Joe writes, I accidentally deleted a Word document that I need for a project and emptied the recycle bin before I realized what I did. How can I get a file back after I empty the recycle bin?
Windows marks files for deletion and removes them from the file system database when you delete them. This doesn’t mean they are immediately gone. In fact, all that initially happens when you delete a file is Windows makes note that the space occupied by the file is listed as available space for storing new information. Until something new is written to the part of the drive where that old file was stored, your file is still there. Depending on how many sectors that file occupies, pieces of the file could exist on your drive for a very long time. If you very recently deleted the file, there’s an excellent chance you will recover it, especially if you haven’t downloaded a bunch of new files or created several gigabytes of data. The trick is finding the right tool to get them back.
For simple recovery of deleted files, one of the easiest solutions I’ve found is Restoration. The app works by scanning your hard drive for sectors containing files marked for deletion and then copying the files to space on your hard drive the operating system has marked as available disk space. In my tests with Restoration, most data recovery is successful. This is especially true when recovering small files like Word documents. When using the app to recover larger audio or video files, my success rate is a little lower because sectors of the file often get overwritten by something else. When you run a scan with Restoration, it will find thousands of files on your hard drive, most of which are temporary files deleted when your browser cache is emptied. A few sort options make it easy to identify files by either file size or alphabetically by filename if you already know what you’re looking for. Restoration is free.
If you want to actively keep track of files deleted from your system, I consider Undelete to be the best app in its class. By installing Undelete on your system you get the equivalent of version control protection throughout your operating system. The app actively monitors files on your system keeping track of everything that gets deleted so you can always (or almost always) recover a deleted file. It specifically provides version protection for all Microsoft Office documents making it a snap to revert to a previous version of a file or recover something you didn’t mean to delete. I have personally never encountered an instance where Undelete failed to recover a file from my system, although your mileage may vary. Depending on whether you purchase the home or pro version, Undelete costs either $29.95 or $39.95, which is a very reasonable price to pay for being able to recover lost files. When Restoration won’t recover your files, download Undelete instead.