How To: Recover deleted files

If you have lost files from your hard drive, don't panic! It's easy to recover deleted files whether you are using a Windows PC or Mac OS. You can undelete files with almost guaranteed success. The most important thing is to act as soon as you realize that the files are lost.

This article will help you to choose the best way to recover your deleted files. We recommend the most effective file recovery software. You can download our recommended software free from this site so you can try it out and see if your files are recoverable. recommends this undelete software:

How files are deleted

When a file is deleted from your computer it is not really deleted. It is simply removed from the directory of files in the folder. It's a bit like removing the name of a chapter from the index of a book. Even though you can no longer see the file in the folder, its contents still exist 100% intact at this point.

If you're using Windows and you deleted the file using Windows Explorer, the file will have been moved to the Recycle Bin. If you're a Mac user, it's moved to the Trash. As long as a file remains there it can easily be restored in its entirety with no difficulty. So the first thing to do is look in the Recycle Bin / Trash. If your file is there, use the Restore option which will move it back to its original location.

Shift-Deleted files

If you emptied the bin, used Shift-Delete to get rid of the file, deleted it from within an application or used some other method of removing it that bypassed the bin, then it is still almost certainly recoverable. When you empty the Recycle Bin or delete a file using another method, the file is still not really deleted. Although the space occupied by the file becomes available for re-use by other files, it doesn't get re-used straight away so the data it contained will stay on your hard drive for some time to come and may be recovered using software that knows what to look for.

Chances of recovery

Because the operating system doesn't immediately re-use space from deleted files, a file can be recovered or unerased right after it has gone and for a considerable time afterwards. The sooner you try to recover your deleted files, the greater your chances of success. The longer you leave it the less chance you have of getting the data back because eventually some or all of the space that held your lost data will be re-used by another file.

The chances of recovery also depend on how full your computer's hard drive is. Windows tries to avoid re-using disk space that has recently been freed, to give recovery software a better chance of working. But the fuller a drive is, the sooner the free space is going to be used by other files.

If you have defragmented the hard drive since the file was deleted then this will severely harm the chances of a successful recovery. Current files will have been moved into the free space left by deleted files in order to reduce fragmentation, making it much less likely that undelete software will be able to find anything useful.

Recovering deleted files

Tools that can help you undelete files are not provided as standard in any operating system. So to recover deleted files you will need undelete software from a third party. Recovery cannot be guaranteed for the reasons stated above, but the choice of product can affect the chances of success. Put simply, some programs search more thoroughly.

Undelete software understands the internals of the system used to store files on a disk (the file system) and uses this knowledge to locate the disk space that was occupied by a deleted file. Because another file may have used some or all of this disk space there is no guarantee that a file can be recovered or if it is, that it won't have suffered some corruption. But because the space isn't re-used straight away there is a very good chance that you will recover the deleted file 100% intact. People who use undelete software are often amazed to find that it finds files that were deleted months or even years ago. The best undelete programs give you an indication of the chances of recovering a file intact and even provide file viewers so you can check the contents before recovery.

Undelete software for Windows

ssAfter evaluating many different products we have found that Uneraser is the best deleted files recovery software for Windows. Uneraser uses deep search methods and sophisticated recovery algorithms to give you the best possible chance of recovering your files. It also has powerful tools including thumbnail preview for all files which allows you to quickly identify the files you need to recover. Most other undelete products have only limited preview capabilities, forcing you to waste time recovering files before you can examine them and see if they are what you want.

Uneraser has the widest range of built-in "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" viewers to let you fully examine the files it finds before recovery. You can try it with no risk. A free trial version lets you see for yourself whether it can recover the files you lost. If a file looks perfect in the viewer then recovery is 100% guaranteed.

Undelete software for Mac OS

ssTo recover deleted files from an Apple Mac we recommend Data Rescue 3. Data Rescue 3 is a powerful Mac data recovery software that can be relied upon to restore your files if at all possible. In fact, it's used by many professional data recovery services.

Data Rescue 3 software now has a slick new user interface and upgraded search algorithms that can recognize more than 100 popular file types for improved recovery results. You can download a free trial version so you can see for yourself whether your lost files are recoverable at no cost. You can also request a bootable DVD image that can be used to recover files from a computer that won't start.

If you are able to connect your Mac disk drive to a Windows PC then you can use the Windows based Uneraser to perform data recovery on it. Uneraser can recover deleted files from Mac HPFS+ and Linux ext2/ext3 file systems as well as FAT and NTFS.

Saving the recovered data

One of the cardinal rules of data recovery is that you must never write to the disk that contains the files you want to restore. This is because anything that gets written to the drive could potentially be written to the space that was holding e data you hope to recover. You should save the files that have been recovered to a different drive to the one they were recovered from. This could be an external drive or a network share, even a USB memory stick.

All of the undelete software products that recommend will prompt you to save recovered data to a different location. Among Windows undelete tools Uneraser stands out as the product with the greatest number of options for saving the recovered data, for maximum convenience. You can burn files direct to writeable CD or DVD without creating any temporary files on the hard drive, or even save the files to an FTP server.