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February 21, 2012

Missing Files? Not A Problem

You distinctly remember putting that document on a folder in your “C:” drive. No matter how many times you run Windows search, though, the thing just won’t turn up. It seems to have, for all intents and purposes, disappeared.

Why Files Are Lost

I’ve seen users immediately attribute lost files as an “act of God” — something that just happened and they didn’t have control over.  The more likely things that happened, though, are:

  1. You accidentally deleted it. This often happens when deleting multiple files — you end up including one that isn’t supposed to get nuked. It could also happen if you end up pressing the wrong buttons while doing something else.
  2. Somebody used your computer and deleted it. Whether intentional or accidental, somebody opened your computer and deleted stuff. You should check your event logs to see if any processes were running while you were away and the machine was supposed to be powered off.
  3. You used or installed a program that deleted it. Some programs will clear entire directories if you allow them. If you ended up storing your file in one of those folders and mindlessly clicked through all the prompts, then that item is gone.

How To Recover Lost Files

  1. Do a search. Search all your hard drives. If that doesn’t turn up anything, check the thumb drives, external hard disks and SD cards that you use in the computer — they might have ended up there. If you store anything to the cloud, you might have transferred it to one of your accounts, so check there, too.
  2. Check your backups. If you do any regular backups, check there.  Even if you get an older version, that’s better than nothing.
  3. Check the recycle bin. Maybe the deleted file is still in your recycle bin.  If you luck out, then just restore it. The file should pop up back in its original location.
  4. Use a file recovery program. If the file is no longer in your recycle bin, then you’ve, pretty much, exhausted all manual means of finding it. Your best resort is to use a file recovery software, which will do a low-level search of your computer, seeking out remnants of the deleted file that it can piece back together. While this sounds like a low-percentage deal, you might be surprised –modern file recovery systems are very effective. The less time has passed between the deletion, the greater your chances of recovering it, as more of the file is likely to still persist in the nook and crannies of your storage device. Make sure you don’t just use it on the computer, though; if you stored the same file in an external drive in the past, the software can recover it there, too.

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