I’ve Deleted Something … No Backup … What Now?

You have had people preach to you about backups, and you’ve always intended to have one, but now you’ve deleted something and “don’t” have a backup … what are your options?

© vizafoto - Fotolia

© vizafoto – Fotolia

Before we get started we understand that you’re likely a little freaked out at this point … very understandable. It is, however, vitally important you have a clear head and methodically think through the options available to you before jumping to conclusions.

Let’s start with the obvious and just get that out of the way first! After any deletion the first place we want to look is in the Recycle Bin (PC) or Trash (Mac). You’d be surprised how many people never look in those obvious places first.

Once you’ve confirmed that your deleted item(s) are not located here then you essentially have 2 options available to you …

  1. Software Based File Recovery
  2. Hardware Based File Recovery

Let’s look at each of these items separately …

Software Based File Recovery

This would be trying to use a piece of software to search your hard drive and, in some cases, find a file that’s been marked for deletion, and is no longer accessible, but the area of the hard drive that file was sitting on has not been reclaimed yet. In “some” cases certain pieces of software can be used to reverse the process and bring the file(s) back.

The key point to stress here is that this option would need to be tried immediately because once a file is marked for deletion and no longer accessible the operating system might re-use that space for a new file in which case the deleted file would be completely overwritten and, hence, gone…. so “time is of the essence” indeed…  You really want to limit the amount of disk activity on the machine at this stage.

A simple Google search of “software file recovery” reveals quite a number of both paid and free software file recovery tools available.

I would personally be a little wary of the free tools out there only because, as with most free tools like this, if you don’t pay for something you really have no right to an expectation in the end.

Many of the paid products will allow a trial in which case you’d be allowed to run a scan and possibly even identify that a missing file “is” accessible and “could be” retrievable and then you could pay the fee for the software and likely get your files back.

Do you research though (preferably on another machine to limit disk activity) and try to find some independent reviews of the software that look good to you and narrow it down before trying …

Hardware Based File Recovery

This is usually much more involved and often much more expensive than software based file recovery. This method is often used when a hard drive has crashed and the operating system no longer boots up.

If the hard drive is still physically intact and it’s just the operating system that has failed then you can go to any computer shop and ask them to recover the hard drive contents. They will usually remove the hard drive from the PC or Mac and install it in an external USB device and read the contents like any other external hard drive and grab the contents …

If the hard drive is not physically intact (e.g. when you turn the machine on you get a specific message about a missing hard drive or an inaccessible hard drive) then this is a whole different story.

In this case you need to decide just how important the data on that hard drive is. If you determine that you absolutely must get the data back at all costs then you would need to send it to a lab where they pull the drive apart physically and swap out whatever parts they have to try and get the drive back up and running again. If they are able to do that then hopefully they can get the data back for you.

If the hard drive needs to go into a lab for this kind of work it can often run into costs of $1,000.00 or more depending on the provider and how quickly you need it done.


This is some information to consider if you find yourself in this exact situation and I hope it’s been helpful .. please feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me using my CONTACT page if you have questions or comments!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

33 thoughts on “I’ve Deleted Something … No Backup … What Now?

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