Everyone has accidentally deleted a file at one time or another. But when the file is on an external hard drive, the chances are the file is important. Is there a way to recover these files, to ‘undelete’ them?
The answer is ‘maybe’.
When you delete a file, you don’t actually erase the data; you’re simply removing it from the drive’s ‘table of contents’. The data is still there. There are many commercial programs that can scan a hard drive and find data that isn’t listed in that table of contents, allowing you to access it, retrieve it, and save it again.
However, there are may things that can make this process difficult, or even impossible.
If you delete a file and then save more files, there is a chance the file you just saved will overwrite the one you data in the file you deleted. If you have a large, empty hard drive, then you may be able to still retrieve the deleted file. However, if you have a small hard drive, or it is close to being full, then the odds of a new file overwriting the old is much higher.
If the external hard drive is a ‘solid state’ drive (like most USB memory sticks), then any attempt to access data on the drive has a chance to move data around, overwriting your file’s data.
There is one other situation that can cause problems. If you used a ‘file shredder’ or other security program to delete the file, then I have bad news for you; those programs offer security by overwriting the data of the file with random 1s and 0s before deleting it. You won’t be able to retrieve files deleted by these programs.
In any case, your best option is to stop using the drive, for any reason, until you are able to run a file retrieval program or get it to a professional. Even the act of plugging the drive into your computer runs the risk of an antivirus program or file indexer overwriting your data. You need to act quickly to retrieve your data, and if that is not an option you need to unplug the drive until you have a chance to get your files back. If you are in need of data recovery for your external hard drive, feel free to reach out and we’ll be more than happy to help you further.