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[ The PC Guide | System Care Guide | Backups and Disaster Recovery | The Risks To Your Data ]

Accidental Deletion

Since computer users are human, they make mistakes. One of the most common is accidentally deleting files from the hard disk. There are many different protection mechanisms and "undeletion" utilities that can help recover from this, but sometimes you delete a file and then remember a few days later that you really need it, and in this situation a backup is often the only thing that can save you.

There are other ways that you may accidentally delete files, maybe without even realizing it. Let's suppose that you have twenty files named MEMO01.DOC through MEMO20.DOC in a directory, and you want to move them to the directory C:\OLDMEMOS. So you type:

  • COPY MEMO*.DOC C:\OLDMEMOS
  • DEL MEMO*.DOC

But let's suppose that you made a mistake and the C:\OLDMEMOS directory doesn't exist, or you spelled it wrong when you created it. If this is the case then the copy command above will not be able to copy the files to a C:\OLDMEMOS directory. Instead, it will interpret the "C:\OLDMEMOS" as specifying the name of a file instead of a directory, and will copy the contents of all twenty files to a regular file named "OLDMEMOS" in the C:\ root directory. The end result will be a single file containing the data in each of the 20 files, concatenated end-to-end. (You may be able to recover from this if these are plain text files, but otherwise you are in trouble.) When the "DEL MEMO*.DOC" command is executed, it will remove all the files from the directory they started in. You may not even realize that this is happening. Of course being careful can avoid this sort of problem (be sure of what you delete!) but a backup can save you from the occasional accident.

Accidental deletion can occur even within a file. In creating this web site, I started first with a very large, single document. On more than one occasion, I deleted sections of the text that I thought I didn't need, and was glad that I had archived older copies of the file that I could refer to, to restore the parts that I found out I actually needed later on.

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