We've all done it; it's easy to accidentally delete, overwrite or generally misplace important files. So it's a good thing that there are ways and means to bring back your precious data.

1. If you’ve done something more serious than empty the Recycle Bin, such as repartitioning or reformatting a drive, try not to make any further changes to the drive. Run a program such as Recover My Files (recovermyfiles.com) from a USB drive.

Step 1

Step 1

2. On launching Recover My Files, two screens will open: the main file-recovery screen and a search wizard. Select Complete File Search – so that the program looks for ‘lost’ files as well as deleted ones – then click Next. On the following screen, select the drive or drives you want to search. Click Next.

Step 2

Step 2

3. Specify the file types you want to search for. You can select individual file types, whole categories – graphics, documents or multimedia files, for example – or all files by ticking the appropriate boxes. It’s best to limit the search to specific file types; otherwise it’ll take an age to complete. Select the types you want and click Start.

Step 3

Step 3

4. The search process may take from a few seconds up to an hour, depending on the size of the drive and how many file types you’ve selected. Switch the file display to full-screen to give you more room. The discovered files are labelled Very Good, Poor or Overwritten, indicating their chances of recovery.

Step 4

Step 4

5. Click the tabs at the top of the discovered file list to sort the files by a specific category. The file-preview pane is helpful when recovering graphical files and documents, allowing you to check you’ve got the right ones. You can change the relative sizes of panes in the window by dragging their edges.

Step 5

Step 5

6. The bottom-left pane shows either a log of the last search or properties of a selected file. You can click on individual files to select them for recovery or Shift, Click on more than one. Additionally, you can tick boxes against the list of file types in the column to the far left.

Step 6

Step 6

7. Click Save Files in the main menu and a folder browser will open. Select a drive other than the recovery drive to save to. Once the files have been saved, they can be moved, edited and stored normally. Save the files you want to recover before closing Recover My Files, or you’ll have to start the search process again.

Step 7

Step 7

8. As an alternative to saving files on another drive or USB key, Recover My Files can burn files directly to disc. Click on the down arrow next to the Save Files menu option and select ‘Save to CD/DVD’. If you’ve got more than one CD or DVD drive, select the one you want to save to and put a blank disc in it.

Step 8

Step 8

See also: How to recover deleted files using Restoration