We've all been there. You thought you were getting rid of a bunch of useless files, but you've deleted the wrong thing and now you're really regretting it.
Don't give up yet! Although a deleted file may well be gone forever, sometimes you can still retrieve it – if you're quick enough. Here's how to recover deleted files.
First, check it's really gone
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know. I know. Believe me, I know you know this, but just in case someone finds this via Google, I have to cover the first base: the recycle bin. Feel free to skip ahead if you know where this is going.
The recycle bin is like a waiting room for files marked for deletion, but it usually won't be emptied without your go-ahead. If you've just dropped it there, give it a check and see if your missing file is in there, just waiting to be rescued.
Hunting down deleted files
Okay, this is where it gets a little bit more complicated. Basically, even if you've emptied your recycle bin, it's possible the data hasn't been overwritten with one and zeroes just yet – it only happens when your operating system needs the space, which is why I said you had to be quick. If you're not, the chances are the data will be written over.
For that reason, for Windows users, Recuva Portable is a good one because it's specifically designed to run from a memory stick, minimising the risk. You can download it on another computer, pop it on a USB stick and then run it on the computer with the missing file. There are other options: DiskDigger comes with solid recommendations for Windows users, while OS X fans might want to give Data Rescue a go.
Make sure it doesn't happen again
Hopefully, you got lucky this time and were able to retrieve the deleted file, but there are ways of avoiding the panic. Obviously, backing up your important files regularly is the answer and this isn't half as painful as it used to be. Enable Windows Backup for limited peace of mind or, better still, sync any folders with super-important documents with Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive.