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How to Recover Deleted Pictures or Files – Data Recovery Tools and Techniques

Trashed hard driveHelp, I lost My Pictures!

If you lost or accidentally deleted your pictures and files, there are still great chances to recover them. As a computer geek, (I do this as a profession), I had to recover file many times. In the vast majority of time the files are recoverable, and in about 30 percent of the cases the retrieval is instant.

The key to a successful retrieval of your pictures and files is to act as soon as you discovered you lost the files, be it because an accidental deletion, or computer problems. I will explain this later in the document.

This tutorial is created for Windows computers, and it assumes you have a minimum knowledge of operating in a Windows Operating System. If you don’t know how to operate in a Windows environment, your best bet is to go to a local computer repair shop.

How To Recover Deleted Pictures or Files?

The Computer IS Fine, But My Files Are Gone

If the computer is fine and it doesn’t behave erratically, most likely you accidentally deleted your files. The first step in this case is to check in the Recycle Bin, but I bet you already did this. If you didn’t do it now. Look for pictures or maybe just a folder, If you accidentally deleted the whole folder, you won’t see the files or the pictures in the Recycle Bin, you will have to look for the folder that contains the files. This is particularly difficult if your Recycle Bin hasn’t been emptied in a while, and you have to search through thousands of files.

How to Recover Deleted Files from Recycle Bin – Advanced Tutorial

Sorting the Items In the Recycling Bin

If your Recycle Bin is empty, or you have few items, you can skip this.
To make it easier right click in the “Recycle Bin” folder and choose sort by “Date deleted”.
If the deletion was made long time ago this doesn’t make sense, and you would probably need to sort by type. Sort by type is not available by default on the Recycle bin, so you have to activate it. Right click in the Recycle Bin folder, select “Sort By”, and the choose “More”. Scroll down on the list and check the box for “Type”. Now the “Sort by type” is available from the contextual menu. When you sort by type all the folders are displayed grouped so it’s easier to find your pictures folder if it’s in the recycle bin.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10ERJcqMWIg

Recover Deleted Pictures or Files Using “Previous Versions”
Recovering with Windows 7 Previous Versions
If your operating system is not Windows 7, you can skip this paragraph, this feature is only available on Windows 7.
If your files are located on the System drive, usually the C: drive, “Previous Version” is enabled by default. “Previous Version” it’s a feature that allows the system to store on a hidden portion of the drive, files and system settings. The files are automatically copied on the hidden folder, and stored for a limited numbers of days. When a file is modified, or deleted, the old version is stored automatically. Let’s say you deleted some pictures in the “Pictures” folder. Go to “My Computer” => C: => Users => USERNAME . Search for the “My Pictures” folder and right click on the folder. From the contextual menu select “Restore Previous Versions”. A list with snapshots of the folder will be presented. Select a previous version that you think contains the deleted files. If you accidentally deleted the files today at 11:00 AM, any snapshot previous to this date and time would contain the deleted files. Neat huh? The trick here is to act as soon as you deleted the files. The longer you wait the bigger the chances to get the good snapshot deleted are. The snapshots are deleted on a regular basis by the system, so if you wait too long, the files will be deleted.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnPI9p9rNkY

Lexar Media IR437 Image Rescue Software (Retail Package)

Recover your lost or deleted files with this easy to use software. The software will scan raw data on you memory card, and it will find your lost pictures.
Lexar Image Rescue has an intuitive and easy to use interface, and will scan the mass storage device, (sd cards, USB drives), for deleted image files or after reformatting your SD card. Additionally, the newest version of the software, can recover, not only image files, but many other popular document types.

This is probably one of the easiest, and most effective image recovery software.

Data Recovery Tools

Recovering Deleted Files with Data Recovery Tools

If the two methods described above didn’t work for you, that means the data has been erased from the disk. The good news is that operating systems do not really delete the files when you delete them, the OS only deletes the record from the index, so from the OS’s perspective the file doesn’t exist anymore. This is where the data recovery software comes in handy. The data recovery software scans the drive for possible files that are deleted from the index, and reassembles them for you.

As with any other recovery method the key is to act as soon as possible. The more you use your drive after the deletion, the less chances you have for a full recovery. This happens because Windows treats the portion occupied by your lost files as empty, and will start to write new data over your deleted files. The more you use the drive the more deleted data is overwritten.

The data recovery software is usually an intuitive program that can be installed on the computer, or can generate a bootable media. The purpose of the bootable media is to avoid the use of the hard drive, to maximize the chances of a full recovery, or sometimes provide an environment for un-bootable systems.
The process of recovering data with tools is very easy, and it is somewhat similar for all software, but not all data recovery programs are the same. The scanning algorithm, the reading approach are things that can make or break a recovery utility.

A few general rules for all recovery software:
To avoid further data corruption, mount the corrupted drive on another intact system. You can do this in a couple of ways:
Install the software on a separate system and attach the drive with a USB enclosure or adapter.
Create the recovery media on another computer and boot the computer with the bad drive from the bootable recovery media
Only start doing the job when you have enough time to dedicate. If you start and stop, and then start again you risk to lose more data.

