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There's no use crying over spilled milk, but you can recover accidentally deleted files. It's a little-known truth that emptying the Recycle Bin in Windows doesn't physically erase a file from the hard drive. The file actually remains hidden until the space is overwritten with new data. With a simple, easy-to-understand interface, LC Technology FileRecovery for Windows effectively scours your disk, recovering these mislaid files if they're still available. Best of all, there's no need to purchase the software in advance of an accident; the almost fully functional demo version is available as a free download and includes free telephone support. After FileRecovery finds your lost files, you can shell out $59.95 for the registered version to get them back. But for rescuing data lost in a real disaster, such as a corrupted file system, you'll need more powerful software, such as Ontrack EasyRecovery Lite, which lists for $99.95.
FileRecovery installs in one of two ways: you can either run a standard Windows setup program or run the program directly from a CD or a directory on a disk drive. The company strongly recommends running the program directly from a CD and saving any restored files onto a disk other than the one containing the deleted file. That way, you don't run the risk of overwriting the very files you are trying to recover. The company's Web site further suggests downloading the software onto a separate computer and burning it onto a CD there to minimize the chance of overwriting deleted files on your target computer.
FileRecovery offers a wizard-style interface that guides you through the recovery process.
Whenever you run FileRecovery, you're greeted with a helpful wizard that guides you through the recovery process. You select a drive to scan, then FileRecovery offers a Windows Explorer-style interface displaying the recoverable directories in the left frame and the files to be recovered on the right. Click any file to preview it, either as a text file, an ASCII file, or as a hex dump, which shows the hexadecimal value of each byte of the data. These previews are especially useful if the filename is missing or corrupted, since it lets you examine the file's contents before restoring it to disk. It's important to understand what FileRecovery doesn't do. Unlike the Norton undelete utility included in Norton SystemWorks 2003, FileRecovery doesn't track files as you delete them, which would make them easy to recover later. Instead, it's an after-the-fact undelete tool that relies on the reality that Windows merely changes a file's name instead of deleting it and doesn't physically erase the file from the hard disk.
The Windows Explorer-style interface shows deleted directories on the left and recoverable files on the right.
The software requires a working Windows operating system and disk drive. If you can't boot to Windows or have a corrupted file system or a physical drive failure, FileRecovery is of no use. This software runs under Windows and works to find only files that were deleted normally by Windows.
However, what FileRecovery does do, it does very well. In our tests, the software quickly found a large number of deleted files and was able to recover them successfully. The software works on FAT (Windows 95, 98, and Me) or NTFS (Windows 2000 and XP) file systems and can even work on newer devices such as flash memory cards if the device shows up in Windows Explorer as a removable drive. Unlike Ontrack EasyRecovery Lite, which recovers only 25 files at a time, there's no limit to the number of files you can restore in a single session.
We found the search function to be a bit underpowered and wish it had offered an advanced search to specify exact criteria.
In addition to displaying all the deleted files it finds, FileRecovery offers a search function. However, we found the search a bit clumsy and underpowered. For example, it always searches the entire drive for a specific filename or wildcard, so you can't save time by asking for a specific directory or to search only among certain deleted files. It also searches only filenames, not the contents of a file or other attributes, such as size or creation date. FileRecovery comes with unlimited telephone support, available 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, although long-distance charges apply. Our call to the support number yielded a quick and accurate response. Amazingly, the company even offers its telephone technical support for the demo version of its software.
The software includes a short but useful Windows help file.
There's no printed manual, but the included Windows help file covers the basics, including some information on file-system issues and troubleshooting. We wish this help file included detailed information and advice on using the program and strategies for finding and recovering files, however. Thankfully, the LC Technology Web site offers a searchable FAQ section that makes up for some of these shortcomings.