Deleting a file doesn't really erase it. There's a good chance it's recoverable, even if the file is no longer in the Recycle Bin.
Immediately stop using the PC in question. Close all open programs and stop any real-time indexing services such as X1, Google Desktop or Windows' own indexing service. These could overwrite the file you're trying hard to recover.
Start thinking about where copies of the file might live. If you emailed it to someone, it may be in your Sent files or you could get them to bounce it back to you.
Photos and video files may still be on your memory card or camera, or uploaded to a sharing site. Look through the files lurking in temp folders on your hard drive.
With certain versions of Windows Vista, you can use the Shadow Copy feature (switched on by default) to restore your files. Right-click the folder where your file was and select Restore previous versions to retrieve your documents.
Best backup next time
Nightly backups will make this problem a thing of the past. Programs such as Undelete keep track of erased files until they are overwritten, making recovery easier.
Had a little accident?
Water and electronics don't mix, but a little spill doesn't have to mean your gadgets are totalled. If the device is still on, turn it off immediately and remove any batteries, CDs, SIM cards, memory cards and so on. For a laptop, remove any modular components such as PC Cards and removable optical drives. Dry off any visible liquid with a towel.
Depending on how comfortable you are with the process, disassemble the device as much as possible and as quickly as possible to improve your chances of recovering it. This is essential if you can hear trapped liquid sloshing around inside.
Your goal is to get the device completely dry, inside and out, as rapidly as you can. Try one or several of the following – but be cautious as there are some radical ‘cures' here that could do more harm than good. These moves may invalidate your warranty.
- Desiccants will absorb moisture: Put the device in a sealed bag with several brand-new silica gel packets. Uncooked white rice or even salt – securely wrapped in tissue paper, mind – are another option
- Just heat it Put the device on a car dashboard – ensure it doesn't get hotter than about 150 degrees – to evaporate moisture. An oven on its lowest heat is a riskier option. Simply carrying the mobile phone or iPod in your trousers pocket may make it warm enough to do the trick, as can a hair dryer on its cool setting. Make sure the battery is removed if you try any of these tricks
- Alcohol attracts water: Again, this is not a trick for the faint hearted. Completely submerge a wet gadget in a container full of alcohol (99 percent rubbing alcohol, not the standard 70 percent). It will bind to the water and pour out or evaporate. Do this quickly as alcohol can damage some kinds of plastics
- No drain strain: If the device has (or is) a keyboard, turn it upside down for a while and give the unwanted liquid a chance to drain out
- Sticky stuff: Fizzy drink spills require a cleanup as well as a dry out. Open the affected device and swab it with a cotton bud dipped in 99 percent rubbing alcohol – otherwise the electronics are likely to short-circuit from the goo trapped inside
How to avoid a fried phone
Avoiding spills is hard, but damage limitation is possible. Cover gadgets with waterproof housing – you can get plastic covers for keyboards. Keep liquids and your electronics away from each other, or take some precautions if they're likely to come into proximity with each other.