How do I recover cut and pasted files from a computer?

Posted on 2010-11-30
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-05-10
I cut and pasted a folder with some excel files from my desktop to a USB thumbdrive.  When I looked at the files on another computer, it said the data was corrupted.  I tried to repair the files, but that was not possible.  I would like to find the cut data on the original computer.
Question by:RC_Nuti
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LVL 20

Accepted Solution

n2fc earned 2000 total points
ID: 34238805
When you "cut" it from your old PC, you actually deleted it...

You MIGHT be able to recover it with an "undelete" utility...

See the following web page for a free undelete utility download...


LVL 28

Expert Comment

by:Dr. Klahn
ID: 34238820
When transferring more than just a very few files, I have found it safer to:

a) Copy and paste, then delete manually, or
b) Use xcopy or xxcopy.

Expert Comment

ID: 34239340

Check if the files are not in the Recycle Bin or maybe in windows\Temp

Otherwise you´ll need a tool to undelete the file, Glary utilities has a module for it, you can check that out in www.glarysoft.com

Best Regards,
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Expert Comment

ID: 34245567
Use PC Inspector File Recovery for quick recovery and its free, from the Link
Make sure that you don't install it into the drive where your original folder existed.

Author Comment

ID: 34260604
I have tried PC inspector, smart undelete, glary undelete, and several other downloadable software programs and am not finding my files.  Remember that I had a single folder on the desktop with 2 excel files in it.  I cut the folder from the desktop and pasted it to a USB drive.  When I tried to get the files from the USB drive to another computer, they were corrupted.  I tried to repair them and that didn't work.  The only chance I have is to get the file from the original computer, which was not corrupt before I cut the folder.  Most of these recovery programs are finding old deleted files that were on the computer, but are not finding the files I am interested in.  The recovered files were probably deleted into the recycle bin and then emptied.  When I cut my files and pasted them to the USB drive, they were never in the recycle bin.  Is it possible that this process could have changed the file name or type to some kind of temporary file?  I may not be looking for the right file name or extension.  I need help beyond my ability.  Thank you.

Expert Comment

ID: 34269434
when you recover files using the undelete programs choose to undelete *.xls files or whatever the extension  was. *.xls will find any excel file *.jpg will find any jpgs.
recover all files from the computer the desktop is only an extension of another folder elsewhere so when recovering choose to recover from the complete drive.You may be able to limit the recovered fles using the date option. loads of programs to get back deleted files but try a few if not having initial success. best of luck from caballo

Expert Comment

ID: 34269449
just thought i would point out that thats       star dot extension *.xls

Author Comment

ID: 34269499

I used Recuva and asked to recover all files and file types from the whole drive.  Then I sorted by .xls and .xlsx file extensions.  I got 478 files and just finished sorting through them.  The ones I was looking for were not there.  For some reason, the files I am looking for are not appearing by these methods.  Do you or anybody else have any more thoughts?

Thank you.

Expert Comment

ID: 34272775
try the same method but use *.* which is star dot star, this will recover all files deleted from the particular date you may find that the extension name will be changed. you may have to estimate the size of the file to find the correct one. the files recoverd will be named different tha that saved. for example the file john.xls may be recoverd as 00hn.oo the first bits changes to zer zero and the last changed to hide extension. best of luck

Author Comment

ID: 34294374
I have tried all of the above with no success.  These files were cut and pasted from a desktop to a USB drive.  It was two excel files in a single folder.  When I tried to open the files on another computer, it said they were corrupted.  I tried to repair them and that did not work.  I ran the above listed delete recovery software programs which pulled up many files, but did not find the files I needed.  There must be an explanation as to what happened to them and a possibility for recovery.  Please help.
LVL 47

Expert Comment

ID: 34440699
when you cut, the O/S copies the file to RAM, and when you paste, it sends it off to the USB write cache and then deletes the directory entries for the original.  The part of the HDD that has the files (now minus directory entries) is free to be used by the O/S.    You used the consumer-based utilities that do a pretty good job of finding files.

The only thing left is expensive software that likely has no chance of finding any more than a chunk of some of the data files.  (Certainly not the complete file(s), as the utilities you use would have recovered them).

Bottom line, the data is gone forever.  Sorry, but you need to just move on.
LVL 38

Expert Comment

ID: 34440749

>>> "There must be an explanation as to what happened to them and a possibility for recovery" <<<

How exactly did you run the "Recuva" application?

If you installed it to the same hard drive that you originally cut the folder from, then there is always the possibility that doing so has overwritten the areas on the hard drive that were originally occupied by the files.

As mentioned earlier, a "Cut" operation just Copies the data to the clipboard for pasting elsewhere, and deletes the source data.

In case you are not familiar with how hard drives store data, here is a very basic explanation.  One file may occupy one or many separate small fixed-size spaces of the hard drive, depending on the size of the file, and those spaces do not necessarily always sit next to each other.

When you save a file to a hard drive Windows will split the file up and place the parts into as many of those small spaces as it needs for the size of the file.  The hard drive keeps an index of exactly where all those parts are on the drive, and when asked to find a file it is able to locate all the pieces and read them.  Hard drives eventually become fragmented, which is where the empty spaces freed up by deleting files are spread all over the place and there are large areas of vacant ground between the areas occupied by files.  Defragmenting a drive attempts to move the separate bits of data closer together so that the "read/write heads" of the drive don't have to skip all over the place to read the chunks of data.

