Can Deleted Files Be Recovered?

Preface: this is the first of a two-part discussion about the what-if and how-to of deleted file recovery. The discussion concerns recovering deleted data from a computer HDD, either an internal or external hard drive or SSD. It assumes the drive is physically healthy.

Can It Be Done?

Your situation may look something like this: you’ve just deleted a bunch of files from your computer or portable hard drive to make more space, thinking you had the important things already backed up and saved elsewhere. After doing so, you’ve had that sinking feeling of dread as you realised you’ve deleted your only copy of important documents or photos. At this point, there are two major factors that can influence your chances of getting these files back again:

  • How long ago the deletion occurred; and,
  • Whether you’ve saved any other data to the drive since the deletion occurred.

Simply put, the more recently the deletion occurred, the better your chances are of getting your files back. If the deletion occurred some time ago and you’ve only just realised you’re missing the files, your potential for a successful recovery will rest on how much has changed on that hard drive since the deletion occurred.

At best, the computer/external HDD has been powered off since the deletion, in which case time has effectively stood still for its contents and your chances of success will be strong.

At worst, you’ve been using the storage device frequently since the deletion event, with every modification to the drive (new files, saving or changing documents, downloading emails or surfing the internet) will slowly but surely degrade your deleted files as they sit on your disk, invisible but present, being slowly consumed by the system which sees their storage location as free space.

Bottom line: do not delay when it comes to recovering deleted files. Find the step-by-step guide of how to recover your deleted files in the second half of this discussion here.