Pandora Corp. has launched the latest beta version of Pandora Recovery, its software for finding and recovering deleted files on your PC. The program scans your hard drive and builds an index of existing and deleted files and directories. Once the scanning is complete, you have several options for managing deleted files. It works only on NTFS-formatted drives — which you have if you’re running Windows XP or Vista.

The best feature about this program may be its price — free. Download the program for free at this page.

The second best feature is its ease of use. The program is quick to install and quick to learn. A “wizard” took only moments to index my hard drive. You are given the option of searching for a particular file or browsing all deleted files. I had no success with the search option, because the deleted files’ names were altered. The browse feature seemed easier to use. The index shows all files on your computer, with deleted files tagged with a red X. But with a click of a button, you can change the display to show deleted files only.

As you browse the deleted files, you have the option to “preview” certain types of files before recovering them. This works only with text and image files. If the file is corrupt, the preview will not work. To recover a file, simply highlight it and select that option. The program prompts you for a location to store the recovered file, suggesting that it be on a separate drive from that containing the deleted file.

OK so far. But my attempts to recover deleted files met with mixed results. I was able to recover several text and image files. But every time I tried to recover a Microsoft Word file, I got only a jumbled portion of metadata. I do not know whether the problem is with Pandora or with Word. I even tried creating new Word files, deleting them and immediately recovering them, with no success. I did not attempt to recover executable files.

The problem with file recovery is that deleted files are quickly corrupted. The file remains on your computer, but the disk space it occupies becomes available to be written over by other files. As new files are created or new software installed, the deleted file becomes partially or completely overwritten. If the deleted file has not been overwritten, it should be recoverable. In some cases, partially or fully overwritten files can be recovered, but they most likely will be partially or completely corrupted.

Which leads to another nice feature in Pandora: Right click on a file to view its properties. This will tell you whether and to what extent the file has been overwritten.

Bottom line: If you need to recover a deleted file, try Pandora Recovery. Although my results were mixed, the program is fast, easy to use and, best of all, free.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.