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 when I started working on it. The second is to never lose a client’s data. Both are of paramount importance in running a successful business. A few occasions have been when I’ve done further damage to a client’s already faulty computer. Thankfully these occasions have been rare. There have also been times when I’ve come perilously close to losing a client’s files.
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Methods for Recovery of Deleted Files
How do you go about recovering client files you’ve accidentally deleted? Lets’s look at three methods, each of which I’ve used in the course of my own business activities.
- Recover from the Recycle Bin
This is by far the most straightforward method for the 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 readily recover them.
- Use ShadowExplorer
On one occasion, 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 Documents folder’s location on their computer had been configured to be located on that drive. I had deleted the previous backups of the files and folders and 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. For this software to successfully recover previously deleted files, System Restore must 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 present on the computer at those points in time.
With the client in question, I was fortunate that System Restore had been enabled, and I was able to fully recover their files using ShadowExplorer. For step-by-step instructions about using this useful utility, check out this great post at Help Desk Geek.
- Use Data Recovery Software
When I first launched my computer repair business, I also 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 the hard drive and 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. At this time, I discovered the existence of some handy software that 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 the 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 with varying degrees of success. I have also utilised MiniTool Data Recovery software. Both packages can be used to recover files that have been deleted and from damaged or formatted partitions. In fact, in the case just described, I recovered files from a drive that I had accidentally formatted.
So there you have three methods that 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 the accidental deletion of client files.
This data recovery guide was written by Norm McLaughlin. Norm is the founder and owner of Norm’s Computer Services, a computer repair and IT support business in Brisbane, Australia.