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Cut, Paste, and Recover Files

Greg asks:

What would be the difference between the cut/paste command to that of the delete command in terms of data recovery. e.g. if I delete something from my C: drive, I could usually get it back using recovery software providing it has not been overwritten. But if I cut a file from my C: drive and paste it in my USB D: drive, will I be able to recover it from my C: drive using recovery software as easily as if I was to delete it and then recover it?

This question was in response to an earlier Worldstart tip, which can be found here [1].

Hi, Greg! It’s not often that a question gets me stumped, but this one did! Good job!

Okay, we agree that you can delete a file from your C: drive and recover it if it hasn’t been overwritten. We want to know if it’s as easy (or easier) to recover the cut data with recovery software as it is to recover deleted files.

I got on the internet and looked through forums and got all kinds of “Yes, you can recover cut files with recovery software” to “No way, dude. Once you cut it’s like – um – gone. Bummer.”

Then I went through different kinds of recovery data software, which did the old “Yes, we can recover everything you have ever deleted or cut in the last 27 years.”

I downloaded and installed two of them (very highly recommended by highly recommendable editors), and then I went and made a new document named CUT AND RECOVER OR NOT and put it in a folder of the same name on the desktop. Then I went through the process of data recovery and guess what?

I got nuttin’. (Had you excited there for a minute, though, huh?)

Then I decided to try something on a hunch. I went through the whole cut and paste process again (the folder that I had created named CUT AND RECOVER OR NOT) and when it was gone – cut – forever lost, there was (of course) a blank spot where my folder/document had been (I will not bore you with a screen shot). Then I did this:


I right-clicked in an empty area of my desktop and guess what showed back up on my desktop?


See, when you cut data, it is never really gone. If you look, when you click on Cut, the folder just dims a little; it doesn’t disappear. Then when you paste it into your USB drive, the folder disappears. That’s because it was only moved. You moved it to your USB drive. Thus, clicking Undo Move moves it back.

Points to remember when recovering “cut” data:

You can only do an Undo Move once.

As long as you don’t do another Cut and Paste over it, you can Undo.

Don’t go looking for the file; don’t do anything else! Just click on Undo Move.

Greg, it’s been a blast! It’s not often that I have to go looking and experimenting with things to answer a question.

Thanks for writing!

~ Lori Cline