How do you recover accidentally deleted data?

We’ve all been there and, whilst accidentally deleting files you wanted is certain to leave you feeling a little, well… underconfident, human error is still the most common cause of data loss. To put it another way, if you’ve deleted something you needed, don’t feel too bad: you aren’t the first and you certainly won’t be the last. What’s more, you can not only soothe your bruised ego with the knowledge that countless others have made the same mistake, but also – and more importantly – with the fact that your data can probably be recovered.

Deleted data can nearly always be recovered… if you act fast

One of the most common misconceptions about deleted data is that it ceases to exist post-deletion. Even if you’ve emptied your recycle bin/trash folder the files are still there, its location is simply removed from what is called the File Allocation Table, which is basically a map containing the locations of all files.

When you choose to save a file to a HDD, each byte that forms it is written onto what is called a platter. As this is achieved by either magnetising or demagnetising each sector of a platter in order to record a one or a zero, the file itself is effectively comprised of information stored in multiple locations across these. In order for you to open these files at a later data, the location of each byte is saved to the File Association Table each time something is written to the drive. When a file is deleted, any reference to its location is removed from the table and the drive is therefore able to write over it. The data itself therefore remains until new data is written to the same location. As the data will be lost if literally one single byte is overwritten, however, a successful recovery is heavily dependent on swift action; the longer you continue to use the drive, the greater the chance of you losing your data permanently.

How do you recover deleted data?

Provided that action has been taken, the likelihood of a full and successful recovery is good. Generally, the best way of achieving this is to restore your machine to a point in history where the data still existed. If you’re using a Windows machine and have enabled Restore Point - or Time Machine if you’re using a Mac – the process will be extremely straightforward: simply select a time when the data you want to restore existed and follow on-screen prompts to return your device to its state at this time. Before doing this, it’s advisable that you consider whether or not you’ve created any files after the restoration date you intend to select and whether or not you want to keep them. If you do, move them onto an external device such as a USB stick before undertaking the restoration process.

If this is unsuccessful, then you may be tempted to download and utilise software in order to attempt a DIY recovery. This, though, is not something Fields Data Recovery would recommend for two reasons: such software can be difficult to use if you lack the necessary expertise, and this will also involve saving new data which could potentially write over the file/s you’ve accidentally deleted. One other major issue is that the act of deleting files can result in the data being corrupted which would render recovery via software virtually impossible.

Instead, if your data is truly valuable, you should utilise the services of data recovery experts like Fields Data Recovery. Want to find out how much data recovery costs? Click on the link and enter a few details to see how three similar recoveries cost.