturbed even by running applications.
To explain it. properly..Every disk drive viz C:,D:..etc has a their own FAT(File Allocation Table).these FAT contains the informations where ur file is stored in the drive of that particular FAT. when u delete sumthin what windows does is jus delete the information of the location of the file..the file still remains in the disk.That space too will get overwritten only if ur trying to copy a file into that drive, mostly conisdering the factors like free space and retrievable free space(the one which your deleted file is occupying ).
The application to be used in my opinion is Get Data Back for FAT/ like a charm..sure it takes arnd 20 min for 20 GB drive considering the data to be recovered. After recovering u can see all ur deleted and non deleted files ina tree structure u have to jus click on the file/directory where ur deleted file was stored. and copy paste to new location
for me this application has worked perfectly. even ur music movie files documents can be recoevred intact. Hope my knowlege helped you.

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Recovering 'Lost' Files
by Flevine / August 31, 2006 10:32 PM PDT
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Image files and others
by TONI H / September 1, 2006 2:47 AM PDT


With the introduction of cheap CDRW and DVD-RW drives backing up to CD is easy and practical. I recently had the necessity to restore some application files from a disc but noticed some unusual behavior afterward. Later I discovered the reason for it was that the files that the applications write to were read only. Moral: when restoring files from a CD always change the read only attribute!

I've also discovered that there are some .exe files that just won't run directly from a burned you will have to right drag the .exe file with the mouse to your desktop, choose COPY HERE from the menu, and then use the desktop copy to actually click and install from instead. Once done, you can delete the .exe file from the desktop since you still have it on the cd for safekeeping.

This tip also holds true for importing backed up email .dbx files and address books....Outlook Express will not be able to import directly from the cd, so create a folder on your desktop, copy the folder or files from the cd to that folder, and then use the Import command in OE to get them back into your mail program.

Data Recovery Tools: (some free some shareware)

Image, text, cds, etc. :


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format file recovery is it possible
by shafigolandaj / August 31, 2006 10:38 PM PDT

Hi Mr.Miguel,
How r u today?
I have gone through this article i must say its preety impressive thouh i was aware about this only difference was the software or the utility which u have suggested that was different.
Anyway i would like to know is, is there any way to recover files after hdd format.

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by andy44andy / August 31, 2006 10:46 PM PDT

yes the files can be recovered even after Zero-fill format...but certain files may lose their losse their files cud possibley overlapped.But yeah ceratin files remain intact .i am saying this by experience in usage of the GetDataBack utility..

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Recovering files from a formatted hard drive
by GeorgeMadden1 / September 1, 2006 6:20 AM PDT

Yes, it's possible to recover most of them. I took a computer into Best Buy to have an additional hard drive installed and in the process, they formatted my original hard drive, then called to tell me I needed a new computer because my old one wouldn't boot up. I told them to put it back together and I'd be in to pick it up. I had a copy of Norton SystemWorks and had made an emergency boot disk. I also had backups of most of my files, but not the previous two weeks of activity. By booting my system using my emergency boot disk, then using Norton System works to find files from the last two weeks and restoring them to flash files, then restoring my backups, then the flash files, I was able to recover everything I needed. It still took me over eight hours to recover. Needless to say, I haven't taken another computer into Best Buy for repairs or additions.

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restoring deleted files
by pgardens / August 31, 2006 10:45 PM PDT

Great write-up! Will SYSTEM RESTORE also recover deleted files? Rod

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by andy44andy / August 31, 2006 10:51 PM PDT

The system restore is only for system dll's
exe's is not necessary that only windows exe's wud be restored..but all the deleted exe's wud be restored. But it will never recover ur document files like music ,movies, photos..etc

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File Restoration
by pjamme / August 31, 2006 11:10 PM PDT

It is amazing to me how files cling for life. Recently I bought a new computer, so decided to get My docs (As well as My Pictures inside that folder)onto CDRs to move to the new computer. Then i formatted the W2k computer Installed XP Home with plans to give it to a retired gentleman.
Well i woke up in the middle of the night twoo weeks later saying to my self: I had all our wedding photos in that folder it should have been more than one CDR. so i got up and checked the CDR, only one folder of wedding folders, there should have been six.
I downloaded a trial of a program called Active Undelete. It found my photos from when it was W2k, so i bought the program and was able to get 90% of my photos onto CDRs. a couple were corrupted when i tried to open so I used a program I have for corrupted floppy files called BadCopy, worked like a champ.
Long story but it proves the only way to remove files is with a hammer.

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floppy hell
by cassandra1064 / May 12, 2007 2:40 AM PDT
In reply to: File Restoration

How can I retrieve info from a Floppy that suddenly started asking to format.

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Restoring a deleted file
by Flags / August 31, 2006 11:48 PM PDT

Not an answer, but another question. In XP, could you not recover the file using System Restore to restore your system to a date previous to the accidental deletion ?

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What can you do if the hard drive crashes?
by XPlover / August 31, 2006 11:53 PM PDT

Is there a method of recovering files off of a crashed hard drive?

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Depends what you mean by crashed
by konwiddak / September 1, 2006 9:58 PM PDT

If some critical part of the drive is corrupted so you cannot boot into windows then by putting the drive into another computer you should be able to get a utility to restore the files for a sane amount of money ($40).
However if the drive is physically broken (like the motor died) then you will need to take it to a professional data recovery company. And this is VERY expensive. You are talking about $100-$800 to find out what data can be recovered and $600-$2000 to actually recover it. But if the file is that important it may well be worth it (you may even need to supply your own disks to have the data written to, how stingy is that)

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No Charge to check the drive
by waytron / September 2, 2006 10:16 PM PDT

Many recovery services do not charge you anything to just check and see what is recoverable, then if you decide that they have the file or files that you really want, you will pay.

