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Friday, July 23, 2010

Mac Data Recovery - Recovering Accidentally Deleted Files On A Mac

I'm one of those people who tend to dump everything on the desktop. To make things look a little cleaner, I put folders on the desktop and dump things in those folders. One day, seeing how messy my desktop was, I decided to create one folder (which I named Under_The_Bed), and just dumped everything there. EVERYTHING.

Imagine my shock when, a couple of days ago, I accidentally deleted that folder. I was supposed to delete this other file, but I must have accidentally dragged the EVERYTHING folder along with it. And then I emptied the trash. And then when I looked at the screen while the trash was being emptied, I wondered a bit why it was taking so long to empty the trash. I even saw the message window display that it was emptying 1000+ files.

Stupid... I know...

It was only a few minutes later when it hit me. Holy @#$%! I deleted EVERYTHING! 2 years worth of files, only a small percentage of which was backed up.

Upon realizing the monumental mistake that I made, I literally felt like I was going to faint. I was walking around the office in a daze for a couple of minutes not knowing what to do. This had never happened to me before. I've had hard drives crash but I've never been in a situation where I had to find a way to get back files that I actually accidentally removed myself. Files that could now be gone forever.

But I did remember a friend telling me one time that deleted files aren't actually deleted even if you empty your trash. Some, if not all or most of them, stay there like ghosts or whatever until the hard drive writes some new data over the space that those previous files used to occupy. So the most important thing to do once you realize that you've accidentally deleted your files is to...


The more you use it, the amount of files that you can potentially recover becomes less and less. So the success of your data recovery relies heavily on this: STOP USING YOUR COMPUTER!

So how do you recover those files then?
You'll need special data recovery software. I searched for some Mac data recovery options, and Data Rescue by Prosoft Engineering came up a lot. So I decided to try it out. As of this post, the latest version is Data Rescue 3. They have a demo version which allows you to use the application to scan your disc. After scanning, it will show you a list of the files it was able to recover, but you will only be allowed to recover 1 file that is not over 5MB. So I suggest you try the demo first to see if the application can find anything. If it is able to recover a lot of the files that you need, then you might want to buy the license so that you can recover all your files. The personal use license, as of this post, is $99.

So how do you use Data Rescue 3 for your Mac data recovery?

  1. Once installed and ready to be run, you'll need an external hard drive, preferably one that is bigger than the size of the hard drive that you want to recover. Data Rescue will use this external hard drive to recover the files.
  2. Next, launch the Data Rescue 3 application and choose which drive you'd like to recover files from. You'll have a few scanning options to choose from: Quick Scan, Deep Scan, Deleted Files Scan, Clone, Analyze and File IQ.

    • I tried the Quick Scan first and it only came up with just the files that were actually left in the hard drive. I think this one took about less than an hour. I had a 250GB hard drive with only about 50GB left after the accidental deletion.
    • So next I tried the Deleted Files Scan option. This one was able to find some of the lost files - around 30+ GB worth of files. It took about 2 hours.
    • Lastly, I decided to try the Deep Scan. This one took about 4 hours, but found a larger amount of files - around 50+ GB.
  3. After the scan, you can choose which files or folders you'd like to copy, and then click on the Recover button to begin recovering the found files. The recovery process after the scan takes a while as well.

So in the end, I decided to purchase the license and recovered what could be recovered. And I was fortunate enough to find most of the files that I needed.

Some other things you might want to know:

  1. I was not able to recover all the files. I had lost about 100GB and was only able to recover 50+ GB.
  2. After the scan, the files that I accidentally deleted were placed inside a folder called Reconstructed. In this folder, they were further grouped according to type. For example, there was a folder for Movies, and in this folder, they were further grouped into file types - there was a folder for AVI files, MOV files, DV files, etc... So it does not list them in the same file organization structure that you had before you deleted the files. This makes it quite difficult to look for the files that you want.
  3. Most of the deleted files that were reconstructed will not retain their original file names. They will be renamed, and appended with numbers - ex. Movie01, Movie02, Movie03 and so on. This also makes it even more difficult to look for the files that you need. You'll have to open them one by one in order to know which file is which.
  4. Many reconstructed files were duplicates, and some files couldn't be opened. As I sifted through the files, I found a lot of the same files over and over, while there where some that could not be opened at all. This means that in reality, I recovered even less than 50+ GB since many of the files were just duplicates or could not even be opened at all.

But despite these things, I'd still recommend Data Rescue 3 as a Mac data recovery tool. Some reviews say that they were able to recover a larger percentage of files. I suppose it depends on what you do in that time in between accidentally deleting the files and realizing that you've deleted them. In my case, I had downloaded and saved a couple of files before I realized the accidental deletion. And as I've mentioned earlier, the more you use your computer before the data recovery, then the less the recovery software would potentially be able to recover. It's a great thing that the demo feature enables full scans so you'll know if files have actually been recovered, which makes the decision to buy or not to buy easier. Also, I've learned that I should back up my files more often, and I should stop dumping things on the desktop. :/

Got any Mac data recovery stories and recommendations? Share them in the comments section below.
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