I have recently had a lot of people ask me if they can undelete
something which has been erased from their hard drives. The answer
is yes or no. To understand this we first must clear up a few
things. If you are using Windows
95, there is a very useful thing called the Recycle Bin. When
you delete something, it doesn't actually erase the file. The
OS just transfers the file to the Recycle Bin. That is why you
have to empty the Recycle Bin. Not until the Recycle Bin is emptied
is the file erased. And actually that isn't really true either.
When a hard drive is formatted, a File Allocation Table (FAT)
is created. This table keeps track of where the files are on the
hard drive, what sector it starts. When a file is deleted, it
is actually the entry in the FAT that is erased, not the file
itself. It would be like having a text book with an index. As
the author is doing the editing, he decides that a certain chapter
isn't needed, so he removes the entry in the index, but not the
chapter from the book. The chapter itself is still in the book
until he removes the pages. If someone were to look through the
index, they would assume that topic wasn't covered, when in fact
it is still in there.
The same is true with your hard drive. There are utilities on
the market like Norton
Utilities which can scan your hard drive and identify data
that is on your computer and give you the option of "undeleting"
used to include this type of utilities with DOS, but since Windows
95 has the Recycle Bin, it is no longer included.
Ideally if you erase something by accident, and don't do anything
else on your computer, you could use Norton
Utilities to undelete the file. The problem is that Windows
3.x/9x are always doing things in the background that use hard
drive space. The swap file is often reading and writing to your
hard drive. Most programs are not specific about what space it
uses on the hard drive so it either uses the first available space
or it randomly writes to any available space. Some of the space
that the swap file uses could actually be in use by the file you
want to retrieve. Since the FAT info for that file has been erased
(the entry in the index is gone), programs don't recognize that
data as anything important. It may write over the data or parts
When this happens, the undelete utilities don't help you. They
aren't sophisticated enough to retrieve partial bits of information.
There are other utilities that are very expensive that can be
bought to recover data, but it probably wouldn't be worth your
offers a data recovery service, but it cost upwards of $500 to
do so. There are also local companies that will perform the same
services. Some of these are:
PowerQuest has recently released a new program called Lost &
Found. According to their web site, "Rather than spending
thousands of dollars to send your hard drive to a data recovery
center, Lost & Found lets you automatically recover and restore
data after accidental (or even intentional) data loss, or from
corrupted media caused by a disk crash or logical system failure.
Visit their web site at http://www.powerquest.com/product/laf/index.html
for more details.
One of the best things to do is to purchase a utility suite,
such as Nuts
and Bolts or Norton
Utilities. Both of these programs offer something called an
image file. What the programs do is take a snapshot of your computer
and store the information in this image file. When you do something
wrong, you can restore this image file so that your system returns
to the state it was in when the image file was made. I've only
had to do that once, but it worked perfectly. I had changed a
bunch of stuff, and my system had become unstable. I restored
my system and everything was back to normal.
The most effective thing to do is to just be careful when you
are erasing and moving files. Always try to delete things from
within the Windows
95 user interface, not from DOS. Files deleted under DOS can't
be recovered from the Recycle Bin. Use the Recycle Bin and leave
the files in there for a week or so to see if you need the files
or not. If you need them, restore them. If you don't, empty the
Recycle Bin to free up disk space.