[HOWTO] UN-erase a File or Folder

Category: Hard-Drives

An AskBob reader says: “I accidentally deleted two folders that contained some very important files. I tried some of those free undelete programs, but they didn't find my files. Can you recommend a more powerful data recovery tool? I'm willing to spend a few bucks if it really works.” Yes, I do have a recommendation. Read on to learn about this data recovery power tool...

DiskInternals: Data Recovery Power Tools

When you accidentally delete an important file, or your hard drive crashes and you lose data, you may turn to one of many free "undelete" or data recovery toolkits available online. (See my related article 10 Free Tools to Recover Deleted Files.) But the free data recovery tools may not work in every case. You may have to shell out some cash for an advanced commercial tool, such as DiskInternals data recovery software.

DiskInternals Research has developed Windows data recovery software for almost two decades. In fact, their home page tagline is "Awesome Since 2004." The company's products recover disks, files, and system data of all kinds from any type of storage medium. DiskInternals' proprietary technology goes beyond what most free data recovery utilities can do. System administrators and forensic specialists use DiskInternals software to get access to damaged hard drives, but the software is designed to be easy to use for everyone.

Most free data recovery tools operate only on the file system: the database of filenames and file locations stored on your hard drive. The file system is itself a file, and it is physically separate from the files that it catalogs. When a file is "deleted," only its record in the file system is marked "deleted," freeing Windows to use the space that is still occupied by the actual file. If something new is written to that space before you have a chance to "undelete" it, you won't be able to undelete the file.

DiskInternals UNerase - Data Recovery Software

Many data recovery tools assume that the user is technically proficient and can figure out what to recover based on cryptic system-level displays of a file's contents. The tools from DiskInternals use a wizard to swiftly guide the user through the complex process of analyzing recoverable files and partitions, shaving hours off the recovery process.

The DiskInternals Uneraser

DiskInternals Uneraser uses the file system, too. But it also uses DiskInternals Powersearch, a proprietary technology that actually scans every sector on your hard drive to discover what is written there. PowerSearch looks for document signatures to find Word, Excel, JPG, PDF, and a total of 113 different types of files. Thus, it can recover files, or partially overwritten files, even if their records no longer exist in the file system. In some cases, a partial recovery is better than nothing.

DiskInternals works on computers running Windows 7 through Windows 11, and also understands some Mac and Linux filesystems. It can recover files from traditional magnetic hard drives, SSD drives, USB flash drives, and SD memory cards. Recovered data can be exported to CD, a virtual disk as well as a standard storage hard drive.

DiskInternals Uneraser costs $39.95 (USD), but a trial version of the program can be downloaded from the company's website. The trial version of Uneraser does have some limitations you should know about. Using the trial version, you can select a disk or folder to scan for lost files. Uneraser will show you the lost or deleted files that are available for recovery, and you can even preview the contents of a file. The preview function does a good job of displaying the contents of Word, Excel, database, HTML, plain text files, and even JPEG images. But unless you purchase the software, you cannot actually recover any files. You can't even use copy/paste in the preview window. But they do guarantee that if you can preview a file, you will be able to recover it. So at least you know that if you really do need the files, you won't be wasting your money on the Unerase software.

The DiskInternals website has this important advice: "Don’t install recovery software on the hard drive where you lost your files, because you might overwrite the very documents you are trying to get back. Try to use the computer on which you deleted your files as little as possible to increase the odds of actually recovering files."

Other data recovery products in the DiskInternals catalog include Partition Recovery for deleted, damaged, or reformatted drive partitions; CD-DVD Recovery for lost or corrupted files on CDs and DVDs; RAID Recovery for orrupted RAID arrays; Linux Recovery; and specialized tools for virtual disks, Word, Excel, Access, and Outlook files, SQL databases, and a few other applications. I have no affiliation or relationship with DiskInternals - I'm just a fan of their products.

What's your favorite data recovery tool? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "[HOWTO] UN-erase a File or Folder"

Posted by:

13 Mar 2024

Considering the value of lost files, $39.95 seems a charitable price.

Posted by:

13 Mar 2024

re: DiskInternals: Data Recovery Power Tools

I am currently purchasing a 2T HDD external memory. If I bought the DiskInternals is the recommendation to store it on the external hard drive rather than on my laptop?

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr. (Oldster)
13 Mar 2024

This goes a bit off-topic, but I think what I have to say here is related and valid.

At $39.95, DiskInternals Uneraser is an excellent solution for data recovery. In my opinion, a better, more proactive solution is to develop, and use a good, automated backup regimen.

For my backup regimen, I have configured my backup utility to create a full system image every Monday, then a differential system image every Tuesday through Sunday, to produce a weekly backup set. I keep four backup sets, so I can restore my entire system to the state it was in on any of the past twenty-eight days. Additionally, I can recover any deleted file(s) or folder(s) (and its/their contents) within twenty-eight days of deletion, or restore any file(s)/folder(s) to the state it was/they were in during the same time period.

The great news is that several excellent backup utilities are available at no cost. One of the most highly recommended free utilities is EaseUS To-do, but you should know that it's developed/owned by a Chinese company, which is an issue for many potential users, including me. I pay to use Macrium Reflect here. If you don't already have a backup regimen in place, I strongly suggest you establish one, ASAP.

Ernie (Oldster)

Posted by:

Brian B
13 Mar 2024

@Adrian. A quick and easy answer to your question would be to copy any file you want to delete, to that external drive, and then delete it from your computer. With 2TB drive you would have plenty of room to store these deleted files for a decent period, before deciding you really have no further use for them. For example, not that I use this method, I can store the entire contents of my C: drive four times over on my 2TB flash drive.

Posted by:

Brian B
13 Mar 2024

@Ernest. Could not agree with you more. I also use Macrium Reflect, with a similar backup strategy to yours. I consider myself completely protected against anything that the Russians, Chinese or anyone else, can throw at me, including a ransomware lockout. Best money I ever spent.

Posted by:

Ralph Sproxton
14 Mar 2024

Hi, Bob. I'm surprised you didn't mention Recuva, by Piriform Software. It's free, and it does an excellent job. Friends and I have been using it successfully for years.

Posted by:

14 Mar 2024

Well said Ernest. The free version of Macrium Reflect is still available. If you're happy to pay insurance on your house then a backup regimen is the same thing for your PC.

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