How to Recover Accidentally Deleted Files

Accidentally deleting files is an easy thing to do, and many people think their data is lost forever. Fortunately, however, it might be possible to get them back – providing you act fast.

Before we go into the specifics of how to undelete files, let’s look at what actually happens when you delete a file. When a file is deleted, what’s actually being deleted is the pointer to the file – the data is still there. Your operating system has simply marked the space occupied by the file as free, and ready to be overwritten with new data. This is why it’s incredibly important to stop using your machine and stop writing data to the drive, as this could render your files unrecoverable. While data backups are important, not everyone takes the necessary precautions, and accidents can happen. Thankfully, there are loads of great data recovery programs out there, many of them free, that can undelete files. Professional data recovery is another option, but it can be pricey, and if you can do it at home yourself, it’s not worth it. You still need to be careful, though. If you’re careless when using data recovery software, you could possibly overwrite the data you’re trying to recover.

The first thing you should do is check your Recycle Bin on Windows and Trash can on Mac. Restoring a file from the Recycle Bin is as simple as double-clicking the icon on your desktop, locating your file(s), right clicking, and selecting ‘Restore’ from the drop down. You shouldn’t rely on your Recycle Bin as a safety net for accidentally deleted files, though – it has a size limit, and older files will be automatically deleted. If you’re data was deleted from an SD card or a USB flash drive, it won’t go to the Recycle Bin. Plus, many users delete files using the shift-delete shortcut, which bypasses the Recycle Bin and “permanently” deletes files. Data recovery is quickest from a backup, but many people don’t bother backing up their data.

But if you haven’t backed up and the data isn’t in your Recycle Bin, it might still be possible to recover your data. There are loads of great free data recovery programs out there, that work on the above principle that a file is only truly deleted if it is overwritten. As long as the portion of the drive that stored the data remains blank, it may be possible to undelete your files. Recuva is a great free data recovery program, and considered one of the best for undeleting files. Other pieces of free data recovery software include PhotoRec, Undelete 360 and TestDisk.

Data Recovery