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Recovering pictures erased from a digital camera
by porthome / August 31, 2006 11:59 PM PDT

This is not often mentioned, but many memory chips (I know the SD best) also use a windows-style file format and delete process. That is, when you 'format' the chip, it is declared to be empty, but the previous files are still there, marked as available to be over-written. Of course, there is no Recycle bin. I have used a recovery program called PC Doctor to recover pictures files in good condition after an accidental format. Just make the chip available to your computer through a cable or chip reader, and the program does the job.
Of course, if you have taken more pictures, they will have replaced some of the old files, so the advice given in other posts applies - as soon as you realize there is a problem, stop using the camera (or remove the chip)

Perry B

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File Recovery
by tburg / September 1, 2006 12:36 AM PDT

Excellent suggestions.

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Recovery on Mac Computers
by walkerdine / September 1, 2006 1:09 AM PDT

very useful advice for PC users, but how about Mac users.

There used to be a part of Norton utilities that had this function, but who wants to install all of that package. Is there a simpler way?


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no answer but another question
by krackers / September 1, 2006 1:34 AM PDT

A couple of days ago I opened OE and all the mail in the Inbox was gone. I have tried Norton GoBack and a couple of small programs listed here. No luck. Can any of this mail be found?

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OE Message recovery
by Keith0 / September 1, 2006 2:41 AM PDT

I looked at and tried a number of programs claiming to recover OE mailboxes. Most of them work to some extent. So far, the best inexpensive one I've tried is MailNavigator ( but it does have some drawbacks. It doesn't handle some encoded message formats well but it does give you the header information and the unformatted message. Some of the operations are non-intuitive.

As in all recovery operations, if at all possible, try to work on a copy of your data. You can find the location of your OE data from OE. Go to Tools/Options/Maintenance/StoreFolder.

For $29 to $40, it can be a lifesaver.

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Reply to: no answer but another question
by fjord_fox / September 1, 2006 3:35 AM PDT

Well Krakers, as much as I?d like to deliver good news, it sounds like I am going to have to deliver a message of doom. If you HAD just run one of those undeleting programs FIRST, then MAYBE you would have had a chance?but not after running Norton GoBack. You see, when you did that, you overwrote EVERYTHING?so ALL of the original information is deleted?GONE!

In addition, the fact that GoBack didn?t seem to recover anything indicates that you have not kept your backup current. I personally like Acronis TrueImage 9.0 better than GoBack, but if that?s what you want to use, you should keep your backups current. I would personally recommend that you keep the one that you have now to fall back on, and then keep a second one that you are going to use FREQUENTLY. You should at least do an incremental backup at least once every week and a full backup at least once a month to make sure it is current.

Why should you keep the first backup? Maybe I am paranoid, but I have had an incident happen where I found a virus that got past my Norton Anti-Virus (back in the days when I was using Norton) and it landed in my backup, so when I ran the backup to get rid of the virus, I was only re-inputting it back onto my computer! Then there IS a problem with this method? It would not be as current as the weekly backup, and as such, anything that was done after it was made either would be lost (as in new OE files) or (as in the case of new programs) would have to be reinstalled. I don?t know how it is with GoBack, but with Acronis TrueImage, that is not a problem, for if you KNOW of Separate Individual files (such as your OE files) that you NEED to be restored from your SECOND backup, you COULD run it in a file recovery mode to extract just the files that you want to extract.

Just in case you did NOT accidentally delete your e-mail files from OE, do a search on your hard drive for *.dbx files by clicking on the Start Button/Search/All Files and Folders, and before you do your search, click on ?More Advanced Options? and make sure that there are checkmarks in the following: ?Search System Folders?, ?Search Hidden Files and Folders?, and ?Search Subfolders?, then click on the ?Search? button. It may be that they are simply in a different location than where the program is looking for them. By default, you SHOULD find them in the folder located in C:\Documents and Settings\KRAKERS (Your account name)\Local Settings\Identities\{a long string of numbers, dashes, and letters inside brackets like these}\Microsoft\Outlook Express. If your search finds a different location for the *.dbx files, then all you need to do is to fix the OE to look for them there (instructions below).

To avoid losing your mail in the future, I would recommend that you use a disk partitioning utility, such as ?Partition Magic?, if you already own it, or if you don?t, since they don?t seem to be selling that anymore, buy the one I prefer, Acronis Disk Director Suite, and partition your hard drive (if you have not already done so). Then make a special folder for your Outlook Express and change the program to look for them there. Why? Because if you ever have to run the backup on your C:\ drive, your mail files will still be there on the other drive.

To change the settings in OE to recognize your new folder, open Outlook Express and do the following steps: Tools/Options/Maintenance/Change/(find your new folder)/OK/OK. Once you have made the changes, you will probably have to reboot.

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9/1/06 What are my chances of recovering a deleted file?
by fjord_fox / September 1, 2006 4:43 AM PDT

Well written, Miguel! and I especially like the humor you've added. ''Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel'' is really funny. It is nice to have a little humor added to what otherwise could be a long and tedious subject. It certainly makes it more interesting to read! Let me know if you write any books!

I would like to add to what Miguel wrote that if you have Norton SystemWorks, there is a utility included that protects you from just that--accidentally deleting a file (or files). One time I accidentally deleted a folder and was able to recover the entire folder--all intact!

There is also another method of deleting a file than to delete it, and then go to the Recycle Bin to delete it again. This is a one-step method: Highlight the file (or folder) that you want to delete and right-click as usual, but instead of just clicking on ''Delete'', this time hold down the SHIFT key as you click on ''Delete''. After you get that annoying message that asks, ''Are you SURE that you want to delete this file?'' and you say ''Yes'', it will simply disappear. It will not go into the Recycle Bin for you to have to delete again.

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