Need to recover deleted files? It happens to nearly everyone.
Sometimes, users accidentally delete or overwrite important files and folders. Other times, viruses run rampant or hard drives go rogue and delete on their own. Whatever the case, keep calm and rest assured that in most cases, deleted files are never gone forever.
Whether it's due to human or computer error, there are three ways to recover deleted files: by searching your computer, restoring from a backup source or using a hard drive recovery service.
1. Search for deleted files
Think that deleted file is gone forever? Relax. It could just be hiding somewhere in your computer.
Kemal Balioglu, vice president of products at Quorum, a data recovery solutions provider, said the easiest way to recover deleted files is to search the trash folder or recycle bin.
"When you delete a file, it is usually moved into a trash folder where it is available until you empty the trash," Balioglu said. "So, if you have just deleted a file, first check your trash folder; it is very likely that the file is still there."
Sometimes, however, what a user believes is a deleted file has actually just been misplaced.
"A common way a file is 'deleted' is when a user accidentally drags it into another folder, which is very easy to do," said James Kelley, a network engineer at Kelley Consulting Company, a computer and network services provider.
While the file may not be found in the trash folder or recycle bin, a computer search — such as by file name, content keywords and other modifiers — can lead to its discovery. "So when a customer calls me to say they accidentally deleted a file, I usually search for the file on the computer first," he said.
2. Restore data from a backup source
There's a reason why IT professionals heavily emphasize the importance of continuously backing up a company's system. In the event that a computer or an application crashes and files are deleted, they can easily be restored from that backup source.
"The second approach of keeping a backup copy of the files is the way to go," Balioglu said.
There are several ways to back up data, from using personal devices to professional solutions. "Most people use USB-based disk drives that often come with a reasonably good backup software," he said. "We are also seeing more and more cloud-based backup solutions."
Users can also back up and recover deleted files using software designed to work with their computer's operating system (OS).
"Mac users should enable 'Time Machine,' a backup utility provided by the Mac OS," Balioglu said. "It is a very easy-to-use system that not only allows you to restore accidentally deleted files and folders, but also provides you with the functionality to bring your Mac to a good working [status]."
A similar utility is also available for Windows users.
"If you have accidentally deleted a file you still need, your best bet it to try and recover the files using Volume Shadow Copy," said Mike Delmonico, owner of Westway PC, a computer repair and data backup and recovery services provider. Volume Shadow Copy enables manual and automatic backups by taking snapshots of data at a specific points in time. Like Mac's 'Time Machine,' Volume Shadow Copy is included in Windows systems.
However, Volume Shadow Copy backup and recovery will only work if Volume Shadow Copy is enabled, Delmonico said. Nevertheless, there is an alternative.
"If Volume Shadow Copy isn’t turned on, you can download an open-source undelete tool. Unless it has been a long time since the deletion and the file table is overwritten, you should be able to use the tool to undelete any file you have accidentally deleted," he said.
3. Use a hard drive recovery service
If all else fails, users have one more option before throwing in the towel: seeking the help of professional hard drive recovery services.
"Understand that a 'delete' function on your PC actually does not delete the file immediately, but simply removes the reference to the file," Balioglu said. "The files system plans to reuse the space that the file occupies for later use. Recovery tools take advantage of this fact and do a more or less good job in recovering 'deleted' files."
Using hard drive recovery services, trained computer engineers have access to advanced recovery tools that can find lost or deleted files, even if a hard drive is damaged or otherwise corrupt.
However, hard drive recovery services are typically the costliest and most time-consuming option. Though some services offer remote or on-site technicians for emergency situations, they usually require nonemergency users to send or drop off their devices at a hard drive recovery facility — the turnaround time is anywhere between three to 10 days. Privacy may also be a concern, making it critical to find a hard drive recovery service with the proper security credentials and confidentiality measures in place.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.