How to Find a Deleted File on Your Computer

Level of difficulty: Intermediate

In majority of computer systems, the deletion of stored files does not necessarily translate to its physical removal from the storage device. What really happens is that when a computer file is saved, markers are created to allow programs to read its contents in relation to the location of its components in the storage tracks. When a user issues a delete command either from the command prompt or by emptying the Recycle Bin for Microsoft Windows Operating System users, these markers are removed but the actual contents of the files remain in their storage tracks. By scanning the contents of the storage tracks of the hard drive, it is possible to recover files that are still physically present but no longer have their associated markers.

Materials Needed:
- Computer (Windows-based)
- additional storage device (when necessary)
- and Internet connection
Step 1
In order to locate accidentally or even intentionally erased files, double click on the Recycle Bin folder which is normally seen on the computer Desktop. The Recycle Bin folder is Windows' virtual trash can. This will display its contents in the Windows Explorer allowing the user to locate the necessary file to be recovered.
Step 2
When the file is found, click on the 'File Menu' and choose the 'Restore' option. This will automatically place the file back to its original location in the hard drive. In case the user does not know the original location, the 'Search' function of the Operating System can be used. The contents of files stored in the Recycle Bin are not accessible to the user. If the file is not in the Recycle Bin, proceed to Step 3.
Step 3
In instances wherein the file is too big for the Recycle Bin, is located in a removable device, deleted using utility programs, or erased via the command prompt, it will no longer be displayed in the Recycle Bin folder. These types of erased files may be restored by searching for other recovery tools on the Internet.
Step 4
After installing the third party utility, launch it, and choose the appropriate storage where the file was originally saved in. Upon completely reading the contents of the storage device, the user can search for the list of deleted files to recover the file. The utility provides the user with the option of recovering the file and dictating where it will be restored to. Since it is entirely possible that certain portions of the file have already been overwritten, recovery of the file does not guarantee its integrity.