You just clicked “delete” on a file, so it should be gone forever, right? Well, not exactly. To really, fully delete a file, you need to take more than just that one step.
Long ago, Microsoft and other computer makers put in safeguards to keep people from accidentally deleting files they didn’t mean to. So, if you truly want something gone, away from prying eyes or just to clean up your hard drive, it’s a multi-step process.
At Pro Tech Guy, we often assist clients with backup and recovery of their data as part of our business & residential IT services in Framingham, MA. Often, we’re able to rescue files that our clients thought were long gone… because we know where to look.
Whether you’re grateful to recover a file you thought was deleted, or worried that something you thought you’d gotten rid of is still lurking on your hard drive, knowing what “deleted” really means for your Windows device can save you worry and frustration later.
Knowing how to completely delete a file (for real) can also keep your data safe from hackers who know just where to look on a hard drive to find sensitive files you thought you’d erased.
What Happens When You Click “Delete”?
Most people know that the first stop for a deleted file on a Windows PC is the Recycle Bin. When a file is first deleted it goes there, but it’s still easily recovered. The system simply changes the location of the file, like when you move a file from one folder to another.
There are restrictions put on, like you can’t open and use the file unless you choose it while in the Recycle Bin and click to restore it.
But what happens if you click to empty the Recycle Bin? Is the file gone then? Not yet.
When you empty the Recycle Bin, Windows removes the pointer to the file and marks the sectors that hold the file’s data as available, but until new data overwrites those sectors, the file is still there and still recoverable.
Some file recovery tools are designed to scan hard drives for these “deleted” files that aren’t yet overwritten and restore them. Note: This isn’t applicable to solid-state drives (SSDs) which store and write data differently than hard drives.
True File Deletion and File Recovery Tips
Some people want to know the files they deleted are really gone. They might be selling their computer to someone else or just cleaning up some sensitive files. Others would be grateful to know their data is still recoverable and to get back files they didn’t meant to delete.
Knowing how to do both can save you time, money, and frustration.
The cost to recover a deleted file can be between $170 – $340.
While the cost to recover a file that was accidentally deleted can vary depending upon the circumstance, according to Graziadio Business School, it takes on average 6 hours to recover lost data, so hiring an employee or outside firm to recover it can cost on average $170 to $340.
Here are Pro Tech Guy’s tips for both file deletion (if you really want it gone) and file recovery (if you need it back).
How to Make Sure Your File is Really Deleted
Using a hard drive cleaning utility can ensure your data is truly erased. What tools like these do is write other data over the sectors of the deleted files, which effectively removes them from your hard drive.
You can also use a tool called a “file shredder” that performs a similar task and securely erases a file from a hard drive but takes a while longer, so it’s typically used for a single file, not several, at a time.
A few popular hard drive cleaning and shredding tools include:
- CBL Data Shredder
- Disk Wipe
- File Shredder
Disk wiping is a more severe operation and you would use this only if you want to erase everything off your computer’s hard drive, including the operating system. This might be used if you’re throwing away or selling a computer or laptop.
How to Recover a “Deleted” File
When a file is first accidentally deleted from the Recycle Bin, you want to use your hard drive as little as possible to avoid overwriting those freed-up sectors on the file. Any new programs you install or new files you save can overwrite the deleted file and it will be completely gone.
You can use a third-party undelete utility that will scan for those deleted files just waiting to be overwritten and restore them either fully or partially (if they’ve been partially overwritten) to your usable data.
A few popular data recovery utilities are:
- Pandora Recovery
- Stellar Data Recovery
- Undelete 360
- Wise Data Recovery
For more severe cases, such as hard drive crash or physical damage to a laptop, a professional IT pro can use special tools to try to recover any data still readable from the hard drive.
Need Help with Data Deletion or Recovery?
Pro Tech Guy has very affordable prices for both residential and business data recovery services or true data deletion. If you need help with cleaning a hard drive or finding lost files, save the hassle and contact us!
You can reach us at 508-364-8189 or online.