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
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 www.recover4all.com.
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
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
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
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 www.recover4all.com 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
US$49 for Windows 95/98/ME version
US$69 for Windows NT/2K/XP and NTFS volumes, Pro version
Originally published: May, 2003
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