Every now and then I find that my fingers work faster than my mind. This is especially true when working on the computer. I sometimes click the mouse without thinking through the options. The worse outcome of this behavior is to inadvertantly delete a file.
In most cases, it's fairly easy to retrieve a deleted file because, by default, most deleted files are stored in the Recycle Bin. To retrieve a file that's been sent to the Recycle Bin, just double-click on the Recycle Bin icon located on your computer's desktop, right-click on the item you want to retrieve, then choose Restore. You may want to read "How To Use Windows' Recycle Bin" for more information on how the Windows' Recycle Bin works.
Restored files will automatically be restored to their previous location. Even if you restore a file that was originally located in a folder that you subsequently deleted, the folder is recreated and the file is restored into that folder in its original location.
A much bigger problem occurs when a deleted file does not go into the Recycle Bin. As I previously stated, most deleted files are stored in the Recycle Bin by default, but there four instances when a deleted file is actually deleted rather than sent to your computer's Recycle Bin:
Items deleted from network directories are not sent to the Recycle Bin.
Items larger than the storage capacity of the Recycle Bin cannot be stored in the Recycle Bin.
Items deleted from removable media such as floppy disks, CD/DVDs, and USB hard drives are deleted rather than sent to the Recycle Bin.
Items deleted by a virus or lost through a power glitch will not appear in the Recycle Bin.
Also remember that when the Recycle Bin is emptied, the files that were in it are not recoverable.
If a deleted file is no longer in the Recycle Bin, you can restore it from your backup. Even without a backup, the file can still be retrieved using a dedicated file recovery program — as long as the file or hard drive has not been overwritten.
When you delete a file, the operating system marks that file for deletion rather than actually remove it and makes the space it occupies available to the operating system. If you save new data to the hard drive, the operating system may use all or a portion of the space occupied by files marked for deletion. When the space occupied by files marked for deletion is overwritten, deleted file are no longer retrievable. Thus, if the deleted file is important, there is one vital thing that you should do to increase the possibility that the file can be retrieved — don't save any files to the hard drive before you attempt to retrieve the lost file.
This is important when looking for good file retrieval program because you don't want to download or install a program that may overwrite your data. So, look for a program that you can run from a floppy disk or USB drive. You could also have a friend download such a program for you and run it on your computer from a floppy disk. Two such programs are Fast File Undelete and Smart Undelete.
There are several precautions that you can take to protect your files and make them easier to retrieve if they are accidentally deleted. Most of these are a part of good computer habits.
Backup all important files so that you can retrieve them from that backup if necessary;
Get a good antivirus program and update it regularly to prevent a virus from infiltrating your computer and deleting important files;
Be sure to defrag your hard disk often. Defragging rearranges a data file back into a contiguous space, which makes file retrieval and recovery easier and quicker; and,
Last but not least, get control of that trigger finger and make sure you read the screen before you click so you won't accidentally delete a file (I'm still working on that one!).
Thanks to S. Berger for her insight.
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