By Eric Geier

As you may have already discovered, when you delete files from shares on your network they really vanish. Unlike with local files, they are permanently deleted instead of being sent to the Recycle Bin where you can recover them if needed. Obviously, this may become a huge problem if you accidentally delete that important work or school document. Instead of “My dog ate my homework!” you’d explain “My network ate my homework!”.

Though Microsoft and Windows won’t help you with this seemingly simple but potentially disastrous networking issue, you can use third-party programs. This is an example of just how much—or little—technology and computers are developed with the human in mind. It seems like Microsoft and other OS developers could have fixed the issue long ago—Vista release candidates actually included a network recycle bin feature, but were removed in the final releases. Nevertheless, we’ll figure out how to get around the problem, so you can save your homework excuses for times you really need it.

Discovering the Life-Saver, Undelete

You can use a recycle bin replacement, such as Undelete by Diskeeper Corporation, to get the file recovery support for shared drives and folders. These third-party programs are all-in-one deletion recovery solutions. Anything that’s deleted from a computer loaded with the program will be moved to the new recycle bin. This even included files deleted by remote network users or files you delete from flash and removable storage devices.

Making Sure You’re Covered

When you install Undelete on a computer, only local files on that computer are protected. For example, if you only install Undelete on your main computer, files you delete from shared folders on other computers won’t be moved to the Undelete recycle bin, even if they are deleted from the main computer. Only files physically on the main computer will use the new recycle bin, whether deleted by someone on the main computer or a remote network user.

For complete protection, you’d need to install Undelete on each PC, which requires purchasing multiple licenses. However, you can save a great deal of money by using a single PC to serve files across the network. If other users want to share their files or folders, they can just drag them into the shared folder on the file server PC.

Using Undelete to Recover Network Files

Once you open Undelete, you’ll notice it differs from the traditional recycle bin. Don’t be worried if you see folders listed that shouldn’t be deleted. Instead of just listing the files, it shows the full path to the deleted files. So if you delete something from your Documents folder, you’ll have to navigate the following folders in the Undelete application: Users\Username\Documents. In the end you’ll see only the file(s) you’ve deleted from the Documents folder. See the figure for an example.

When it comes time to put Undelete to use—you need to restore a deleted network file—you have two options: recover it locally from the computer that was hosting the file or recover it from any other computer on the network. If you went the single file server/single Undelete, route, you’ll just recover it locally from the computer hosting all the shares. However, if multiple computers are sharing and have Undelete installed, you can do it remotely.

To restore network files locally, simply navigate to the file in Undelete and recover it just like any other file on the computer by selecting it, right-clicking, and choosing Recover. Then a dialog box appears where you can click OK to recover it to the original location or choose a different one.

If you want to restore network files remotely, you must first add the shared folder to the Recovery Bin, where it will be listed with the drives. On the Undelete toolbar, click the Connect to a Network Folder icon. Then on the dialog box, you’ll name the share and browse to the network location. You can even specify a username and password that differs from your Windows login if the share permission requires it. Once the share is listed in Undelete, you can recover it just like with the local files.

Other Sharing Issues

As we discussed, network file recovery is a major issue you should consider for your network. Implementing a third-party, universal, recycle bin program like Undelete protects files and folders deleted by network users, and those deleted from removable storage devices. Now that you’ve got that covered, you might want to consider other sharing issues:

  • File and sharing permissions to control and protect access to your folders and files.
  • Disabling sharing while on unprotected public networks.
  • Implementing and properly configuring firewall software on all computers.