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when restore directories and files, is it possible to restore the whole path?

In my case, my entire partition has been emptied at one time by some unknown reason. I would like to recover all the original data on the partition, and the original directory tree-like structures on that partition i.e. the path to every file.


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Please provide more information. What OS and file system are we talking about here? What do you think caused the partition to go away? – user3463 Sep 12 '12 at 3:02
@RandolphWest: I detailed the accident… Hope someone will be able to help me! – SteveO Sep 12 '12 at 4:37
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Yes, it is possible and I (unfortunately) have personal experience with doing this. I highly recommend using good data recovery software such as GetDataBack for NTFS, RStudio and Zero Assumption Recovery. Run a thorough/deep scan of the drive (be prepared to run it overnight since it may take quite a few hours to complete), then you can recover the files with original folder structures whenever possible (note that you may need to toggle the relevant option under the program's settings). Also, some files may be recoverable but their folder structures may not (especially if you turn on the known file type scan/identify feature), so remember to look in those sections of the scan results as well.

Important! Do not touch the empty partition (i.e. copy files to it etc.) and always recover to a different physical hard disk (such as an external one), not just to another partition or worse the same one. It should be obvious really but I've seen many make this mistake., and then they wonder why they could not recover most of their files.

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Thanks, Karan! I tried RStudio, and it seems to be able to find most of my lost files and folders. I now have two specific questions regarding using RStudio. Would you please take a look at them? Thanks a lot!… and… – SteveO Sep 13 '12 at 20:24
> Yes, it is possible Not necessarily. It depends on how the data was lost. – Synetech Sep 17 '12 at 20:24
@Synetech: Yep, why else do you think I italicised whenever possible? :) – Karan Sep 18 '12 at 18:59

It depends on the recovery program. Some programs scan the file-system to find deleted files and use the available information to recover filenames and directory structure. Other programs do a “deep scan” which examines the disk itself and looks for signatures of various file-types to identify possible files. In this case, they don’t have any information available about the filename or directory structure, the file’s date, or even its exact size (it will round it up to the nearest cluster size).

Your results will depend on how the partition was erased. If the files were merely deleted, then you may be able to get back the filenames and directory structure (to some extent). If the file-system was somehow wiped or overwritten, then you’ll have to settle for doing a deep-scan and manually identifying the large dump of recovered and numbered files. If the partition itself was wiped or overwritten, then you may not be able to get anything back.

I’ve tried many programs and was throughly impressed with Undelete 360.

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Thanks, Synetech! Undelete 360 seems to only have basic scan no deep scan? Its scan found nothing on the affected partition. Recuva's basic scan didn't find anything either, but its deep scan did find many files. – SteveO Sep 12 '12 at 16:03
Then that shows that the file-system information is gone. Something erased all data such that filenames (and all related information) is gone forever, so undelete tools won’t work. Your only hope now is to use a recovery program that searches for known filetypes. This means two things: (1) you will have a single folder full of files with generic numbered names (e.g., file0001, file0002,…), the current date, and sizes that are rounded up (i.e., extra junk at the end), and (2) any files that you had that are of a type that the program does not recognize will not be recovered. – Synetech Sep 12 '12 at 19:04

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