A number of bare-bones software solutions are available to carry out the veritable magic trick of scanning for and recovering lost data.
RecoverMyFiles goes the extra mile and promises to reunite you with your files even after corruption or formatting.
As well as scouring your hard drive, it'll also search through compact flash cards, floppy drives and other removable media to ensure that you find your missing document or MP3, regardless of its known whereabouts.
Recover your lost files
In a promising start, RecoverMyFiles provides a simple wizard on loading. From this point you can select from a fast or complete "File Search" or "Format Recover", before choosing which parts of your PC to scan.
For users who are likely to be feeling somewhat shell-shocked, having deleted an important work document, it's an easy and non-intimidating process.
Furthermore, it's possible to limit your search results to specific file types, which is useful should you be looking for a certain file. This is because non-specific searches will yield large numbers of files - most of which you won't have created yourself.
Having completed the search, you can browse through the results in either a folder view or, as we preferred, by file type. Clicking "PDF" will, for instance, display all files found of that type.
From our experiences, we found file recovery a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. While RecoverMyFiles willingly displayed plenty of purposefully deleted files after its scans, our attempts to "accidentally" delete particular files before telling the software where to look immediately afterwards didn't necessarily reveal them.
Although file recovery isn't a speedy process at the best of times, we also found the scanning process a bit tardier here than with some rival programs, with five-minute scan times for single folder scans making multiple searches strenuous.
RecoverMyFiles has some nice touches, demonstrating that it's at pains to live up to its name. For example, launching the publisher's Web site through the software brings up a warning informing you that using applications - a browser in this case - might overwrite data.
A particularly useful feature built into the software is the ability to preview files in a small pane at the bottom of the interface.
Although this is reliant to some degree on the file you're recovering being intact enough to be understood, it helps speed up the process of retrieving a file that you can't completely recall the name of.
Perhaps concluding that navigating Windows without on-the-fly file previews would be unacceptable having experienced it in RecoverMyFiles, GetData has also included ExplorerView, which adds this functionality to Windows Explorer.
Powerful recovery tool
Although perhaps not quite as effortless and free of frustration as its wizard might suggest, at its heart GetData's file recovery offering is a well-thought out and powerful tool, if a little lethargic.
As well as enabling us to find the majority of the files we deleted, results are easily sorted through. Despite the program's quirks, it's still infinitely preferable to hasty Word document re-writes following accidental deletion.