In trying to keep your Windows PC clean, it's easy for you (or your cleaning software) to get overzealous. Sooner or later, you're going to delete something you meant to keep, and salvaging data from beyond the Recycle Bin can be a challenge.
That wayward file is not necessarily gone forever, though. Windows machines do not permanently erase data until new files overwrite the space on the hard drive allotted for deleted ones. So if your deletion was recent, you stand an excellent chance of recovering your files. The easiest solution is to arm yourself with data recovery software.
TopTenREVIEWS, a sister site to Tom's Guide, reviewed the 10 best data recovery programs and found the top three. Before you panic, see if one of these programs can help you out.
Help and Support
While data recovery programs are fairly self-explanatory, the process can be a tricky business, and it's good to have a resource if things go wrong (well, wrong-er). The best companies will have tech support available by phone — 24/7, if possible, as the odds of your big data emergency happening during normal business hours are slim. If not, see if the company offers live chat, email addresses, website query forms or active social media pages.
Recovery from Unbootable Drives
If you lose data due to a virus, hard drive corruption or good, old-fashioned gremlins, you may not be able to launch Windows at all. In that case, you'll have to hook up your hard drive to another machine and try to recover files secondhand. Most data recovery software offers this feature, but some charge extra for it, so be sure to research this functionality before purchasing a program.
Data recovery software can be an invaluable tool, whether you're dealing with accidental deletions, hard drive reformatting or the results of a virus. You can count on these robust tools to save those important files from oblivion.
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.