It has been my experience that the most important discoveries are born out of necessity. Take the latest technological snafu presented by my daughter. I found her crying in utter despair over having just unintentionally deleted from our camcorder ALL of our family videos of the last 3 years. She realized immediately what she'd done and there was no amount of consoling I could offer to ease her mind, until I - perhaps foolishly - promised I'd look into a way to recover the deleted files.
Now this comes on the heels of a recent disaster where my wife lost ALL of her files when her external hard-drive died. In that episode, we'd found out that recovering those files would potentially cost somewhere around $2,000 dollars - upon hearing which, my wife did not even bat a eye while I nearly lost my lunch. So it was to my great relief that the computer store called back to report that the drive could not be saved, as in fact, one percent of these cases cannot.
I bring that up to show that I was not hopeful of any kind of recovery, which is why I felt kind of foolish making that promise to my daughter.
A couple of days go by in which my daughter repeatedly asks me if I'd saved the camera videos. By then I knew I wasn't going to get out of this easily. But I was also growing more and more curious about finding some solution to this conundrum. And curiousity finally got the better of me.
I was browsing no more than a few minutes when I found the answer graciously and generously provided by another person who was immersed in a similar type of data disaster. And I'm not talking about one of those "coulda, woulda, shoulda" type of answers that you frequently find online. This person did their homework and FOUND the answer.
Thank God they did do their homework too. Because this statement could have easily applied to me too: "[the program] runs through the terminal with a basic user interface so my initial reaction was ‘ugh – this looks too hard’ and I forgot about it." But after taking a second look and realizing how simple operating the software program was, she could report with me, "what do you know, it recovered everything!"
And I can tell you too, truly, this thing works. I went from having almost no hope that any of the videos deleted from the camcorder would ever be recovered to having a folder sitting on my computer with every last bit of those deleted files intact. I was ecstatic!
So now, while reveling in this latest discovery of mine, that's not really mine but a person named Fuzzy14 here, I now resolved to record this discovery here under things that work. Because there's nothing more inspiring than discovering things that work.
The program is PhotoRec and it can be downloaded from cgsecurity.org, the website that produces it, here. I really can't say enough about how amazing this program is. But I need to say that the risk is all yours if you decide to use it.
And another thing that bears emphasis if you decide to use PhotoRec, is that you need to follow the instructions that are provided on cgsecurity.org carefully and diligently. The instructions are not hard or complicated. But if you're someone like me who is not that comfortable around a terminal interface that PhotoRec operates by, you could miss it altogether, or - worse - make matters worse (as in do some permanent damage to your files). For example, I would not let my daughter or an average nine year-old try to operate this program. But if you're a Dad or Mom who is comfortable on a Mac or Windows machine, this should not be a problem for you.
With that, have at it!
Additional Note: This program comes together with another program called TestDisk which is possibly the more weighty data recovery program. I'm going to have to dig into this program shortly to try and recover some files that were "lost" when my external Seagate drive had the biscuit some time ago. Most indications are that there is no hope of recovery outside of some high cost forensic data recovery service. However, I will give it a try.
TestDisk is available under the same link for Photorec above. But here is the direct link: TestDisk
On a further note, I recently found a good YouTube describing how to use TestDisk for recovering files from a "dead" hard drive. That video can be found here or you can view it above.