Accidental deletion happens. Whether it was a result of a mass deletion followed by the realization that you needed just one of the files, deleting the wrong version of a document, or just accidentally hitting the delete button, everyone has been there.
Some people sulk, complain, and/or throw the computer out the window, but those with the right knowledge — and the right software — can have a much happier outcome. In many situations, it is possible to recover deleted files and bring it back to the world of the living. You don’t need to be a brainy computer nerd, either.
After reading the following tips, you’ll realize that the delete button doesn’t have the power over you that it seems to have!
Recover deleted files on your PC
Of course, just as a matter of dotting all your i’s and crossing all your t’s, make sure you double-check your computer’s recycle bin to see if your file is still waiting there. If so, you can right-click the file and choose the “restore” option. No harm, no foul.
If that doesn’t help, you can try to navigate back to the folder where the file originally was. Right-click on that folder and, if available, select “Restore previous versions.” You may be able to go back in time and bring back the contents of that folder from a previous date.
Chances are, though, that if you’re reading this you have already tried those options. Not to worry! Even after your file leaves the limbo of the recycle bin, even if you can’t remember where it was, it isn’t necessarily lost forever. It just moves to a sort of purgatory on your hard drive.
Once a file is “deleted” from your computer, the space that the file was taking up is marked as free and available for use. But your computer won’t overwrite that space unless it has no other option. So if you have 100MB of free storage and you delete a 50MB file, your hard drive will still have 100MB of completely open storage, but it will also have 50MB of usable space. So if you download a 20MB application, it will be stored on the part of the hard drive that is completely open. However, if you tried to download a 120MB program instead, the computer will completely kick your 50MB file out of the hard drive to make space for the new file.
So the first step in recovering a deleted file is to make sure you don’t save or download anything else. It’s likely still tucked away somewhere deep in that hard drive. Of course, you told the computer you don’t need the file anymore so it’s not a simple thing to go back and grab it on your own. Luckily, though, there are numerous software options that will do the heavy lifting for you.
And guess what — a lot of them are free. Recuva is a great, user-friendly option. Brian Kato’sRestoration program is also well received among those who have tried it. These software programs will automatically scan through the dark recesses of your hard drive to find any files that have not yet been overridden. From there, it is a simply point-and-click process to bring back your accidentally deleted pictures, videos, and documents back from the digital graveyard.
Next page: Recovering deleted files on a memory card, smartphone, or tablet…
Recovering deleted files on your mobile device
Reviving deleted files from a mobile device can be a bit trickier, depending on what kind of file it was and whether or not the file was on the actual device hard drive. If you’re trying to restore a photo that was stored to your memory card, remove the memory card and insert it into a computer. From there, you can run a program like ZAR, which will scan through the entire card to see if there are any recoverable images. Recuva also works if you are trying to recover non-image files.
If you deleted a file directly from your iPhone or iPad hard drive, things get much more hairy. Because of the highly proprietary nature of iOS devices, it is either difficult or impossible to grab these files back. However, there is a tool called Dr. Fone which can. Unfortunately, the full version does cost money and it doesn’t work with every type of iOS device, but there is a free trial and it is just about the best option out there.
If you need to recover a deleted file from your Android phone or tablet, first plug the device into your computer via USB and mount it as a USB hard drive. Then download a recovery program, likeRecuva. When prompted to select the file folder, be sure to select the USB hard drive that corresponds to your Android device. The software will automatically scan through your phone’s internal memory to see if it can locate deleted files that have not yet been overwritten.
Pro tip: To prevent this unfortunate situation from happening again, there are apps you can install that will make it much easier to recover deleted files in the future. Dumpster is one of the most highly reviewed options. It acts as a “Recycle Bin” for your device, meaning that all deleted files will be sent to the Dumpster app, and will remain there until you open the app and confirm that you want the file gone for good.
The importance of creating backups
While there are many ways to recover accidentally deleted files on your computers, tablets, and smartphones, the best way to be sure you can always recover lost data is to have your data backed up automatically. There are numerous options for PCs, Macs, iPhones, and Android devices. While it may take some effort and perhaps a bit of a cost upfront, having that digital safety net is priceless.