It's all too easy to accidentally delete an important file, then waste hours diligently working to replace it. But deleted files aren't always as they appear, and lost files can usually be found with a little help from Restoration.

1. Windows XP has no built-in facilities for undeleting files, but there are precautionary measures you can take. Don’t use Shift, Del to instantly erase files – it bypasses the last-chance Recycle Bin. You can also download Restoration (on our DVD or from snapfiles.com) and save it on a USB drive.

Step 1

Step 1

2. If you mistakenly delete a file, don’t copy anything (or install any programs) on to the drive it was on, and don’t run any programs that use a disk-based swap file. You might overwrite the file you’re trying to recover. Instead, plug in your USB key and run Restoration from there. Your options are listed on the right.

Step 2

Step 2

3. Select the drive containing the lost file using the selector on the right. Click Search Deleted Files and wait for Restoration to find your undeleted files. Partway through the search, the program asks ‘Do you want to scan vacant clusters?’ Hit No, unless you want to search the drive surface for file fragments.

Step 3

Step 3

4. The program will display a list of discovered files. Select the file you want to restore and click ‘Restore by Copying’. A file browser opens for you to select a folder to copy to. Again, choose a drive other than the one holding the deleted files. Repeat this process for any other files you unearth.

Step 4

Step 4

5. You can’t select more than one file at a time for recovery. To make the search process easier you can reduce the length of the list by entering all or part of the filename or file type you’re looking for. Restoration doesn’t support wild cards such as ‘*’ or ‘?’ but will search for a partial filename, such as ‘.txt’.

Step 5

Step 5

6. You can search for all the Jpeg files you might have deleted in error. Depending on how they were deleted, you may find the filenames now start with ‘$’ – this is how Windows marks deletions. Remove the dollar signs from any recovered files or they’ll be listed out of order in an alphabetical file display.

Step 6

Step 6

See also: How to recover lost files using Recover My Files