Recovering lost files on a mac deleted by overwriting a folder via finder.
August 30, 2007 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Recovering lost files on a mac deleted by overwriting a folder via finder.

My brother last night was moving a folder with sub folders full of word docs to his USB drive from his Documents folder. This is on a Mac w/ Panther.

The folders were like this:

Documents/2007Things/SubfolderA/(bunch of docs)
Documents/2007Things/SubfolderB/(bunch of docs)
Documents/2007Things/SubfolderC/(bunch of docs)

He draged 2007Things over to the USB drive, then dragged it back. When he went to look subfolders B & C were missing, both on the USB and in Documents. I'm guessing somehow only subfolder A was first dragged over to the USB, then back again, and wrote over the 2007things foldere w/ the fewer sub folders.

He has a not-so-fresh back up on an external drive but he's been working on the various docs in the 2 weeks since the backup.

Unfortunately, he needs the files in the next few days.

I tried DataRescue II, it "saw" a lot of .doc files so I bought it so I could try to recover them and see if they were the missing files.

I now have about 750 word files recovered, by clicking through them, I can see that many are old (2005) and many are most likely auto-saved, one after another of a very similar file w/ no real changes.

So I'm looking for advice on the following:

Any tips on running Data Rescue I may have missed, or any other tips about recovery in this situation of replacing one folder w/ another via the Finder. I did a Through Scan last night and I'm doing a Deleted Scan again right now. Is there anywhere else to look, he hasn't done anything else w/ the computer outside of running data rescue.

Is there a way to browse through all the recovered docs w/out opening them one at a time with Word X? I'd like to give him the option of doing something like just using an arrow key to move to the next file, none of the recovered files have useful names or dates, so he can't see from the outside what might be in them, and there are no previews when opening them via Word.

Thanks for any help.
posted by JulianDay to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're running 10.4 and you're comfortable with the command line, you could use the textutil command to create text versions of each document:

$ textutil -convert txt *.doc

This will create a .txt file for each .doc file in the directory. Then use the Finder to preview the beginning of each file, or use other text file search methods that'll be a lot more efficient than wading through the Word files.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 2:44 PM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Unfortunately, there are a lot of tables in the Word docs, but thanks for the suggestion.
posted by JulianDay at 3:27 PM on August 30, 2007

Recently experiencing some data loss...i can attest to the frustration Data Rescue brings...
Using File Salvage provided some better results and it also has an 'undelete' feature that might narrow down results even more. I think your best bet is indeed file recovery software.
posted by AMP583 at 10:36 PM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

You might have better luck with the USB drive. Have you tried scanning it?

How is the USB drive formatted? Many smaller ones are formatted as Fat32, which means you could scan it from Windows (if you have access to a Win box). There are plenty of free recovery programs for Windows machines (I have a couple from that I use for removable media).

The weird thing is that copying a folder tree like you described should not have resulted in the loss of two of the three subfolders. I assume that you got a file overwrite warning, and that someone clicked "replace" and "do this for all files" - still, the remaining subfolders should not just disappear. I've lost files this way (overwriting newer file with older one by accident) but haven't ever had folders go missing. The copy action should not start by deleting the directory tree, which is what may have occurred based on your description.

Lastly, you say there are lots of Word docs recovered: Can you filter out the obviously incorrect ones by sorting by file size? And doesn't Finder have a thumbnail preview mode, if you bump icon size up higher, or does it use a generic icon for Word docs? (I know it uses previews for images, but my Documents directory is in tree view...)
posted by caution live frogs at 7:00 AM on August 31, 2007

Response by poster: I ran Data rescue on both the USB drive and the HD and did find some files on one and not the other.

I aggree it was weird, but after a little reading online I've found that this a very dangerous "feature" of Finder. It takes the "everything is a file" metaphor to the extreme when overwriting directories, there is a replace warning button but not a "this will not move all the files in this directory to the trash but delete them forever" (or even a merge option ala windows) I think it's weird that OS X has a one click non-undoable delete feature for this operation, but that seems to be why people like pathfinder, I think offers more options in this situation.

Between what I found via Data Rescue and his backup on the external drive he's OK with what he has. He was very lucky to have the external as there were many more files in there than what the recovery program could find.
posted by JulianDay at 1:01 PM on August 31, 2007

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