How To Recover Permanently Deleted Files (Canon CR2, JPG and more) on Windows

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In this article you will learn that not all is lost (in most cases), and it's still  possible to recover accidently deleted Canon CR2 files (I'm writing about Canon, as I'm writing from my own experience).

Here is my case study: I bought a new Asus laptop about a year ago, it did came with a 500GB built in HDD storage, the main purpose for this laptop was to perform some everyday computing and post-processing RAW images in Adobe Lightroom. If you are a photographer - you get the point.

It took me about one year - when I noticed I'm running out of disk space - most of my 500 GB disk space was occupied with images (Raw files), the photos kept rolling in, I was busy with my home remodeling works, and had no chance to visit city to buy an external HDD to make a backup of my image library, and for that moment it seemed a bit too pricey to buy a separate server (well what else a server architect could do, as to look for ways to build my internal/external cloud). For now I'm running few VPS on Linode spending about $100/mo. The disk space on all those servers combined, doesn't exceed 200GB, so to build a cloud on Linode for storing images only would cost me about $200/mo - too pricey, right. OK, there are other services for much cheaper price, but that's a topic of this article after all.

Anyhow - I started to delete some images I knew I will not need them in future, and I get some free space to upload new images. As I'm shooting mostly in RAW, one single picture weighs about 17-20MB, so it' s easy to run out of space in just a year. 

Then I realized - Adobe Lightroom is importing all CR2 files to a special folder (catalog), I'm post- processing all images and exporting them to other folder in already compressed folder in JPG format. So i actually don't need that Adobe Lightroom folder (Here a true-spirit Lightroomer won't agree with me, and fine with me - you are right), but in my case - That's a lot of space to be cleaned and roll in more pictures.

I did the magic - SHIFT+DELETE and I had extra 160GB of free space. Amazing. For about next 3-4 month' s I have a disk space and I don't need to worry about buying external HDD. Gosh, I felt so happy.

Then, this morning I realized - I still have few scenes not been post processed from that folder I deleted, and then the panic started - really valuable scenes - landscapes of Spain, Norway and more. Gosh I thought.

No, there must be a way to get my permanently deleted files back. The good news there are many ways of getting back your deleted files. As a lazy person I ended up with the easiest (still the riskiest way) - a little program for Windows Users - Recuva from Piriform.

Recuva can recover pictures, music, documents, videos, emails or any other file type you’ve lost. And it can recover from any rewriteable media you have: memory cards, external hard drives, USB sticks and more!

With help of Recuva I was able to get my recently deleted files back

.Recovering deleted files on Windows

Recovering deleted files on Windows

Recuva will work great if you have just recently permanently deleted your files. Here is the basics how this works:

Understanding Windows file deletion

When you delete a file in Windows, what happens?

Here's an example: You open Windows Explorer, navigate to C:\Files and highlight the file test.txt.

When you ask Windows Explorer to list the files in the C:\Files folder, Windows doesn't go through every file manually. Instead, it has an index of all the files in every folder that it can refer to - it's much faster. Windows Explorer uses that index to show you the names of the files.

Now, say you press the Del key. 

All Windows does is erase the test.txt entry from the index - not the hard drive. The contents of the file are still there, but you can't access it.

If only you could recreate that index entry so you could get at the file! That's what Recuva does.

When a file has an index entry (in something called the Master File Table (MFT), Windows makes sure not to overwrite the space on the hard drive where the file lives. Once you delete the file, however, Windows is free to use that 'blank space' for other files.

Eventually, if you add, copy, move or save enough other files, the contents of the test.txt file will be overwritten. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to recover.

Ironically, the shorter the life of the file, the harder it will also be to recover. Say you create test.txt at 9:01am and delete it at 9:10am. Chances are, it will be quickly overwritten by temporary files. Windows assigns the lowest MFT entry it can find for a new file. When you delete that new file, Windows marks that MFT entry as available. Since the MFT entry is a low number, Windows will reuse it as soon as new files are created.