For lost files, data recovery is always an option. Although data recovery is a powerful technique, it is not particularly convenient, and other means of restoring lost files may be faster and better. Before you attempt data recovery, try for some of these “low hanging fruit” methods of restoring lost or deleted documents.
Manage Previous Versions
Windows systems with Shadow Copies enabled will allow you to roll back files and folders to previous versions. If you are working on a machine that is connected to a business IT network or a Microsoft Distributed File System (DFS) setup, then it’s a good chance that you’ll have this option. To check, browse to a folder where the deleted or overwritten file was located. Right-click and choose Properties. Look for a “Previous Versions” tab. Here, you’ll be able to roll files back to an earlier state.
Autorecover Folders and Manage Versions in Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office applications will usually show the autorecovery dialog upon the next startup after a crash. However, this sometimes fails to occur. In order to attempt to access autorecovery files manually, you can click File -> Info -> Manage Versions -> Recover Unsaved Documents in Word 2010 or Recover Unsaved Workbooks in Excel 2010.
You can also look for autosaved files in these locations:
For Windows 7/Windows Vista:
For Windows XP:
c:\Documents and Settings\
If you are using a cloud backup service, such as Carbonite, Mozy, Skydrive or Dropbox, there may be previous versions of your files saved in the cloud as well. For files that are synced through these services, check to see if there are previous versions available on the web interface or from a local control panel.
This may seem obvious, but it can be easy to forget the Recycle Bin in the panic that ensues after losing a file. Look in the Recycle Bin for recently deleted files and restore them to get a file back in its entirety.
If you are collaborating on a file, it’s also possible that a version of the file is saved in the sent or draft folder of Outlook or another email client.
As a last resort, you can attempt to perform a data recovery. This may work for files that have been deleted and emptied from the Recycle Bin. You may also be able to target your data recovery to areas where autosaved or autorecovery files are stored. You can also find temporary cached versions that may have been purged. For the best results, run data recovery as soon as possible, without writing any new data or installing new applications onto the hard drive where the file was located. If possible, install the data recovery software onto another computer or partition.