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Issue #390: Jan 11–17, 2015

Q: Two weeks ago I was renaming and placing a lot of photos in folders in order to make them easier to find. Yesterday, I decided to continue the reorganization project and found that all the folders are empty. What might I do to find those photos? I have done searches for photos, searched all drives and folders to no avail.

– Don K.
Shalimar, Florida

A: Well, the first place I would check is your computer’s Recycle Bin.  That’s the default place where files go when they’re deleted.  For anyone who is unfamiliar with the Recycle Bin, it’s an icon on your PC’s Desktop that can look like a lot of different things depending on how your system is configured.  Generally, it looks like a trash can or a bin, with the universal symbol for recycling on the side.  There are two different icons that represent when the Recycle Bin is empty, or has something in it.  You can open the Recycle Bin by double-clicking its icon.  You’ll get what looks a lot like a regular file browser window, except you can’t open or run any of the files or folders.  What you can do with them is restore them – either automatically to the original location from which they were deleted, or to a location of your choice by simply dragging them out of the file listing and dropping them somewhere else.  You can also free up the space that’s being occupied by these files by emptying the Recycle Bin.  There’s a link at the top of the file window, or you can right-click the Recycle Bin icon and select “Empty Recycle Bin” from the context menu.  That could be quite a bit of hard drive space if you’ve never emptied it before.

If your files aren’t in the Recycle Bin, Don, then there are two things that might have happened. Either they got dragged and dropped someplace else, or they got deleted, bypassing the Recycle Bin.  The drag/drop possibility is a very annoying “feature” built into Windows (thanks, Bill) that makes it possible for you to accidentally move groups of files and even entire directories by accidentally clicking the mouse button while the cursor is in-motion over a list of files.  This actually happened to me on the Geek Lights on the Corner laptop just last week.  I was making a last-minute adjustment to the schedule because it was the final show night, and I inadvertently dragged the entire directory full of sequence files for this year’s show into another directory.  I didn’t notice it until show time arrived, and out in the yard — nothing happened.  I spent a panicked 5 minutes on the laptop, frantically searching for the missing files until I realized what had happened.  It was easily corrected once I figured out the problem.  You say you’ve already searched “all drives and folders”, and I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.  However, only you can say whether you know how to properly search the entire directory tree, including folders owned by the system, which a standard search normally doesn’t examine.

That leaves the possibility that the photos were deleted without using the Recycle Bin. If that’s the case, you need to know that every file operation that you do on your PC reduces the possibility of successfully recovering the files.  So if you think they’re there, the first thing to do is stop using the computer.  Next, (hopefully on a different machine) perform a Google search on “photo recovery software” and pick one of the many free utility programs that are designed to recover photos from accidentally-formatted flash cards, but which also work equally well on more traditional magnetic media. If your photos are to be found, one of these programs will find them.

One Response to “Issue #390: Jan 11–17, 2015”

  • jchobin says:

    Don’t blame Bill. Drag/Drop predates Windows and can be traced as far back as Apple (Lisa) circa 1979. If you want to thank someone, thank Xerox for developing the first GUI and Mouse. Apple/Jobs then stole the concept from Xerox, although believe Bill/Microsoft developed the GUI for Apple.

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