PC File Recovery – A Step-By-Step Guide

Missing files are very common side effect of using computers. They may be accidentally deleted, lost because of file system corruption, erased by some virus or worm, or just moved to some hidden folder. When you are sure that the file was there and you didn't move it to some other location you need a file recovery solution. The principle is practically the same for all operating systems and file systems. Here we will focus to PC file recovery. A typical desktop computer is using Windows operating system and NTFS file system. We will show you step-by-step how to examine the situation and recover deleted files.

You may ask how it is possible to restore deleted file. The fact is that the file is not deleted—it is only marked as deleted and therefore not visible by ordinary file managers. There are special tools that scan the hard drive looking for deleted files. They can restore deleted files, however, there is no guarantee that all the data from deleted files is still there.

To maximize the success of PC file recovery you should follow the steps below. Even if you don't have much experience with computers in most cases you will be able to restore missing files. To recover lost file you only need to know a little about how files are stored. Maybe the most difficult part of the recovery process is to remove hard drive from working computer and put it into another one. This step is not mandatory, it only increases chances of complete file recovery.

What Has Happened?

The first thing you should do when you are missing a file is to check if this file was not accidentally moved to some folder. This can easily happen when you drag a file and drop it over a folder. This is a common cause of missing files for many inexperienced computer users. If you are sure that the file is indeed missing then you may proceed to file recovery.

Isolate The File System

This step is very important to preserve disk space where the file is actually stored. If the missing file was deleted then it is still there. It is only marked as deleted and the space used by the file is marked as available. Therefore, this disk space may be used for new files that are created by you or operating system. It is essential to isolate the file system. Avoid any software installation to the disk volume where the missing file was saved. It is well known fact that Windows use swap file as memory extension. In addition to this many services that are running without user intervention read and write files. For the highest possible success of file recovery it may make sense to remove the hard drive from this computer and try to restore the file on another one.

Install Data Recovery Software

For any file recovery you will need right tool--data recovery software. There are many free solutions around, simply google for “free undelete” and you will find a data recovery software for your system. Be aware that if you install this software on the drive where you are missing files it is very likely that this installation will overwrite data that was used by your files. If possible try to use another PC for file recovery.

Analyze The File System

Start data recovery software and analyze partition where the deleted files were saved. The software will list all files that are found to be deleted. You will also see what percentage of the file could be restored. In some cases the original file data was overwritten by other files so the recovery process will not be able to restore the whole file. If this was a text file you will still be able to use the recovered text, however if the deleted file was a database of some utility it is very likely it will be useless. Maybe you will be able to repair a corrupt file—either manually or by the software that uses this file.

Restore Deleted File

Now that you have all the information about your hard drive, file system and deleted files you can proceed to file recovery. The software will create a new file from the data belonging to the original file. Open the file and check what was restored. If you are luck you will get your data back.

This procedure can also be used to recover deleted photos from digital camera. Digital cameras use memory cards which further use computer file systems. You see them as a disk volume with image files.

Hard Drive Problems

In some rare cases you may find out that the files are missing because of broken hard drive. In such case it is very little you can do by yourself. It is still possible to recover all the data but the effort needed would not justify the value of the lost files. To avoid hard drive failures and data loss make regular backups. This is the cheapest data recovery service.

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