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Recover Deleted Data

A person in Ontario asks, How can I recover data deleted from my computer recycling bin?

Many people delete files from the recycle bin and then later realize that they actually need to recover that data. While the recycle can be a fail-safe for many people. If you delete a file and realize that you actually need it, you can recover the data in certain situations:

  • Open the Recycle Bin from the icon on your desktop.
  • Find the file you want to recover and click to highlight it.
  • Go to the File menu and choose the Restore option (or right click over the file name and select Restore from the context-sensitive menu).
  • The file is now back on your computer in its original place.

The Windows Recycle Bin is a great feature, however there are are times that a file is not moved to the Recycle Bin when you delete it. This includes files from flash media, data deleted from inside an application, and data deleted at the command prompt.

A misconception is that the data is actually removed from the hard drive when you delete a file. Any time that a file is deleted on a Windows hard drive, it is not erased. The record for the location of the file is removed from the Master File Table. This MFT record, along with other records for every folder and file on the hard drive, is saved in a hidden file on your drive called the Master File Table near the beginning of the hard drive and is used by Window to locate files and  create the directory tree structure. By erasing the MFT record the actual file is not visible to the operating system. The space the file occupies is marked as free space and eventually a new file will overwrite the old data.

There are several data recovery utilities you can purchase that allow you to recover Data “deleted” files. What this software does is search for files on the drive by scanning the entire disk looking known file headers. When a header is identified and if that file does not have a corresponding MFT record it will identify that as a deleted file. Your chances of recovering the file diminish the longer you wait. Sometimes a data recovery service can recover portions of a file that has not been completely overwritten.



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