If you’ve accidentally lost important data, don’t panic! Try these 7 tips to retrieve deleted files.
Have you ever experienced that horrible sinking feeling that comes when–with just one mistaken click–you accidentally deleted that paper or report you’ve been working on all week? You know you should have backed up that file, but you never quite got around to it–and now you’re afraid it may be too late.
Don’t panic–it’s not! When files are deleted from your computer, they don’t disappear all at once. Instead, the links that allow you to access those files are removed, but the file itself remains on your drive.
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This means that the information you feared you’d lost isn’t actually gone forever–it’s still there on your hard drive, MP3 player, camera, or flash drive, so it’s still possible to rescue all of that lost data. All you need to know is how to look for it.
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Don’t save or start up programs
American author William Faulkner famously said that “the past is never dead–it’s not even past.” The same goes for the digital files on your computer. When you delete data from your PC, your digital camera, or your flash drive, it doesn’t immediately disappear and turn into digital dust: your PC (or other device) simply redesignates the deleted files as “free space,” so later files can be written over the files that have been “deleted.” However, the raw data is still there on your drive–it’s just more difficult to access, and may be potentially overwritten by other files or programs.
The first thing to do once you realize you’ve lost or accidentally deleted an important document, photo, or music file is stop saving new information to the hard drive. You don’t want to accidentally overwrite the files that you are trying to recover: but be careful! Writing information to the hard drive isn’t just a matter of saving documents, programs, and files (although you should certainly avoid that, too). To follow are 5 actions to avoid when trying to recover data:
- DON’T save documents and files. This is pretty self-explanatory, but bears repeating. Unless you absolutely must, you should refrain from saving any program files or documents, since doing so causes your PC to write data to your hard drive and increased the possibility that the data you’re trying to save might get overwritten.
- DON’T compact or compress your email files or folders. While many email programs provide a compacting or auto-archiving process to save hard drive space, it’s much easier to recover a non-compacted email file than one that has already been archived. As a result, you should avoid compacting your email files unless you are running low on disk space, and remember to disable programs that are set to automatically compact or archive your emails.
- DON’T restart your computer. While for other PC problems, restarting your computer is sometimes a good way to refresh your system and start over with clean slate, when you’re trying to recover data, a clean slate is the last thing you need! Starting up your PC is a disk-intensive process that causes the system to read and write data to the hard drives, which can overwrite the data you want to recover.
- DON’T start or run new programs (except for a data recovery program). Like starting up your system, opening and starting up a new program can cause your PC to write data that had been cached in its memory (RAM) to the hard drive, potentially saving over your important data.
- DON’T download or install a new program to your computer (including a data recovery program). Use a data recovery program that can run from an external drive or CD to avoid installing new data (and potentially overwriting the data you’re trying to save) on your hard drive.
Recover your data as soon as possible
The sooner you start running a data recovery program, the better your chances of recovery will be. However, even if it’s been a little while since you discovered your missing data, all is not lost: even if a file has been overwritten once, it may still be salvaged by an intelligent data recovery program.
iolo technologies’ Search and Recover program uses proprietary technologies to scan for and recover your important data. Search and Recover’s StrongScan® tool sifts through your PC’s data on a byte-by-byte level to unearth files and information that other recovery programs may miss, while its SmartScan® sorts through all of this data to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. You can opt to recover all deleted files, or search specifically by file type–music, images, emails, and more.
Search and Recover can be run either from your PC (if you’ve already installed it) or from a CD (if you don’t have it installed on your computer and want to avoid overwriting important data) to retrieve your valuable data.
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Once you’re started the recovery process, remember to take these important first steps:
- Create a disk image of the drive where your data was lost. A disk image works as a “snapshot” of your drive. You should take this “snapshot” at once so that you can have an image of the drive to work from before the operating system has had a chance to write any data over your lost file.
- Save recovered files to a different drive. Once the recovery program finds your lost files, you will feel flush with success! However, in your moment of triumph, remember that you should not save it back to the same drive where it was lost, because you might accidentally overwrite the deleted file as is it being recovered. Instead, save it to another drive or disk: you can always replace it on your original drive later.