No matter how careful you are with your computer, there are plenty of ways you could lose data. Luckily most of them can be overcome, but there are a few exceptions.
Lost vs Destroyed
It has been reported many times that deleted files are still on the disk and not really gone. This is true, but only for a limited time. Once you delete a file, the system marks the space for reuse. If you keep using the drive, the system is likely to write something new over the deleted file. Once that happens the data is gone for good. This is why the standard advice is to switch off the computer as soon as you realise you’ve lost some files.
The same is also true for formatted drives. Formatting just changes a few bytes near the start of the drive, leaving the rest of the disk unchanged. The data does still lurk on the disk, but if you start filling it with data, you will write over the old data.
As with most rules, the above is just a general guide. Sometimes there are slight variations that can cause more damage. For example, if the disk is encrypted, the data may not be recoverable if it gets re-encrypted again. Also if you run a system restore, it can write a lot of data back to the drive which can overwrite at least some of the lost files. On a Mac, there is an option to “Secure Empty Trash…” This will first delete the files from the trash, and then overwrite them with random data. This data would not be recoverable by any means.
As there are so many possible differences, it is often easiest to just contact us to discuss your case. We will then have a better idea of the chances of recovery.
Whatever you do next, there are a few precautions you must follow:
- Don’t try to boot the drive containing deleted files. Windows can write data to the drive during the boot process which may overwrite the files you want.
- If attaching to another computer, make sure no automatic software starts writing to the drive.
- Never format the disk or write anything to it.
- Don’t try checkdisk, scandisk, spinrite or anything else that writes data to the drive until you’ve recovered the files you need.
Most importantly, if there is crucial data on the disk then get in touch with us to discuss your options.