This question is a bit long, but people often prefer to have all the details instead of being required to ask for them, so I've included as much detail as possible.
I received a frantic call from a friend who had just accidentally deleted their
Desktop folder in Windows using shift+delete.
Apparently, they only perform backups once a week (not often enough, IMO), and had an entire week's worth of work in that folder on their SSD.
Desktop folder was on a data-only NTFS partition, and no applications besides a file manager were open at the time. Their machine uses Windows 7.
They already had
Wise Data Recovery installed on a different partition, and had an additional third NTFS formatted partition with many GBs of empty space.
They didn't have any other drives available.
I recommended that they do absolutely nothing except run
Recuva right away to undelete (recover) all folders and files from the partition that had the
Desktop folder, and send the output to that third (mostly empty) partition. It turns out that
Recuva has a serious bug that prevents recovery when the
Desktop folder has been deleted, so they were not able to attempt an immediate recovery.
About 15 minutes had now elapsed since they deleted the
Desktop folder. Their computer remained on during that entire time.
Given the lack of a successful recovery with
Recuva, I then recommended that they do absolutely nothing except now run
Wise Data Recovery to try to recover all possible folders and files from the partition that had the
Desktop folder and restore them to that third (mostly empty) partition.
Well, it turns out
Wise Data Recovery also has a bit of problem when the
Desktop folder has been deleted. It took me about 5 minutes to figure out a workaround over the phone, and they were able to perform what looked like a full recovery using that tool.
Unfortunately 99% of the recovered files contain nothing but nulls.
I then recommended they perform a "deep scan" with
Wise Data Recovery. After about half an hour,
Wise Data Recovery completed its deep scan. My friend then performed the recovery again, but the results were no better.
There was much cussing on the other end of the line, and my friend's stress was palpable.
I had them try
Recuva again, but that previously mentioned bug with
Recuva is pretty nasty. It took me about 15 minutes to figure out a workaround for that bug, and then my friend was able to use
Recuva to undelete the
Desktop folder and all its subfolders and files (onto that third partition).
Unfortunately, again, almost every recovered file consisted of nothing but nulls.
I was a little surprised that neither tool could successfully recover the data. I was surprised because:
- Very little time had elapsed since the deletion (thus if TRIM was enabled, it may not have had much to reallocate).
- The computer was not turned off, placed in hibernation, placed in standby, nor was the user ever logged off.
- My friend describes that machine as "lean and mean" with all extraneous Windows services disabled.
- Shadow service was disabled on the data partition and the third partition.
- No data at all should have been written to the partition that had the
Desktopfolder by any applications.
- Besides the file manager, no applications were running.
- None of the partitions were encrypted by the OS or any third-party software tools (though true, Journeyman Geek has pointed out the following may be relevant: Why does my SSD internally encrypt data, even without a password set?).
- All restored data was written to a separate partition (albeit, on an SSD, I'm not sure how much that helps).
For over 1.25GB of deleted work, only about 80KB was recovered.
Question: Given such a short period of time since the deletion, and the lack of activity on the computer, why would those recovery tools mostly only find data blocks filled with nulls?
BTW, this question is long, and I appreciate you reading it. As of this writing, my friend's computer is still turned on and not being used. Ideas for recovery are welcome; if a new question is appropriate for that, please just ask, and I can post an edited copy of this question, with the focus on that topic.