So You Say Your Data Was Deleted

Accidentally deleting data can make for some unnervingly anxious moments, but the good news is that there's likely a chance you'll be able to get it back if you take the right steps.

If you do so, there is an excellent chance your data can be easily recovered. This first step to data recovery is also true for digital cameras and flash drives: Turn them off after you make an accidental deletion and perform data recovery as soon as possible.

Why Wait?

The reason this is so important is because of the way hard drives save data. When you delete a file, it doesn’t get immediately erased. Instead, the operating system places a question mark in its file name. The question mark flags the operating system that this file is eligible to be overwritten (which, by the way, is why you should not use question marks in your file names). If you delete a file, then start work on a new document and save it, there’s a good chance your system will overwrite the deleted file and make it unrecoverable. However, by just stopping and closing everything down, you stand a greater chance of getting your data back.

Do-It-Yourself Data Recovery

For those users that are comfortable using diagnostic software, some commercial products are available. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you may make things worse, especially if the problem is being caused by pending hard drive failure.

You can tell when your hard drive is failing by listening for these sounds consistently coming from it: whizzing, whirring or clicking. If you hear them, the chances are your drive is dying and you need to get the drive to a technician.

Staples In-Store Data Recovery

Despite what Microsoft says, deleted files can be recovered. After you shut down your computer, take it to a Staples store and let technicians — who know what they’re doing and have all the proper tools — handle your data recovery.

If Staples can’t recover your files in the store, they will send it to a professional data-recovery laboratory. If the data can’t be recovered in the store or the lab, there is no charge to you.

Data Recovery Laboratory Services

In certain circumstances, such as hard drive failure, water damage, a hard fall or if the above methods haven’t worked, you can pay for a professional recovery service to retrieve the data. These services are like a CSI forensics lab, only for computers.

The recovery technicians work in a clean-room lab, dressed to prevent dust and dirt from getting into any electronic parts. They take the physical drive apart and, if possible, piece together your deleted data. If your data is recovered, it will be returned to you — depending on the size of the files — on DVDs, a flash drive or a new hard drive.

The bottom line: Choose your data-recovery options wisely, and your deleted files can be brought back.

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