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Did You Know Computer Files Permanently Deleted Are Not Actually Deleted?

Where Do Deleted Files In Computers Go

This post is also available in: हिन्दी (Hindi) العربية (Arabic)

When you delete a file in a computer, it is generally moved to the Recycle Bin. Do you think deleting a file from the recycle bin permanently deletes the file? The answer is “NO”. A file is never deleted from a computer system.

Where do the deleted files go even after being permanently deleted? Why does this happen? 

When you 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.

Where Do Deleted Files In Computers Go?

Where Do Deleted Files In Computers Go

Operating systems (such as Windows, or any other OS) keep track of where files are stored. It is done through “pointers.” Each file and folder on your hard disk has a pointer that tells the OS where the file’s data begins and ends.

When you delete a file, OS 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.

However, until the OS actually writes new data over the sectors containing the contents of the file, the file is still recoverable. A file recovery program can scan a hard drive for these deleted files and restore them. If the file has been partially overwritten, the file recovery program can only recover a part of the data.

Why Files Are Not Deleted Immediately From A Computer System?

Now, if you’re wondering why your computer doesn’t just erase files when you delete them, it’s actually a time saving exercise. 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 almost instantaneous (just removing the pointer). On the other hand, to actually erase the file’s contents, it may take several minutes – just as long as if you were writing 10 GB of data to your hard drive.

To increase performance and save time, the OS doesn’t erase a file’s contents when it’s deleted. 

Tips To Recover Deleted Files

If you’ve accidentally deleted a file and need to get it back, there are some things you should bear in mind:

  • You should recover the file as soon as possible: As the OS continues to write files to your hard drive, the chances of it overwriting the deleted files increases. If you want to be sure you can recover the file, you should perform a recovery immediately.
  • You should try to use the hard drive as little as possible: The best way to recover a deleted file from a hard drive is powering the computer down immediately after the file is deleted, inserting the hard drive into another computer, and using an operating system running on another hard drive to recover it. If you try to recover a file by installing a file-recovery program on the same hard drive, the installation process and normal use of the hard drive can overwrite the file.

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Image Credit: Hard drive photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

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