File recovery (or 'unerase' software) is the one software tool that you purchase, expecting that you're never going to need it, but when the time comes, you want to know that it's going to work!
Most of the time, when you delete a file accidentally, you can open the recycle bin and 'restore' it without any trouble, but this is not always the case.
* Sometimes deletions by-pass the recycle bin, such as when the files you delete are on a memory stick.
* Sometimes files are too large to be held in the recycle bin and a permanent deletion is the only option.
* Sometimes the file you've lost was deleted some time ago and the recycle bin as already 'emptied' itself.
When this sort of thing happens you have two choices:
1. Cry like a baby
2. Get hold of some good File Recovery Software
File Recovery Software is something like fire insurance. It's something you hope you're never going to have to use. Unlike insurance on your house though it's something that ALL OF US do need, sooner or later!
This was not the first time I had needed to recover permanently deleted files but it certainly was the most critical. I'd just returned from Canberra, having interviewed the former President of Iran about building bridges between Christians and Muslims, and I was very pleased that he was allowed me to record our time together on video. I was less pleased when my wife (nine months pregnant and not fully compus mentus) accidently erased my interview from the video camera before I had downloaded it!
Now, as I mentioned, this was not the first time I had needed to recover files that had been accidently erased, but my experience with software designed to 'unerase' files is that it can be a bit of a hit and miss affair .
When a file is deleted, it is not normally wiped from the disk but rather renamed so that the operating system registers it as something that can be written over. If there's no activity at all on the disk after the file has been deleted there's every chance that the file is still fully intact – byte for byte – BUT if there is another disk activity, there's every chance that the file you're looking to recover (or a part of it) will be over-written!
In the case of my file, which was on a memory stick, I was specifically concerned as:
* It was a large file (about a gigabyte) that took up around half the storage area, which meant that further disk activity would almost certainly have written over some of it.
* If some of the file was written over, it might not just make the video shorter, but corrupt the file completely, making it unreadable.
* I was not at all sure except my file recovery software worked on the memory sticks used in digital cameras. I had only used it on my harddisk.
My concerns were valid, but my file recovery software came through, and I was able to recover about 60% of the file!
Then came the hard work:
* Unhappily, neither Windows Media Player nor Camtasia nor any of my other video production software could read the AVI file, due, I assume to file corruption. Happily though Apple Quicktime could!
* Unhappily though, the free version of Quicktime, will not save an AVI file in any other format but, happily, it only cost $ 50 to upgrade to Quicktime Pro, which I did, and successfully saved the file in QuickTime (MOV) format !
* Unhappily though, Quicktime did not seem to be able to save the file to any other format and I wanted to edit the video in Camtasia, and my version of Camtasia would not work with MOV files, but, happily, the latest version of Camtasia did import MOV files, so … $ 150USD later I had the latest version of Camtasia installed and … I got the job done.
In short, using my unerase software did not in itself solve all of the problems, but it did get me off to an excellent start, and if I got to the disk earlier, I'm sure I would have been able to recover 100% of the file without any dramas or extra costs.
So the moral of the story is to keep an unerase program in your virtual back pocket. It's not the sort of thing you want to spend hours of disk-thrashing activity looking for if you've accidently erased a critical file. Have one on hand!
Anyways, I'm not just going to give you the advice. I want to give you the software!
So grab the software while you can, and if you're very, very lucky, you'll never need to use it. Chances are that though your time will come, and when it does, you'll be very glad you were prepared.