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Is it possible to recover files once they've been deleted from the recycle bin?

Updated on July 16, 2011

How to recover deleted files after clearing your recycle bin

Every once in a while we make the grave mistake of sending something to the computer’s recycling bin and deleting it, only to discover that is was still needed.

Is it still possible to recover the file?

The answer is a resounding “yes”, and while not convenient, it is easier than you think. Stop the panic, take a deep breath, and read through these steps.
When you delete a file it is actually still sitting on your hard drive.

What gets deleted is the reference to the file. The file is only removed if the operating system saves a file over top of it, overwriting it. So in essence, there are ways to recover if you accidently deleted it.

One of the easier ways if you have Windows is to restore the Windows Operating System to an earlier date, as they will create restore points for you. The owner’s manual for the computer can walk you through the directions to employ this tool.

One of the problems with restoring to an earlier point is that you may lose newly saved files.

If the problem seems more serious or if your computer does not have a restore point, then utilizing file recovery software may be the better solution. If you are in dire need of the file, stop what you are doing immediately to recover in order to prevent any overwriting of it.

There are many recovery software options on the market that can be purchased or downloaded as freeware such as “Restoration”. 

There are also programs that are available in a USB key form that do not require downloads.  

Microsoft recommends the PC Inspector File Recovery, which is a free utility that is provided by WebAttack.  Once you have the software is in place, start scanning the hard drive or folder for the missing file. 

A list of file names will show up, and the most basic way is to look for the file type and name of what is lost.  If you find it, then right click on the name and re-save. 

With Microsoft programs, if a file is permanently deleted by emptying the recycle bin, then a system called the “File Allocation Table” replaces the first character in the file name with a (?) signifying that the space it once occupied is now available for use. 

The File Allocation Table is a table of contents of all stored files on the hard drive.  

If the file is not overwritten it still remains hidden on the hard drive.  Recovery software should be able to find the deleted file, provided that some of the original name still exists on it so you can identify it easier. 

Once you recover the file, it is a good idea to rename it and save in its original place.  

In the end, creating a separate back up off-site is the best way to prevent the accidental deletion of important work. 

This is what it can feel like

Image courtesy of Flickr
Image courtesy of Flickr
Image courtesy of Flickr
Image courtesy of Flickr

Let me know if this helped you recover your files

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      kristina 7 years ago

      is it possiable to see the date of when you deleted a file after you have deleted it from the recycle bin?

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      shweta 8 years ago

      I can't thank you enough!!!! Lol, I deleted my entire blog thinking I didn't want it anymore. A day later, I was freaking out. I managed to get all 60 or so of my posts back! Thank you for the help!!!!