For those of you who are not aware Diskeeper Corporation (http://www.diskeeper.com), the creators of the Diskeeper defragmentation tool that I’ve recommended in the past, has a relative new tool out called Undelete. I received a copy a while back and provided my feedback to Diskeeper and then moved on. I personally do not use undelete tools. My philosophy is “if I delete an important file then maybe I’ll pay attention better next time”. Needless to say I have deleted more than one important document in the past and cursed myself for doing it.
Fast forward to recent days while I was at work. A coworker was cleaning up their hard drive and inadvertently deleted entire directories of important files, most of which were not backed up. Ignoring the whole “should have had a backup plan” discussion they were in trouble. A quick search of the Inet revealed a couple of potential undelete tools. I downloaded one in trial mode and tried it. Sure enough the files were still there but, since it was a trial, we’d have to buy the product to recover the files. Then I remembered Diskeeper sending me a copy of their new Undelete tool.
I did a quick check and sure enough I had a license for the program and, even better, it comes with Emergency Undelete which allows you to recover files even if Undelete was not already installed. This is exactly what I needed. I burned a copy of Emergency Undelete to CD (see below as to why) and ran it on my coworker’s computer. Sure enough it, really quickly, found the files that were deleted. Even better is that it was able to restore almost all of them. We restored all the files to a USB drive and I left my coworker to figure out which files they actually needed. I went back to my desk: happy that we were able to recover most of the files, and impressed with the speed and ease at which we could do it. It saved my coworker days of work in trying to recover the data by hand.
Without a doubt Emergency Undelete is something I’m keeping around on CD for emergency purposes. I’m still not comfortable running Undelete-like tools but Emergency Undelete is definitely handy to have. If nothing else it makes me look like a magician to folks who just lost some critical files. If you do not have an emergency undelete program then you should get one. Regular backups are great but they require time and effort to restore. I, for one, will be recommending Undelete from Diskeeper because I can say first hand that it works as advertised.
Caveat: When a file is deleted it is generally just removed from the file system’s directory table. The actual data is generally still there. Undelete programs work by scanning the drive and finding these files. However the operating system treats newly deleted files just like free space so the more data that gets written to a drive the more likely it is that your deleted file will be overwritten. When you discover that you accidentally deleted a file it is critical that you stop doing anything that might write something to the drive. This includes running an INet browser, shutting down Windows or even closing programs. Any of these could save files and overwrite your data. Go to another program and do the following.
- Get an undelete program like Emergency Undelete.
- Most good programs are going to allow you to copy the necessary files to removable media like a USB or CD. Put the undelete program on the media. A CD is best because you can store the program there and use it whenever you need it. It saves time and eliminates the need for a secondary computer.
- Put the CD (or USB) containing the undelete program into the target computer and run the undelete program.
- If all goes well you should see the file(s) you want to recover. Select the file(s) you want to recover. If you are unsure then it might be best to recover all the files and then selecting merge the files you actually need.
- Now you need to restore them but you cannot restore them to the target machine. Again any writes might overwrite the very data you are trying to recover. Restore the files to removable media or a secondary hard drive. USB works great here.
- Once you have recovered all the files you might need you can begin placing them back onto the target machine. Once you start this step you can assume that any files that were not recovered will be gone.