There are times when you really need to get back some deleted files. Like a while back when I had a lady at work come to me in distress. She had a bunch of family pictures on a USB drive and had somehow deleted them. I could tell by her face those pictures meant a lot to her so I told her I’d try to help.
I had never restored anything from a USB flash drive before. So I was not sure how that was going to work but in theory, it should be the same as restoring off a hard drive.
In windows when you delete a file it goes to the recycle bin so that’s always the first place to check. But in the case of a USB drive that’s not really an option.
What Happens When You Delete a File In Windows.
When you delete a file in windows the data is not erased. Instead, the index that points to the file is erased. The data itself is just left alone until it is overwritten with another file.
Because of this, it is possible to scan the hard drive with tools to find these deleted files and restore them. But you need to do this as soon as you can. Because every new write to the disk has a chance to overwrite that old file data.
Deleted Files Recovery Tools For Windows
Shadow Explorer will be the most reliable way to recover deleted files if it works. Windows occasionally makes restore points for the drive. Basically you can think of it as making a copy of the data on the hard drive. It is a bit more complex than that but that kind of sums it up.
What shadow explorer does is let you browse the restore points and pull out files. So it is possible if a file has been deleted that it may still be in a restore point. The problem may come if restore points have been turned off or your file is on a second drive. Windows only turns on restore points for the C: drive by default.
Restoration is an older tool to recover deleted files. It scans the disk for files that are no longer indexed. I am not sure if it is maintained anymore or even has an official site. But it has worked for me many times. You do not have to install it so it is something nice to keep around on a USB drive.
At this time Recuva is probably the best but it is not 100% free. But it is not portable. You also have to be careful to uncheck bloatware boxes when installing. That’s why I put it at the bottom of the list
But it has restored many files for me. I used it for the lady in the story above to recover files from her USB drive.
Have a Good Backup
Ones you get your files back it is time to look into a good backup plan. You do not want to rely on recovery software because it is never 100%. No software in the world is going to help you if a disk dies. Also, remember that time matters! The more the disk is used the less likely deleted files can be recovered.
That’s why I use a combination of robocopy scripts and iDrive for my backup plan. I would highly recommend you at least think about what you will do if the drive holding your data dies.
With that being said. Good luck and may your data forever be safe!