It’s one of the first things I teach my students—if they somehow inadvertently delete a file, they can always just recover it from the Windows Recycle Bin. Unfortunately, if it’s not a user but an application that deletes the file, the item immediately disappears from the system’s visible file structure and never reaches the Recycle Bin. Restoring such a file that’s been hard-deleted by an application requires a commercial recovery utility, and even then there are no guarantees. If the file isn’t recovered immediately after being deleted, it may be overwritten by new data.

There is, however, an alternative and it happens to be free. Fundelete, for Windows 2000 and NT4, is a freeware tool from Sysinternals that extends the functionality of the Windows Recycle Bin to encompass files that typically bypass that utility. Fundelete makes sure that files deleted from a command window or from within an application program, as well as Windows Explorer, end up in the Recycle Bin. Next time someone calls after having accidentally deleted a 20-page report, you’ll be able to retrieve it with little fuss.

Recovering files with Fundelete
When installed, Fundelete replaces the Recycle Bin icon with the Fundelete Bin icon shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Double-clicking on the Fundelete Bin icon displays the Fundelete window, shown in Figure B. This window shows the names of all deleted files, the file size, type, original location, and the deletion date.

Figure B

To recover a file, users can simply right-click the file’s name and select Undelete from the Shortcut menu. Double-clicking the filename also undeletes it and returns it to its last location in the active file system.

Unlike the Windows Recycle Bin, Fundelete restores a deleted file to its previous folder—users can’t just drag and drop a file from the Fundelete window to any location they wish. Also, to avoid overwriting updated files, Fundelete will not move a file back to its original location if restoring that file would overwrite another file with the same name.

Configuring the Fundelete Bin
Not surprisingly, Fundelete has many of the same configuration options as the Windows Recycle Bin. Click Undelete | Properties to display the Fundelete Properties window, shown in Figure C.

Figure C
Fundelete works with both FAT and NTFS partitions.

From the Fundelete Properties window, you can specify how much disk space to allocate for the Fundelete Bin and whether the settings should apply to all or only selected partitions.

Those deleted files really add up. As with the Windows Recycle Bin, users will periodically need to empty the Fundelete Bin. But they won’t be able to use the familiar Shortcut menu command that’s available with the default Windows Trash icon. Instead, they will need to access the command from the File menu of the main Fundelete window, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D
Unlike the Windows Recycle Bin, users must use commands from within the main Fundelete window to empty the trash.

Telling Fundelete what not to save
After using Fundelete for several weeks, you may notice files in users’ Fundelete Bins that will never need to be recovered. To avoid wasting space, you can create filters to prevent these files from being preserved. From within Fundelete, click Undelete | Exclusion List to display the Fundelete Exclusion List window.

You can exclude files based on their extension or directory. Click the Add button under Extension Filters to display the Enter An Extension To Be Excluded dialog box, shown in Figure E. Type the desired extension, which in this case is dbx, and click OK.

Figure E
You can add file extensions that Fundelete will ignore as applications hard-delete them.

Similarly, you can click the Add button under Directory Filters to display the Browse For Folder dialog box, shown in Figure F.

Figure F

Select the desired directory (such as c:\temp) whose files, if deleted, will not be moved to the Fundelete Bin and then click OK.

The bottom line
Fundelete provides a safety net for users against accidentally deleting important files. It’s free, a snap to install, and easy to use. But remember, Fundelete cannot recover files that were deleted before it was installed. So don’t wait until users say they can’t find their files to use Fundelete, which is available as a free download from the Sysinternals Web site.