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How to Protect Yourself From Deleted Files

Losing your files – your images, music, or carefully prepared presentations, your infinitely redrafted assignments, or your videos of a summer well spent – whatever they are, well, it sucks! Whether it’s down to accidental deleting, mystically vanishing folders, or total hard drive annihilation, the sense of rising panic that accompanies frantically searching for deleted files through folder after folder until the moment you finally admit defeat is horrifying.

Hours of work, years of collecting, a lifetime’s worth of memories: lost!

I remember one specific example in college, when I had spent over 20 hours straight working on a research paper in the library. I went to go grab some lunch and take a quick break. Except I forgot one crucial element: anytime you locked a computer in the library for a specific period of time, the hard drives were auto-erased, sending me into a panicked scramble for over an hour trying to talk the IT guy into finding the backup (he eventually found it).

Even the most technically savvy individual can suffer this pulse-increasing, sweaty-palm-causing nightmare. So, what’s to be done about it?

When you a delete a file, it isn’t really erased – it continues existing on your hard drive, even after you empty it from the Recycle Bin. This allows you (and other people) to recover files you’ve deleted.

If you’re not careful, this will also allow other people to recover your confidential files, even if you think you’ve deleted them. This is a particularly important concern when you’re disposing of a computer or hard drive.

Windows (and other operating systems) keep track of where files are on a hard drive through “pointers.” Each file and folder on your hard disk has a pointer that tells Windows where the file’s data begins and ends.

When you delete a file, Windows removes the pointer and marks the sectors containing the file’s data as available. From the file system’s point of view, the file is no longer present on your hard drive and the sectors containing its data are considered free space.

– Chris Hoffman (via How To Geek)

So, you might then be wondering: Where on earth do these files go?

If you’re wondering why your computer doesn’t just erase files when you delete them, it’s actually pretty simple. Deleting a file’s pointer and marking its space as available is an extremely fast operation. In contrast, actually erasing a file by overwriting its data takes significantly longer. For example, if you’re deleting a 10 GB file, that would be near-instantaneous. To actually erase the file’s contents, it may take several minutes – just as long as if you were writing 10 gigabytes of data to your hard drive.

– Chris Hoffman (via How To Geek)

We know we’re supposed to back up everything important, but a smug, “I told you so,” isn’t going to get us anywhere in our time of need. What we really need is a handy guide, a one-size-fits-all flowchart that will point us in the direction of file recovery, memory restoration, and technical wizardry!

That’s where My Asset Tag come sailing in, with their lifesaving infographic on hand ready to save you from an evening spent moping (at the very least). Whether your files were saved in the cloud, on your hard drive, a USB or mobile device, they can help you when you need it most. Walking you through various operating systems as well, they guide you to a variety of resources that can answer almost any scenario’s call.

Because if you’ve accidentally deleted your daughter’s Justin Bieber collection, your life won’t be worth living.

Click image to open interactive version (via MyAssetTag).

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