When a file or folder is removed from the Recycle Bin, or if it has been deleted from the command prompt or by another application's Delete function, it can no longer be found in the Recycle Bin. But the file or folder is not actually deleted off the hard drive.
The file or folder is renamed, with the first letter being changed to a tilde (~), which hides the file. It is stored in the same location on the hard drive until the hard drive needs to free up space, at which point it is permanently deleted from the hard disk.
However, how can you search for a file that was not saved? Take for example, a Word file that was not saved at all. In this case, there is no file that you can search for in the Recycle Bin, nor can you use search to find the file with the ~ in front of it because there was no file created to begin with.
This is a job for DiskProbe, which is part of Windows 2000 Support Tools. You can find the setup executable on the Windows 2000 CD (SupportTools) and on the Windows 2000 Resource Kit CD. DiskProbe asks you to enter text to search for and locates the sector that the text was written to. When the file is found, you can save it and then open it with the same application that created it.
This was first published in September 2001