Have you ever accidentally deleted a file, or trash binned a document only to later discover that you still need it? Maybe you let someone hop on your PC and they accidentally managed to wipe away an entire folder of precious files. Or perhaps you forgot to backup your data before reformatting. There are all kinds of crummy scenarios that can lead to deleted data that you might wish you could have back. Well, good news–sending a file to the Recycle Bin is far from permanent, even after you’ve emptied it.
When you delete a file in Windows, it doesn’t actually get erased–it’s not like sending a piece of paper through a file shredder and then setting the scraps ablaze. Instead, Windows keeps an index of where parts of a file reside on your hard drive. When you delete a document or a photo (or any data), Windows marks the sectors of your storage device that it resided on as being available for new chunks of data. Think of it as swapping out the “No Vacancy” sign for one that says “Vacant,” without clearing out the space. This also applies to reformatting your drive–the data isn’t necessarily gone for good.
What this means is that your deleted data is often recoverable, even when all hope seems lost. Unfortunately, the same isn’t true for solid state drives that use TRIM, which involves a different method of recording and deleting data. For the purposes of this guide, we’re going to focus on how to recover deleted data from a hard disk drive or portable flash drive.
Are you ready to get your data back? Then let’s get started!