Deleted Files in Windows: Gone but Not Forgotten

By | June 4, 2018
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Deleted Files in Windows: Gone but Not Forgotten

In our usual Cloudeight way, w’re going to take complex and geeky subject and put it in simple terms. Today, we’re going to discuss deleted files.

When you “delete” files they’re not really deleted, but they’re not taking up space either. It’s sort of like they’re in purgatory.

Think of your hard drive as a chalk board. When you erase a chalk board, you can’t see what you erased (very well) but somewhere in the slate of the chalk board is everything you’ve ever written on it. But still you can write something new on it. So it is with your hard drive.

When you “delete” a file, you’re telling Windows that you don’t want that file anymore and instructing Windows to show the space that the file once occupied as free to use for something else. So Windows when Windows shows space as being “available” we refer to that hard drive space as free space. If you have free space available on your hard drive you can install a new program or use the space for files and folders.

Yet, way down deep on the magnetic surface of your hard drive, the file that you deleted is still there. That’s how the FBI and other authorities gather evidence against criminals who think by deleting or formatting their hard drives they can erase all the incriminating evidence it might contain. But there are software programs available that can can recover deleted files and restore them.

If you want to try recovering some deleted files from your hard drive so you can see how deleted doesn’t mean erased, use a program like Recuva to find and restore deleted files from your hard drive. Recuva has a free version available as well as a paid version. Neither version is nearly as powerful as the forensic software used by authorities, but once you see how many deleted files you can recover by using Recuva you will quickly see that deleting a file does not remove it from your hard drive.

Now if you deleted something in the real world, you’d never get it back. In the cyber world, deleted doesn’t mean erased. Remember that!

One more thing, Columbo. There is software available that can overwrite free hard drive space with gibberish. Some of these are pretty good at obfuscating whatever is on the hard drive. Some programs overwrite the free space with gibberish 35 times – all this to cover up “deleted” files.

What the heck does deleted mean anyway?

11 thoughts on “Deleted Files in Windows: Gone but Not Forgotten

    1. infoave Post author

      Windows.old? I suppose if you wanted to spend hundreds of dollars and send your hard drive to a firm that specializes in data recovery, but even then, if you’ve used your computer since Windows.old was deleted, some of the data recovered would not be recoverable – and you certainly would be disappointed in trying to recover data from it with a free program like Recuva.

      Contrary to popular belief, windows.old does not contain a full backup. It only contains the files that were modified during an upgrade. Windows will reconstruct the old version by replacing the files to their rightful locations. Files that weren’t modified will not be in the windows.old folder. It would be much easier, cheaper and wiser just to keep good file/folders and image backups rather than trying to excavate data from a deleted Windows.OLD.

      Reply
  1. Betty Lou

    Not to change the subject, but I have been wanting to ask you for some advice on a topic that seems unresolvable. I have looked, high and low, for an app that works on clearing unwanted items from the right-click context menus to no avail. Considering your expertise on all PC problems, would you recommend any app that will do the job? Thank you for your reply.

    Reply
    1. infoave Post author

      We covered adding and removing things from the Windows right-click context menu

        here

      .

      Reply
      1. Richard

        re deleted files article: you provide a means of downloading an app or something but never defines what the download does.? deletes deleted files? tries to delete a given deleted file ?

        Reply
        1. infoave Post author

          We provided a link to Recuva – and we even said it can in some cases recover deleted file. So, I’m not sure if you read the article? Did you miss this part? Did you click the link to read more about Recuva to see what it does?

          “…use a program like Recuva to find and restore deleted files from your hard drive. Recuva has a free version available as well as a paid version. Neither version is nearly as powerful as the forensic software used by authorities, but once you see how many deleted files you can recover by using Recuva you will quickly see that deleting a file does not remove it from your hard drive….”

          Reply
  2. Richard

    re deleted files article: you provide a means of downloading an app or something but never defines what the download does.? deletes deleted files? tries to delete a given deleted file ?

    Reply
    1. infoave Post author

      We provided a link to Recuva – and we even said it can in some cases recover deleted file. So, I’m not sure if you read the article? Did you miss this part? Did you click the link to read more about Recuva to see what it does?

      “…use a program like Recuva to find and restore deleted files from your hard drive. Recuva has a free version available as well as a paid version. Neither version is nearly as powerful as the forensic software used by authorities, but once you see how many deleted files you can recover by using Recuva you will quickly see that deleting a file does not remove it from your hard drive….”

      Reply
      1. MARIE HABBICK

        Not a reply but totally unrelated … I want to give my old laptop to a neighbor who has no computer at all. Problem is, I had Quicken and did my banking on that laptop plus made online purchases, etc. I have deleted all but Windows from the laptop but I’m afraid that’s not enough if anyone REALLY wanted to dig out all my old, personal stuff. Is there a way that I can safely prepare this laptop for my sweet neighbors??
        Thanks … you guys are awesome!!

        Reply
        1. infoave Post author

          Windows 10? Windows 7? What version of Windows? Do you think your neighbor would really use forensic software to dig out deleted files? If you’re using Windows 10 it’s really simple. So let me know what version of Windows you’re using and we’ll tell you what you should do if you want to be 100% safe.

          Reply

Leave a Reply to Renee Matschkal Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *