As long as there are human beings using computers, there’ll be a need for file recovery or ‘undelete’ software.
Be it a lost document, some accidentally removed photos or allowing strangers with itchy delete fingers near a machine, files are sometimes deleted when you don’t want them to be. Thus, a cottage industry of generally not too cheap software has sprung up to service us in our moments of desperation.
Recover My Files is one such tool. It’s a small download, weighing in at around 8MB, and after installation you’re presented with four options. Firstly, and the least effective, is the option to do a quick search for files. It’s not too quick, and you can determine what type of files to hunt for. But given that the fast search is primarily for material that’s very recently been lost, it’s generally not the best choice.
If you want proof that file recovery is an exhaustive and time-consuming job, though, the program’s complete file search is ample evidence. This does a cluster level search of a drive – and you can run the program on the likes of flash memory cards and external storage too – and inevitably takes an awful lot longer. It also tends to throw up more results, but it’s not necessary if you’ve only lost a file just hours before.
Recover My Files also features options for recovering files after a disk format, although you should allow yet more time for that. Fortunately it’s the kind of job you can easily leave running overnight to see what the program comes back with.
We started with the fast file recover to get an idea of how the software worked and, after around a quarter of an hour, it had certainly uncovered a large number of files. The fuller search took nearly four times as long, although it did manage to find 21,752 files. Contrast with that was the aforementioned quick search, which dredged up 11,385 files on our test machine.
A nice feature of the software is that when you highlight a file – and for all of those it finds it indicates the likelihood of successfully recovering them – there is a preview panel at the bottom of the screen for supported file formats.
And while it’s a little stringent in the defaults it sets, the left pane of the working screen allows you to filter results down by format, which proves to be a useful option given how many files the software reports back. There could perhaps be a bit more effort put into the file organisation, and it inevitably throws up Internet files en masse, but there’s little question it does a thorough job.
Crucially, it also delivers on file restoration. While there are tools available for free that purport to be able to recover files, we found Recover My Files had a good success rate, particularly on recently lost files.
You do need to have the full version – rather than the freely downloadable demo – to bring a file back to life, and the $69.99 asking price is fairly steep. But it could prove indispensable nonetheless. Chances are, if it recovers the file you’re looking for, you might consider it a bit of a bargain.How can you lose files? Windows has had a recycle bin for years and you’d have to be pretty stupid to drop a file in the bin and empty it before realising the file was important, wouldn’t you?
No. In fact you don’t have to be stupid at all: just rushed, tired or distracted. The same goes for repartitioning a hard drive or migrating data from one drive to another. You’ve only got to be off guard for a few seconds to consign important data to oblivion.
Except that it’s not really oblivion. Windows can’t be bothered to scrub a whole area of a hard drive, even when you reformat it, and instead just knocks the first character off the filename and removes the entry from its file directory. Just because Windows has forgotten about it, doesn’t mean the file’s gone. BHV’s Recover My Files proves this, by displaying and then bringing deleted and lost files back to life.
The program has a neat, file-manager-style view, with a Wizard overlaid, so you can select the kind of search you want. There are two types of searches: a Fast one for recently deleted files and a more thorough Complete one, which tries to reconstruct lost files directly from the hard disk surface. There are also Fast and Complete options for reconstituting mistakenly formatted drives.
Within the search options, you can restrict searches to specific logical drives and select the files to search for, either in groups – like graphics, e-mails or documents – or individually, by file type. Settings are remembered from search to search.
During our tests, the program stalled trying to analyse one particular file on our test PC, each time we ran a Complete search. We left it for over 90 minutes in case it was struggling with a large file, but it couldn’t resolve the problem. A ‘Skip file’ function would have been useful, but the only button available was Stop. Running a Complete search on a 40GB drive in a different PC went through without problem and the program found over 74,000 files, nearly all text snippets, in 30 minutes.
The program only took three minutes to complete a Fast search of our original, 80GB drive. Recover My Files found over 3,600 deleted files, though many had been overwritten since deletion and were therefore unrecoverable. The program can preview many of the most popular filetypes, including graphics and text files, so you can decide more easily if you need to reinstate them.
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