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Recover4All Professional

by Chris Taylor

Did you ever get that sinking feeling just after deleting a file? You know the one – where you think, “Jeez, that’s not the file I meant to delete…” Sure, Windows 95 and later has the Recycle Bin, but it is not a panacea. You can hold the shift key down while deleting a file and it won’t go to the Recycle Bin. You could have misconfigured the settings on the Recycle Bin. Or maybe you accidentally emptied the Recycle Bin.

On top of those problems, you could be deleting a file from the command prompt, which always bypasses the Recycle Bin. Or you could be deleting a file on a network drive. When you do that, the file never gets sent to the Recycle Bin on either your computer or the networked machine.

For whatever reason, accidental file loss happens. When it does, it can be a very painful process if you don’t have a backup. The file may contain years of financial records. It could be some elegant words you finally put down in electrons. It could be a file you just struggled for days to download from the Internet.

When you delete a file, the operating system does not wipe out the data. It merely marks the space that was occupied by the file as being available for use. Until the operating system decides to use that space for another file, all your data is still there and is recoverable. This is nothing new and since the early days of the Norton Utilities back in the mid-1980’s there have been ways of recovering deleted files. NTFS partitions bring new challenges to the problem and there are far fewer solutions for recovering deleted files from NTFS partitions, but it can still be done.

I recently took a look at Recover4All Professional v2.18 from Advanced Utilities, whose sole purpose is to recover deleted files. It works on FAT12, FAT16, FAT32 and NTFS partitions. The program runs under Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2K/XP.

"Jeez, that's not the file I meant to delete..."

The most important thing to do when trying to recover deleted files is stop writing to the disk partition that contains the deleted file. This is essential to maximize the chances of recovering the deleted file. To use Recover4All Pro, you should ideally go to another computer and browse to their web site at Download the program from there.

The downloaded file is a self-extracting archive. When you run it, it offers to extract the files to drive A:. This is a good default for such a program, since you might be doing this on your only available computer. Remember, you want to minimize writing to disk on the computer with the deleted file.

Another good thing about Recover4All Pro is that it does not have an installation routine, which would also cause disk writes. In fact, it can be run from a floppy disk, being only about ¼ MB in size. If you are running the program for the first time, you can enter your registration code in-memory only to avoid writing to the registry.



Recover4All Pro opens a window with two panes. The left pane shows a list of all drives on the local system. You can choose any drive and the program will scan the entire drive for deleted files.

When the program finishes scanning, it will show a tree structure in the left pane. Only deleted directories and directories containing deleted files are shown, which helps you focus in on finding files of interest. Deleted files show up in the right pane as you drill down through your directory structure. The pane shows the file names, sizes, recovery chances, and the start sector of the files.

Once you select the file or files you want to recover, you click the Recover button on the toolbar. You are then prompted for a location. Recover4All Pro will not let you simply undelete the file, nor save it to a new location on the same disk partition. This would cause a write to the disk and there is a chance this will make your situation worse. So, you have to save it to a different partition on the local computer or you can save it to a network drive. UNC specifications are not supported, so if you want to save it to a network drive, you must map a drive letter to the destination. I would like to see the addition of a Network Neighborhood option here to browse to another computer on the network.

If you are on a stand-alone machine and only have a single disk partition and a floppy drive, you are out of luck if you need to recover a file bigger than the capacity of a floppy disk. Recover4All Pro will happily write and write and write to a floppy disk. Then it chokes with an error message File could not be saved. Is the disk full? 

The folks at Advanced Utilities claim this is becoming less of an issue as more people get CD writers, but I wonder. In addition to having the hardware, you need to use a packet writer feature of your burning software, such as Roxio’s DirectCD or Nero’s InCD that treats your optical media like a big removable drive. I think it would be a good idea if Recover4All Pro could split the file across multiple floppies and create a process that could stick the parts back together again. While I wouldn’t want to have to use this on a 100MB file, it sure would be handy if the file was only a couple of megs.

The only other problem I had with Recover4All Pro was the fact that the process to scan for deleted files does not include a cancel option. If scanning only took a few seconds, this would not be an issue. But on my PIII/933, it took almost seven minutes to scan a 35GB partition. If you accidentally select the wrong partition, you just have to wait until it completes before you can select another partition and continue. I am told the next build will allow you to cancel operations, but as of this writing, it was not available.

Overall, I found the program to be very easy to use. In every test I did, as long as I tried to avoid writing to the disk, I was successful in recovering deleted files. And even if I did write to the disk containing the deleted file, I was surprised at the number of deleted files that were completely recoverable. Just don’t count on it. The more you use the disk, the less likely files will be recoverable.

You can download an eval version of Recover4All Pro from the vendor’s web site at which will find all deleted files and allow you to recover files up to 10K in size. Registration is required to recover larger files. There are two versions of the program available; the basic Recover4All works only on Windows 95/98/ME and only supports FAT volumes. It costs US$49. The Pro version adds support for Windows NT/2K/XP and NTFS volumes. It costs US$69.

The cost seems a little steep to me. But the program does what it says it will do. And it does it easily and efficiently. Download the eval version and give it a try, even if you don’t want to part with your hard-earned money. At least that way, you will be better prepared for when that essential file gets deleted and you decide it is less painful to pay the money to get the file back than to recreate the data.

Bottom Line:

Recover4All Pro
US$49 for Windows 95/98/ME version
US$69 for Windows NT/2K/XP and NTFS volumes, Pro version
Advanced Utilities

Originally published: May, 2003

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