How-to: Free Photo Recovery
Last updated March 2013
While moving through the numerous menus on a digital camera or juggling a host of memory cards, it is surprisingly easy to accidentally delete or lose important photos. This short and free tutorial will show you how to use photo recovery software to rescue, or undelete, your lost photos. See the in-depth photo recovery tutorial.
Free File Recovery Software
So you've accidentially lost your files: these free programs will help you get them back:
Free Undelete 2.0
This data recovery program will undelete and rescue your lost or deleted files. It supports most Windows-based file systems.
Recuva File Recovery Software 1.3.7 (freeware)
More a data recovery toolkit than a simple one-trick pony, it can perform data and file recovery on a range of devices.
File Recovery 4 (freeware)
Easily the best and most versatile of the free data recovery programs, File Recovery 4 can scan drives for deleted files - even if the hard drive has been reformatted.
PhotoRec Data Recovery 6.11.3 (Mac freeware version)
The Apple OS may be great but Mac's are operated by people, and people make mistakes. One distraction can send precious files into the void and that's where this data recovery program is essential.
How-to: iPhone data recovery
It's all too common: a lost or broken your iphone, or maybe hitting the wrong option deleted something important that you want to recover. Here's how to get back those files such including photos, videos andSMS contact files. iPhone data recovery tutorial and software.
How-to: CTG files
You've probably plugged your memory card into your computer and noticed .ctg files lurking there. Are these friend or foe and can you delete them? To get the answers, see What is the purpose of a .ctg file and the MSCANON directory?
How-to: THM files
After connecting your camera's memory card into your computer, there's a chance you've seen files ending in .THM. These can seem like unwanted pests clogging up your memory card. To get the answers, see Why are .THM files useful and what can I do with them?.
Keep your PC updated to help prevent system errors and free of viruses and malware. Latest file releases:
Flash Player offline installer for Internet Explorer.
Get the latest release of Flash Player 11 to fix security issues.
Flash Player installer version 11 for Mozilla Firefx.
Download the latest Flash Player plug-in for Firefox browsers: a simple download that can be used for offline installations.
Realtek High Definition Audio Drivers 2.70 for Windows 8.
The release of Windows 8 means it's also time to update your drivers.
What is data recovery?
To understand how data recovery works, it is important to get a grasp on the process that computers follow when a file is deleted. Computers may be logical but that doesn't make them obvious - particularly when it comes to file recovery. Whether it be Windows, a digital camera's memory card or an iPod, they all typically delete data files in the same way, and the file recovery process follows a similar pattern. In short, when you delete a file, the file itself is not deleted. Here's why...
Storing data files has two major components. The first is the file itself. The second is a table that keeps track of where the files are stored on the hard drive (or flash memory card). If a data file needs to be accessed, the software looks up the table and finds the location of the file. A simple analogy is to think of using an atlas or map. You look up the name of a place in an index: here you will be given it's co-ordinates. You use these co-ordinates to find your location - in the case of computers, it is the location of a file. When you delete a file, the data itself is not touched. Only the entry in the index is removed. It's like your hard drive or storage device had a memory lapse and has completely forgotten about the file. The drive now marks the space occupied by the file as free (in other words, when a new file file is added to the drive, it can be placed in the space).
The important first step
Once you have realised that an important data file has been deleted, stop using that device. Whether it is your computer, usb flash drive or camera's memory card - do not use it until you can start the data recovery process. Remember - if your important files get overwritten, they are gone forever.
The next steps
Work out what type of storage media has the file you want to recover (for example: is it a hard drive, CD drive or camera memory card?). Also consider the reason for the lost file. Do you need to run file recovery software because the media may be damaged or is it because you accidentially deleted it. Each of the data recovery programs software listed on the left has an explanation for its inteded use. CD Recovery is ideal for damaged CDs or DVDs, while File Recovery is suited for hard drives and USB drives and Smart Recovery is designed specifically for memory cards and USB flash memory (it can also perform checks to determine if the card or USB flash key are damaged).