Recover Formatted Files

'HDD' by Kamil Porembiński, via Flickr

Deleted files are not simply removed from the disc.

In computing, we use a variety of files every day; from saved games on our favorite leisure software to our accounts and resumes. When files are in use, they can sometimes be deleted accidentally.

This is especially true when a disc needs to be formatted, as oversights and general human error can result in an important file not being copied off the drive before the format process is started. When this happens it is important to know how to recover formatted files so you can undo the error as quickly as possible.

  1. Log into your computer using an account with administrator privileges. On computers with only one account set up, just log in with that account, as it will be set up as an administrator.
  2. Open your file recovery software, such as Activ@ File Recovery, Uneraser or Data Rescue.
  3. Look down the list of drives on your computer to find the one containing the formatted files you want to recover.
  4. Select the drive.
  5. Click on the “Scan” button to scan the drive for deleted files that are still accessible. This can take between a few minutes and over an hour, depending on the size of the drive.
  6. Browse the drive’s directory structure or the list of recoverable files (which you get will be dependent on the file recovery program you are using).
  7. Select the files you wish to recover.
  8. Click the “Save” or “Recover files” button to recover the files and save them to your hard drive. You may be asked where to store the files, or they may be simply saved back into the folder they were originally deleted from.


Keep backups of everything important. This will make recovering files a lot easier as you can then simply go to the backup and copy the file back onto your hard drive.

There are a wide variety of methods for backing up files, including “cloud backup” where you copy the files to an online server; burning the files to a CD or DVD; and copying the files to a USB or physical hard drive for storage elsewhere.

Please Note

It is not always possible to recover every file. Sometimes the hard drive space where the file was stored will be overwritten in between the file being deleted and the recovery program being run.

Sometimes it is possible to recover a partial file or even the whole file with a deep level scan of the disc but this should not be counted on. Always keep backups, in case the worst comes to the worst.

Further reading

Photograph by Kamil Porembiński

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