How Can I Recover My Pictures After Formatting the SD Card

Pictures Recovery after Deletion or Formatting with Recovery Software

If you accidentally deleted your photos on the SD card there is no Recycle Bin for the SD card, so there is no easy way to recover them. Also it happens quite often to format your SD card and to realize that you didn’t save the pictures yet. What do we do in cases like this?
Fortunately, there is software that makes the recovery for cases like this a breeze. One of the easiest to use programs is “Sandisk RescuePro Recovery Software”.

Sandisk RescuePro Recovery Software, V3.3 Disk

It works on and card not just on Sandisk cards. It is really easy to use, and in most of the cases it is able to recover your pictures. One thing about this is that you need to wait the code for the software for a few days, but is worth. The software is actually an annual subscription, but it is very affordable.

Remember, if you deleted the pics on your card, or formatted the card, you need to stop using it immediately to insure a good recovery rate.

Recover Files from A Defective Computer

How To Recover Pictures and Files from A Defective Computer

Your computer might be defective and it won’t start. What to do in this case? First you need to assess the state of the computer and why the computer won’t start. Depending on this, you might be able to recover your files or not. In the next paragraphs I will give you tips to know what is wrong with your computer, and what to for each case.

  • If your computer boots and you can get on your Windows account, then probably the files were accidentally deleted.
  • If your computer passes the initial boot sequence but stops when loading Windows, it is the operating system that is corrupted. A re-installation could fix it, or a boot rescue CD could also fix the OS. Sometimes this could be due to bad computer RAM memory.
  • If your computer doesn’t pass the initial black screen booting sequence, something more serious could have happened, such as a defective hdd, or some other hardware problem.
  • If the computer doesn’t do anything, it is also a hardware problem. You can tackle this with a local computer shop, or proceed to moving your drive on another computer.
  • If the computer starts but it doesn’t recognizes your hard-drive, then you cannot rescue your files anymore. Actually there are data recovery services, that will disassemble your drive, and will read the data on the platters with special equipment. These are special services and are very expensive. Most of us prefer to lose the family pictures than to pay for these services.

What To Do If The Computer Won’t Boot

My Computer Won’t Boot, I Need My Pictures And Files

There are many reasons why your computer won’t boot. If you think your computer is not worth investing too much work to revive it, then the easiest way to recover your files is to take out the old hard-drive, mount it on a USB enclosure, and read it through USB on a good computer. You will be able to read your old files without any problems. This method assumes your hard-drive is not defective.For the case that Windows won’t boot because of a file-system corruption, or other Windows corruption problems, there is the Recovery Boot Disk that will allow you to boot your computer and fix a wide range of problems.

If the hard disk is the one that caused your computer to not boot, you still have good chances to recover your files, but in many cases you need a data recovery software like Data Rescue PC 3, to scan for files on the corrupted disk.

If the computer warns you before booting that there is a problem with the disk drive, you need to stop immediately using the drive if you want to maximize your chances of recovering the data. If your drive is making clicking noises, you also need to stop using it. Sometimes a hard-disk will have just enough life for a last run, so after recovery it will die.
The next step is to acquire data recovery software and install it on a good computer, and buy a USB enclosure and use it to mount the drive from the defective computer. Now connect the hard-drive to recover on the good computer and start the recovery.

Data Loss Prevention

What can I do to prevent data corruption or data loss?

  • Enable in BIOS and on the hard-drive S.M.A.R.T. This is a software utility embedded on the hard-drive that will detect when too many error corrections are occurring. Whenever this happens it means that you drive is near an imminent failure and you should backup/replace it.
  • If a message of a hard drive error appears, stop using your computer until you change the drive. You can use the computer to make a backup of your data onto another drive.
  • Check old backup tapes and copy them onto new tapes, using a temporary restore. This should happen each 10 years or more.
  • Check the data stored on CD’s and DVD’s, and recopy that media regularly. Not all CD and DVD media are equal. The factory-recorded media is the longest lasting. The media burned at home or on a computer CD-ROM unit can last between 1 to 10 years or more. So it is wise to rerecord it after a few years if you bought good quality media, or after one year if it’s on cheap media.
  • Buy an antivirus and keep it up to date.

Compress files in Windows

As a Windows Network Administrator I always have to make space delete unneeded files, archive old files, compress files that we don’t need but we might need at some point.
I don’t use the same compression method every time, because the scenario is different. Here are a three compression methods for Windows.

Compress Files Using the NTFS Compression

Compress Contents to Save Disk Space

This method of compression only works on NTFS partitions. You don’t have the option for a FAT or FAT32 partition.
The most usual and easier way to do this is to use the Windows’ Graphical Interface and access the Advanced File Properties and select Compress contents to save disk space.

