How To Recover Lost Files... Follow These Steps!

If your drive data has been lost, then you'll want to know how to recover lost files.

Although the best defense against data loss is regular backup, losing files can happen at the most unexpected times... like something goes wrong when you're transferring your vacation pictures from your camera to your computer, or, you've accidentally deleted the report you've been working on.

However, help is at hand! There are great, sophisticated data recovery tools available to get your data back... providing you act quickly and follow the steps I recommend here.

Here's what we'll be covering...

  1. Why Can a Deleted File Be Recovered?
  2. What You Must Not Do!
  3. These Are Must Dos!

I. How To Recover Lost Files...
Why Can a Deleted File Be Recovered?

There are a number of ways that we can lose our information and may want it back...

  • accidental file deletion
  • a hard disk crash
  • the effects of a damaging virus
  • to undelete deliberately erased data

When we lose files due to the above, our computer Operating System (OS) does not erase the data immediately. The file system, which keeps track of the pathway to where the file is located, marks the sectors on the hard drive as deleted.

The OS signals to other applications and programs that this cluster of space is now available to be used and overwritten. Until it is overwritten, all of the data is usually intact and so, with the right software, it can be located and then recovered.

There is more information on how hard disks store data and how it is recovered in my article, Evidence Of What You've Deleted Can Still be Recovered.

2. How To Recover Lost Files...
What You Must Not Do!

As soon as you discover that you have lost data and need to restore deleted files, stop all activity on your computer.

I mentioned above that your OS will overwrite the clusters available now that the space has been 'deleted'. Most accidentally deleted files reside on the system disk, which is constantly being used for disk-swap activity such as, writing temporary files, system logs, browser history and more.

So, just by using your computer normally, your OS is writing to the affected drive, which can damage the contents of the deleted files. Examples of writing activity includes...

  • installing programs, such as file recovery software that is not stand-alone
  • internet browsing
  • copying files to the disk
  • saving files to the disk
  • running programs that use the disk as their swap media
  • turning off or rebooting your computer -- your OS writes significant activity to the system disk during startup and shutdown processes.

As you can see, under normal use, keeping your computer from overwriting "deleted" files can be a challenge!

3. How To Recover Lost Files...
These Are Must Dos!

While there is no guarantee that your deleted files won't be overwritten, following the above 'Do Nots' significantly reduces your chances that this will happen... and a much greater chance of recovery using undelete file software.

Programs that restore deleted files work on the fact that, while the directions to a file are missing, the actual file is not... so long as that cluster of physical space has not been overwritten by Operating System activity.

  1. So, the first step is to select a hard drive recovery software program that will identify which files are not damaged and are available for recovery. I have already reviewed, tested and use the top file and photo recovery software and my recommendations are in, Software To Undelete That Lost Data and for Macs, Mac Software to Recover Your Lost Files and Photos.
  2. Secondly, leave your computer running, but avoid using it. The simple act of installing a recovery program onto the drive where you wish to recover files may obliterate the target file you want to recover!
  3. If you have access to another computer, use it to download the free installation of the recovery software you have chosen (I use How To recover Lost Files: Phoenix Data Recovery, which is for Windows and Macs).

    Then, save the recovery tool to an external drive (USB/CD/DVD) and then run it directly on the computer where recovery will take place.

    If you do not have a second computer for the download, then save the hard drive recovery software to a different drive to that where recovery will take place. This will normally be a USB, CD or DVD.

  4. Run the trial software to ensure the files you are looking to undelete are discovered and can be recovered. If so, you will now need to buy a license key to operate the software to the next stage... full recovery! You can buy the license through the software, which normally has a shopping cart icon.
  5. File recovery software works best when the deleted files are recovered to another drive. Although recovery to the same drive that the deleted files are on is possible, it may lead to writing over other files that still need to be recovered. So, save your recovered data to another hard disk, partition, networked machine, or an external device, such as a USB drive.


How To Recover Lost Files...
Supporting Articles

  1. Recover Lost Photos and Data From SD Cards, Hard Drives and External Media
  2. Software To Undelete That Lost Data
  3. Mac Software to Recover Your Lost Files and Photos
  4. Evidence Of What You've Deleted Can Still be Recovered
  5. Free Recovery of Deleted Files and Photos

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