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Is it possible to recover files off a disk that has been reformatted or initialized?

Answer: When a disk is formatted, the directory structure of the disk is rewritten, but the actual files are not deleted. Therefore it may be possible to recover some of the files from a disk that has been reformatted or initialized. As long as the reformatting did not write over the files you want to recover, it is sometimes possible to recover the files using a program like Norton Utilities Unerase, File Rescue Plus, Handy Recovery, or FinalRecovery.

These programs will search the disk, whether it be a hard drive, floppy disk, or other media, for valid files. Even though the files are "invisible" to the system, the program should be be able to find them and list the ones that are recoverable. You have the best chance of recovering files if you run the recovery utility immediately after the disk has been formatted. Most disk recovery utilities can also recover files that have been accidentally deleted.

Published: January 22, 2005 — by Per Christensson

Answer from the PC Help Center