Monkey Mag – International Lifestyle and Travel Blog

When Is a Deleted File Not Deleted?


We are not talking about your recycle bin here. That’s just a really nice gimmick to help make sure that when you want to delete something you really mean it.

A click of the mouse or a slip of the keyboard and you have deleted a file. If this was a mistake then the recycle bin has helped you out. It takes mere seconds to go into the bin and retrieve your files or photos. That’s not really a deleted file, it’s just been moved to a different folder.

computer-644457_640What we’re talking about is when you have put something into the recycle bin and then you’ve emptied it. You’ve accepted that you want to delete the file and you’ve moved passed all possible attempts to stop you deleting it. Then this file is deleted. It’s gone forever.

That is unless you know a thing or two about how the computer memory actually works. If you have ever spoken to anyone or any company that knows about data recovery, then they will tell you that a file is never really deleted.

And they would be right.

All of the files on your computer are stored on your hard drive and the computer uses a system like an address book to find them. A photo called P1023832 is not stored in location P1023832, that’s just the sequential file name your camera assigned to your photo. Instead, it can be stored anywhere on your hard drive and the computer uses an index to find it.

So when you need to find the photo, the computer doesn’t automatically know where it is, but instead looks up it’s location and then retrieves it. It is this process that it uses to delete a file.

Instead of wiping the information from the hard disk, the file is merely ‘lost’ and marked as deleted. So the file is not deleted but only flagged up as a deleted file. This means it is still there and in an emergency, you could retrieve it. This is how data recovery professionals find your deleted files.

As the system has maked your file as deleted, it will not show up in your documents and instead is assigned as free space. At some point in the future, this space will be used to store a new file and then at that point, your original file will be written over.

This could be months and years later, so all that time, you have not permanently lost your file, but you just can’t find it.

The best analogy is that you have an address book with your friend’s and family’s home addresses in it. Somehow you manage to throw away the letters R through to V and forget where everyone lives. Now all of these people still live in the same house but you just can’t find them. If you ever wanted to find them, you would have to ask an investigator to get their address.

The best thing about the way a computer stores files is that deleted rarely ever means deleted.