3 Ways to Recover Deleted Files
Updated: Sep 10
As I work with clients in Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan and the Redlands, I have two cardinal rules in my computer repair and IT support business. The first is to ensure that I don’t leave a client’s computer in a worse state than it was when I started working on it. That's a given since you'd have more than likely called me in to resolve some sort of issue you were having. The second cardinal rule is to never lose a client’s data. Both are of paramount importance in providing outstanding customer service and running a successful business.
I have to admit that there have been times when I’ve come perilously close to losing a client’s files. I've also heard horror stories from customers about how they'd lost their files when someone had worked on their computer previously. In my view, the files on your computer are practically sacrosanct and it's unacceptable that I or anyone else should cause them to be lost. I'm particularly aware of the value of photographs and videos you may have on your computer, and which you may not have backed up elsewhere.
How do you go about recovering files you’ve accidentally deleted from your Windows computer? I'd like to look at three data recovery methods, each of which I’ve used in the course of my own business activities.
1. Recover from the Recycle Bin
This is a fairly obvious starting point and is by far the most straightforward method for recovery of deleted files. As long as the files actually entered the Recycle Bin, and as long as you haven’t already emptied it, you should be able to recover them with ease simply by opening the Recycle Bin and restoring the desired files.
2. Use ShadowExplorer
On one occasion several years ago I was working with a business client and decided to clean up their backups. I first deleted the contents of their external backup drive, in preparation for running a new first-time backup. I then deleted the files and folders from a data drive on their computer. It was only then that I realised that the location of the Documents folder on their computer had been configured to be located on that drive. I had deleted not only the previous backups of the files and folders, but the working files and folders themselves.
My thoughts quickly turned to ShadowExplorer. This simple utility has been around since the days of Windows Vista and it allows you to browse the shadow copies created by the Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service. In order for this software to successfully recover previously deleted files, it’s necessary for System Restore to have been enabled on the computer in question. With System Restore enabled, Windows creates point-in-time copies of files. This means that you can view and recover files which were present on the computer at those points in time.
With the client in question, I was fortunate in that System Restore had been enabled, and I was able to fully recover their files using ShadowExplorer. For step-by-step instructions about how to use this useful utility, check out this great post at Help Desk Geek.
3. Use Data Recovery Software
When I first launched my computer repair business at the start of 2016, I carried out some jobs as a subcontractor for a similar but much larger business. At the time I was extremely inexperienced and in one of my jobs for this company, I encountered a computer running Windows 8.1 which required a reinstall of the operating system.
Nowadays I would usually reinstall Windows without first backing up a client’s files, as the old files are moved to a directory called Windows.old during the reinstallation process. However, at that time, I decided to first back up the files to external media, before erasing the hard drive and reinstalling Windows. Unfortunately, during this process, I accidentally erased not only the hard drive, but also the external backup drive.
I clearly remember the moment when I realised what I had done. I desperately began searching for solutions and told the client I needed to take the backup drive away. It was at this time that I discovered the existence of some really useful software which can be used for data recovery. I experimented with different products and eventually settled on a package called EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard. I purchased a license and launched the software to begin recovery of the data from the drive. The process was successful but required 30 hours to fully complete, since the drive was 3 TB in size.
Since that time, I have continued to use this software with clients when they've accidentally deleted files, with varying degrees of success. I have also utilised MiniTool Data Recovery software. Both packages can be used not just to recover files which have been deleted, but also from damaged or formatted partitions. In fact, in the case just described, I was recovering files from a drive which I had accidentally formatted.
So there you have three methods which can be used to recover deleted files on a Windows computer. Each is applicable in a different scenario and all three have successfully rescued me after accidental loss of client files. I've also had the pleasure of assisting clients who had accidentally deleted their own files and needed help with recovery of their data.
If you're somewhere in Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan or the Redlands and you need help with recovering files you've accidentally deleted or lost, please don't hesitate to get in touch. I cover a wide range of suburbs and I'm here to help.