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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting Specific Components | Troubleshooting Hard Disk Drives | File System Problems ]

I accidentally deleted a file, can I get it back?

Explanation: You have accidentally deleted one or more files and wish to undo the deletion and recover the file.

Diagnosis: On a modern system undeleting files is relatively simple, as long as you realize relatively quickly that you want to restore the file. Regular deletion of a file doesn't actually erase the contents of the file; it simply marks the file as deleted in the directory. The file's contents remain where they were, though they are made available for other files to use. As long as you remember to try to undelete the file soon, you should be able to recover it. In addition, many operating systems and utility programs store recently-deleted files intact in case they are needed. In Windows 95, for example, this is the "Recycle Bin".

Recommendation: As soon as you realize that you want to undelete a file that you recently deleted, avoid doing anything more on the system that involves the hard disk. Every time you create or change a file, you increase the chance that the contents of the file you want to recover will be overwritten with something new, unless it is in a protected area like the Recycle Bin:

  • Under Windows 95, check the Recycle Bin to see if the file you are looking for is there. If it is, this means that Windows 95 still has the file stored and you can recover it by right-clicking on it and selecting "Restore".
  • If you have Norton Utilities installed, and Norton's protection installed, then it may have the file saved somewhere if Windows 95 doesn't. Other protection utilities work in a similar manner.
  • Run a file recovery utility like Norton's Unerase or the DOS Undelete command. These will search for recently-deleted files in the directory and offer to undelete them. Depending on how long it has been since the file was deleted, you may have good or only partial success undeleting.
  • Don't forget that if you have a current backup of your hard disk, you can use that to restore the file (at least, the file as it appeared at the time of your last backup).

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