Recover Missing Files

Lincoln Spector
PC World
Friday, March 19, 2010; 12:19 AM

Yvonne asked the Answer Line forum for help recovering missing files.

If you accidentally delete one or more important files, or if they have otherwise gone missing, you just might be able to get them back. But there's no guarantee.

But do not use your computer for any other purpose until you have either successfully recovered the files or given up. Every time you write to your hard drive, you lessen the chances of successful recovery.

I'm listing several recovery options in order of ease and expense. Try the first one. If that doesn't work, go to the second, and so on.

Windows doesn't actually delete files; it sends them to the Recycle Bin, where eventually they'll be deleted. You'll find the Recycle Bin icon on your desktop. Double-click it and look for the item you want. If you find it, right-click it and select Restore.

If you have a good, regular backup routine, you can't possibly lose more than one day's work. Since I don't know what backup software or hardware you use, I can't give you exact instructions, but there should be a way to recover specific files.

And if you don't back up your files, you have just learned an important lesson the hard way. See 7 Backup Strategies for Your Data, Multimedia, and System Files to help start some good habits.

I warned you above against writing to your hard drive when you're hoping to recover lost files. In order to follow that warning, you need not only a file recovery program, but a portable file recovery program that you can run from a flash drive without installation.

And the free program I'm recommending is Recuva Portable. The program is fast, simple, can preview image formats, and works reliably most of the time.

But one extra piece of advice (that also applies to step 4): When using recovery software, do not restore the files to their original location, or even their original drive. Restore them to another drive, such as the flash drive you're running the software from.

If Recuva can't recover what you need, consider File-Rescue Plus. This $40 program can do some very deep scanning of your hard drive and may be able to pull up stuff that Recuva can't get to.

First try the free demo version, which can recover up to five files. If you like File-Rescue Plus and need more than five files recovered, shell out the $40 for a registration key.


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