We’ve all had that "Oh, No!" moment. We just deleted a file and realized that we deleted the wrong file.
It should be an easy step to get it back, right?
Windows has included a Recycle Bin for many years. When you tell Windows to delete a file, Windows changes the entries in the drive’s table of contents to flag the file as deleted — but it’s not really destroyed at that point.
The drive’s file tracking system now shows it to be in teh Recycle Bin. Windows also stores important information about the file, including when it was deleted, and the location from which it was deleted.
Even better, Windows keeps track of the sections of the hard drive that were used by the file, and keep them reserved as long as you have the deleted file in the Recycle Bin. That’s to preven them from being overwritten by something else you save, so you can restore the file from the Recycle Bin.
Just open the Recycle Bin, right-click on the file, and select Restore.
Or, you can move the file to another directory (or even a directory on another drive) by dragging and dropping it.
Microsoft Word and Excel perform as you’d expect, if you use their File Save dialog box to select and delete a file (and they won’t let you delete the file that you have open, either). They move the "deleted" file to the Recycle Bin, where it’s available later.
Unfortunately, some other programs aren’t so thoughtful…
Windows Media Center, falls into this category. If you tell Windows Media Center to delete a file, it’s gone. Not in the storage directory on the hard drive. Not in the Recycle Bin.
Now you need a software tool to recover the file.
Fortunately there are a number of programs that are designed to undelete deleted files. Of course, the longer the file has been deleted, the more likely that some of its data sectors have been overwritten, so immediate recovery is best.
Some of these programs are actually added features in utility programs. More are stand-alone commercial or shareware programs designed to undelete files.
Some are basically third-party recycle bins that have to be installed before the problem occurs, in order to be able to recover the file.
Fortunately, there are also some freeware options, and not all require pre-installation.
The freeware tool that I like is called Recuva Portable, and is from Piriform, the makers of the popular tool CCleaner. Note that there are both Professional and Free versions of Recuva, as well as the portable version. The Download button lets you choose which of those you download. The Portable version isn’t available via that link, though — see below.
Recuva will search for a number of different file types, if one fits your needs. Of course, the All File option may help.
There’s also a Deep Scan option, if the file doesn’t show up initially.
Recuva Portable is provided as a self-contained zip file. The contents easily fit on a flash drive and were usable from it.
The Recuva Free version is not the same thing as the portable version. It’s available on the site, but not the link is not really obvious.
First, you have to go to the Piriform web site http://www.piriform.com . Then, type Portable in the search box and press Enter or click the magnifying glass in the search box. Then, click the resulting link for Recuva Portable version.
Once you’re on the Recuva Portable web page, you’ll see a Download link on the right-hand side. That’s not the one you want — it will take you to Recuva Free and Recuva Professions.
Instead, read the article about Recuva Portable and click on the link in the article. That will give take you to the download page for the zip file — and it should start downloading automatically.
Could you use the Recuva Free version? Probably. But, between saving the self-extracting EXE file and then running it to unpack the files, you increase the chances of damaging the files you want to recover.
If I was concerned about overwriting the file that I wanted to recover, and if I only had one hard drive configured as one big C:, I would download the zip file onto a flash drive, unpack the zip file onto the zip file, and then run Recuva Portable from the zip drive.