When you delete a file from the hard drive it doesn't vanish.  It is still there, occupying the same spaces as it did before deletion, but the drive marks those spaces as now being free to store new data, and the spaces will gradually be filled with bits of new files as they are created - in no specific pattern.

An "Undelete" application scans the drive and attempts to gather up all the separate pieces of files in the spaces marked as free for storing new files, and attempts to recombine them into complete files that can be copied out and saved elsewhere.  In so doing, the application needs to use quite a lot of hard drive space as temporary storage for all the data it is creating and working with, and that temporary data can overwrite the files you are trying to recover if you are running an undelete program off the same drive.

The recommended way to run such a recovery program is to:

1. Stop using the computer.  Windows creates temporary files, log files, and an area of "virtual memory" while in normal operation, and the areas containing the files you are trying to recover can be overwritten with the data that Windows is busy creating.

2. Remove the drive, temporarily attach it as a "slave" drive in a working PC, and install and run the recovery program from the main drive of the PC you connected the drive to, NOT on the drive you are trying to recover the files from.

3. When deleted files are recovered, you should copy them out to any drive EXCEPT the one you are recovering the files from.

That is the only way to increase your chances of recovering deleted files, but sadly there are always instances where the files you need cannot be recovered.

LVL 17

Expert Comment

ID: 34440874
Yes you can recover your Deleted Data Using Recovery Software : Get Data Back For NTFS


Install this software on Desktop and try to recover data.

LVL 88

Expert Comment

ID: 34440983
As has already been mentioned above, you have most likely overwritten the areas which were occupied by your "lost" files. Whenever you loose data of which you don't have a backup of in similar ways, and if you want a chance to recover that data, you MUST IMMEDIATELY STOP using that PC.

The way to recover such data is to remove the HD from the PC and get a utility (I prefer Getdataback which has also been mentioned above), install that utility to a PC running windows, connected the HD you removed as a 2nd HD to that PC and use the utility to scan that disk. Then with Getdataback you will see if it finds your files, and if it does, you must register the utility so you get the ability to copy the data from the HD you have scanned to another location. That tool doesn't write anything to the "Affected" HD, which is a good thing.

But never install the tool (or anything else for that matter) to the same disk and OS you want to scan for the lost data, as any write operation to that disk is likely to take up some of the space on which the files were located.

LVL 47

Expert Comment

ID: 34441004
With only 2 files to recover, and considering you didn't catch it soon enough AND you are still using the computer AND you have tried other recovery products AND they are all pretty much the same when it comes to recovery of deleted files ...

Give up.  The data has either been rewritten in part or in full. No matter what, at least part of each of the two files have been overwritten.  Otherwise the utilities you tried earlier would have discovered them.

The explanation is that the data simply is no longer on the HDD.   There is nothing left to recover.   You can't expect a HDD and O/S to keep things that you delete forever, do you?  

I was at Fry's yesterday ... they were selling USB-attached 500GB Seagate external backup drives for $62.00.   This isn't what you want to hear, but I'm on my soapbox now.  I suggest you look into backup disk drives so this doesn't happen again.
LVL 38

Expert Comment

ID: 34441309
<NOT for points - just a recap>

Your question was basically answered within a few minutes of posting.
1. "Cutting and Pasting" is never a good idea; as demonstrated by the current situation. Always "Copy/Paste".
2. Stop using the computer immediately and never 'install' an application to try to effect a recovery. Pull the HDD and slave it off another computer for your recovery operation.
3. Computer files are NOT deleted from the HDD, they are (at worst) written over with new data.
4. It doesn't matter how many times a piece of data is written over, it is still recoverable - but it will probably involve using the services of a company that specializes in data recovery.
5. Stay proactive in your questions. Don't make the Experts wait 3-4 days for you to respond and never wait more than about 48 hours for replies to your comments. The longer you wait, the more new questions get posted and the further down the queue your question falls.
"...click the Request Attention button in your question."
LVL 43

Expert Comment

by:Davis McCarn
ID: 34441562
Unless those files were very large, you have an excellent chance of retrieving them as Windoze will only reuse available space when it is larger than most spreadsheets.
Kaladi_V pointed you to GetDataBack ( http://www.runtime.org/data-recovery-software.htm ) which is one of the very best data recovery tools out there.  You do; however, need to install it onto a "Thumb drive" and run it from there.  Be patient as it will take a long time to finish the scan.  You will be able to test it's recovery before you have to buy it.

Expert Comment

ID: 34446316
Try Advanced NTFS Undelete at http://www.datanumen.com/anu/ , maybe that will help you.
LVL 38

Expert Comment

ID: 34448198
It appears as though that product is going to cost somewhere between US$50-200+ to use.

Do you know if the 'free' download is fully functional or is it just one of those that 'show' you the deleted files and then force you to buy it?
LVL 38

Expert Comment

ID: 34682263
This question was answered at: http:#a34238805

"Cutting" and pasting is never a good idea and the Expert explained that.
The information should be retained in the PAQ database for future readers.

Expert Comment

ID: 34740878
Starting the automated closure procedure to implement the recommendations from the participating Expert(s).

- thermoduric -
EE Community Support Moderator


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