Tech Line

File Recovery Frustration

Lost some files? Here are some tools that may help.

Chris:I have a peculiar issue with disk space on a Windows XP machine. I enabled File and Print sharing, which created a Temporary Documents folder. I copied a large number of files (totaling about 8GB) into a share in this folder from another machine. Once I was done with the files (but before deleting them) I turned off File and Print Sharing. The Temporary Documents folder is no longer there (nor is the share I created), but the hard drive is still showing the additional 8GB of space is being taken up.

I tried to re-enable File and Print Sharing to get back to where I was, but the Temporary Documents folder won't come back. I tried searching TechNet for information on how to get back the disk space, but couldn't find anything that seem to apply to this situation. Other than using a utility like Symantec's Partition Magic or reformatting the drive, is there anything I can do to recover this space?
— Brian

I need to be careful here since I have a pretty biased opinion about file recovery products. Some of you that disagree may want to comment that my response should be encircled in fine print that reads "advertisement."

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Now that I've got that out of the way, I'll go ahead and deliver my advertisement. From my experience, file recovery begins and ends with the tools from Winternals Software. I have found FileRestore to be excellent for recovering accidentally deleted files or folders. This product supports FAT, FAT32, and NTFS, and can recover files from hard disks, floppy disks, and Jaz or Zip drives.

For file loss problems that resulted from disk corruption, which is the likely problem here, a tool such as Disk Commander will probably do the trick. This tool is included with Winternals ERD Commander 2005. A few months ago, a junior admin that I work with accidentally deleted every partition off of a 120 GB drive. The drive had 80 GB worth of saved files stored on it. With Disk Commander, I was able to recover all 80 GB of files and restore the original partition.

Disk corruption can cause a variety of problems with file access, so running chkdsk /f <volume> should probably be the first part of the troubleshooting process. This tool will check for disk errors and attempt to repair any errors that are found.

With preventative maintenance, we usually don't consider tools that could have prevented data loss until we've actually experienced it. Since most organizations rarely back up workstations, the most frequently used data protection methods would be to use features such as mapped network drives, offline files or folder redirection to ensure that user files are located on a server that is backed up regularly. This way, if a file is lost, restoring from backup could be one of the first options.

While I'm on the subject of errors, one of the biggest mistakes that I often see new administrators make is that they remove errors from the computer screen as soon as they appear. Error message removal, from what I've seen, has worked like a 21st century version of the game "Missile Command." If a pop-up error occurs, the admin quickly hits the window with his mouse to make it go away before actually reading the message. If a blue screen of death is trying to report a hex error code, many admins quickly shut down the system while shouting "Take that! BSOD!" OK, well maybe that last quote just applies to me.

Anyway, with disk errors in general, once you have the stop message error code, take it over to this Windows XP Resource Kit site to find a solution. If your particular code is not listed, a quick Google search will probably yield results.

With disk and file recovery, I realize that I'm only scratching the surface of the available tools out there. If you have a favorite tool, please share it with your fellow readers by posting a comment to this column.

[Chris Wolf has just released Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress) and also welcomes your virtualization questions for this column. —Editors]

About the Author

Chris Wolf is a Microsoft MVP for Windows --Virtual Machine and is a MCSE, MCT, and CCNA. He's a Senior Analyst for Burton Group who specializes in the areas of virtualization solutions, high availability, storage and enterprise management. Chris is the author of Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley), and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).learningstore-20/">Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley) and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).

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