How can I get my project back?
November 2, 2009 11:47 AM   Subscribe

I accidentally deleted an important project yesterday that's due today. I deleted an 'unused' folder, but forgot that my files were set to save to that folder instead of to their appropriate locations. As a result, I lost pretty much everything. I cleared the recycle bin yesterday as well, thinking the folder was empty! I'm on a Mac OS X. Is there anyway to get these back without paying $100 for file recovery software? I don't have time machine running.
posted by biochemist to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you just now emptied the trash, and your hard disk has lots of space free, then your odds are very good for recovery.

But unless it's completely impossible for you, STOP USING THAT MAC right now so that nothing overwrites that space. Don't log out, restart or shut down. Just leave it as-is, let it sleep, whatever. Then using another Mac, read this thread and start following the advice that will follow in this thread, or just Google "Undelete a folder in OS X" and you will find many shareware utilities that do this.

(I would probably try the Unix 'undelete' command first, but that's only an option if you had the OS X Dev Tools installed, and you do not want to start installing big packages now.)
posted by rokusan at 11:53 AM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Now that you're using a different computer to read this....

I've had good luck with Data Rescue II twice: once when I stupidly emptied the trash on a "second" copy of some files (oops) and once when I removed a USB drive in mid-write, leaving it very unhappy.
posted by rokusan at 11:55 AM on November 2, 2009

This comment of mine from a while back is still relevant, except that some Macs now no longer have FireWire ports, so you can't do FireWire Target Disk mode, and Data Rescue II is now Data Rescue 3.
posted by jjg at 12:00 PM on November 2, 2009

I have used this software on Mac before. It works very well to recover deleted files.

Good Luck... I feel your pain.
posted by yoyoceramic at 12:30 PM on November 2, 2009

I have a huge fear of doing this. I've been using JungleDisk for about three years, and since I started school again it's been doing an incremental backup of my class documents on the hour. I point Jungle Disk to the folders I want to back up, and every hour it scans those folders for changes and sends copies of modified documents to Amazon's S3 servers. If I lose my laptop I can log in from any computer (there's a USB version as well as cross-platform versions) and download everything I need.

I hope you don't think I'm rubbing your nose in it, and I hope the solutions above work for you. This is a HUGE fear of mine.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:31 PM on November 2, 2009

let it sleep
Don't let it sleep! It'll write out the contents of memory to disk, and that's a jumbo 2-4gb write.
posted by fightorflight at 1:40 PM on November 2, 2009

Fightorflight is right, my mistake: sleeping is also bad for at least some Macs. So if it's not too late, disable sleep for now in System Prefs > Energy Saver.
posted by rokusan at 1:56 PM on November 2, 2009

Fightorflight- unless OS X uses different words, "sleep" means a low power mode where it's almost completely off, but is still on. "Hibernate" is where it writes the contents to the disk and shuts down.

Also, if it's anything like Windows, there is already a file on the disk that it uses to write the memory contents out to- so I don't *think* it will disturb anything either way.
posted by gjc at 2:26 PM on November 2, 2009

Again: stop using that computer! Booting off a CD containing recovery software is OK, but booting off the drive to be recovered potentially overwrites data to be recovered.

I come here to sing the praises of FileSalvage. It's not cheap, but I've got a great success story.
Just last week I used FileSalvage to recover 60k+ accidentally deleted emails. This is after Data Rescue 2 only came up with 27. One great thing about FileSalvage is that if the file format you're recovering isn't built-in, you can provide a few examples and have it learn what characteristics to look for.

Data recovery usually a takes a great deal of time. I can only hope you've got enough.
posted by now i'm piste at 2:36 PM on November 2, 2009

Yeah, OS X doesn't really have a user-visible way to handle the difference between sleep and hibernate. The real thing is somewhere between the two: when you go into sleep, it writes out the memory as if it were hibernating, but then just drops into sleep. If power is lost while it's in sleep mode, then when it reboots it'll act as if it's restoring from hibernate.

(There's a preference to change this, but it's Terminal-level stuff and hard to make stick, so I don't think the OP will have set it).
posted by fightorflight at 2:37 PM on November 2, 2009

I tried Photorec, but all I got was documents that appear to be instruction files for Photorec. I gave it a second look and it doesn't actually list my HDD as available for recovering files. What should I do?
posted by biochemist at 3:39 PM on November 2, 2009

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