Compact – Compress files or folders from command line

If you would like to compress files from a batch file use this command line variant. Usually if you access the advanced file properties, (right-click => properties and => advanced) you have the option to compress contents to save space. Another good use of the command line is that it gives you a better view of the progress. The graphic interface sometimes hangs and you don’t know if the job is still active.

The command to compress a folder from within the folder is compact /c /s. It compresses all of the files within the folder and marks the folder as compressed so that new files are created compressed.

Why would you choose Compact and not Zipped Folder?

The main reason is that a compacted folder can be used by applications. In other words if the path of a log file points to a compacted folder this is transparent for the application that writes the log file. As a result your log files will be compacted. You cannot do this with Zipped folders or files.

Compress files using the Windows’ built-in zip archiving utility

Send to Compressed (Zipped) folder

Why would you choose Compressed (Zipped) Folder over the Compacted Folder?

The zipped Folder has better compression and better portability. The zipped folder has a slightly better compression rate, and you can copy the files to any other Operating System, send them by email and they will retain the compression. The compacted folders will only be compressed on the original location unless you compress the file again at the new destination. Note in the image below the difference between the two file compression formats. The Windows shell has the option to “show NTFS compressed files in color”, which is a great option. Note that the zipped file is slightly smaller than the compacted, (blue colored), one.

Compact (the native NTFS compression) vs Compress the send to Zipped Folder
Compact vs Compress click to enlarge

Is there a Compressed (zipped) Folder – command line variant?

Unfortunately, there isn’t any Windows built-in option. The good news though is that there is a free archiver that has a command line version as well. 7zip is a great free utility very flexible that manipulates all of the popular archiving file formats.

Compressing from the command line with 7zip is very simple, the simplest command is 7z a NewFolder.zip “New Folder” that compresses the folder New Folder into the archive: NewFolder.zip. For more options and switches type: 7z –h, note that 7z doesn’t understand the /? switch, usual on any Windows application.

Why would you choose 7Zip over the Windows’ built in compressing solutions?

The main reason is flexibility. 7zip has a lot of options/switches that control a lot of the compression aspects and it is very easy to use in a batch file.

An interesting application is to separately archive a lot of folders from a batch file. Let’s say you have 500 folders that you want to archive and you know you will be accessing those folders on a regular. It makes more sense to archive the folders separately and not in one big file. It is easier to access smaller zip files from the Windows shell and keeps the system responsive. To do this manually for 500 folders is a nightmare. Here is a command that runs from a batch file that will compress those folders separately, each folder one zip file:

for /D %%d in (*.*) do 7z a -tzip “%%d.zip” “.\%%d\*”

To run the command from the command line and not from a batch file the command is slightly different:

for /D %d in (*.*) do 7z a -tzip “%d.zip” “.\%d\*”

There are other great archiving utilities such as Winzip, Winrar, Pkzip, etc… They are not free, but you can get a trial-ware which in many cases is good enough for anybody.

A few tips on what to compress and what not.
Usually Installation files are already compressed so there is no benefit in compressing.
Digital photos in a jpg or gif format are already compressed using special algorithms.
PDF files don’t compress.
Text files, (plain text, log files, etc…) compress the best.
Word files can be compressed but not as much as the text files.

Troubleshoot a Slow Network – Slow Server

Slow Server

How do we know the server is slow and the problem is not elsewhere?
Make a file transfer between any two other computers on the network. Compare the measurements with the server’s transfer rates.
What are the reasons for a slow server?
There are many reasons for a slow server. The server is many times the bottle-neck of a network. Here are a few reasons for a slow server:
An average, or below average network card, (you need good quality network cards for a server).
Server Network Card Underutilized. Connect your server on the backbone or on 1GB switch ports to make use of the high speed network card. You probably want to limit all your clients to transfer at 100Mb so that there is no traffic discrimination. If your server and switches support higher transfer rates, (10GB ports), make sure you make use of it.
Slow disks. Poor hardware is many times the main reason. Improper configuration, such as choosing the wrong RAID type, or not using write caching can be another reason.
Too many clients on a server. If too many clients make requests to the same single server this could overload the server and it will perceived as a slow network by the users. Measure your server’s performance on load using the performance logs and alerts and the system monitor in Windows. Usually the performance is changing over the course of a day based on the number of users who access the server at the same time. Sometimes adding another network card would be sufficient. Enabling cache writing on the SCSI card can help a lot, (make sure you install a cache battery), adding a new SCSI card and additional disks to offload the existing ones could be of help. Sometimes adding another CPU can make a difference, (if you have free CPU slots). Memory is very often the most used method of upgrading, but most of the times it is not the needed solution. Use the performance logs and alerts and the system monitor and compare with the recommended thresholds to determine what your bottleneck is.
Slow server response, (packet sniffer to determine the handshake time), Adjust the server’s configuration to optimize the handshaking time; (this is a fairly advanced optimization task).

This article is part of a five posts series regarding Network Troubleshooting.