aka "dude where's my OOPS command?"

I accidentally hit the DEL key with a folder selected in ArcCatalog, and it's apparently gone forever. There was no warning message shown, and it doesn't go into the Recycle Bin.

Is there a way to recover it, short of restoring a backup?

Edit - it was my fault no warning message was shown, as I had switched off that option in the Recycle Bin settings.

  • 2
    I feel your pain, having done this myself more than I want to recall -- but it's permanent.
    – Erica
    Jul 21 '14 at 12:10
  • Try Ctrl + Z? Although may only work if it is immediately after
    – GISHuman
    Jul 21 '14 at 12:51
  • Depending on your version of Windows you might check out file versions (howtogeek.com/56891/…) or file history (windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/how-use-file-history)
    – johns
    Jul 21 '14 at 13:21
  • on Windows7/Server enable the previous versions howtogeek.com/56891/…
    – Mapperz
    Jul 21 '14 at 15:04
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    There are several forensic data recovery tools available, provided not much has been written to your drive you chance of undelete is quite good - when a folder or file is deleted the data isn't wiped (even shift-del), the OS is just told to ignore it, with data recovery tools you can tell the OS to un-ignore the folder/file. However chance of corruption increases with time/writes to the drive as the OS reclaims the space the data was using. Undelete fast or not at all! Jul 21 '14 at 22:01

I'm not sure why you got no warning message. My machine prompts me with the typical Windows message of "Are you sure you want to delete this? Yes/No" if I use the delete key on anything. In fact if I delete a folder (not a geodatabase or any kind of individual file, feature class, etc.) using the key, it does send it to the Recycle Bin. I'm on 10.2 on Win 7 at the moment.

There are potentially data recovery methods to get stuff back without restoring a backup, but time (or more accurately continued activity) is a critical factor. Any continued work or anything saved to the computer (including background information written by the OS) could potentially overwrite the data you want to recover.

The absolute safest thing to do is shut the machine down, pull the drive, and access it using another machine. However a quicker alternative that is usually still viable is just to download and install a recovery program to a different drive or USB key, then run it and see if you can still 'undelete' your files. One free utility to do this is Recuva. There are some others, as well as paid-for programs that do similar or more extensive recoveries. For a simple delete though, that one should do.

Even if they aren't in the Recycle Bin, deleted files typically aren't actually deleted - just the pointers to them. They're only gone when they're overwritten on the drive.

  • Very insightful @chrisw. I like the tip about removing the drive. The last time I had to go down this path (except for drive-gone-bad) was with an INFO directory and some coverages being accidentally deleted over a network - Stephen would understand how painful that is. The undelete utility restored the files no fuss; the key here is be quick because the OS will reclaim the freed blocks at its leisure making restoration impossible. Jul 21 '14 at 22:08
  • @MichaelMiles-Stimson Yes, I've done more data recovery than I like to think about personally, and a few times for coworkers or business. Things do start to get really complex when you add in networks and servers, and how much control you have. The risk of overwrite for cases like this has only gone up - now with SSDs automatically running a trim/cleanup function at a regular interval... Even shutting the machine down properly is a risk, as memory cached to disk could overwrite what you want - a direct power kill might be a preferable risk.
    – Chris W
    Jul 21 '14 at 22:13
  • Luckily the contents weren't that important - I can't imagine ripping out the still-beating heart of my laptop.... Jul 21 '14 at 23:01
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    @ChrisW I just did some further testing and you're right - folders (but not datasets) do go to the Recycle Bin and can be recovered. And it was my fault about not seeing the warning message - I'd turned it off in the Recycle Bin settings. Jul 21 '14 at 23:08
  • @StephenLead Yes, there's a lot of considerations for data recovery - just how critical it was being a big one. Laptop drives can complicate the mix. I keep the guts of external drives around so I can quickly turn any hard drive into a USB drive - but you need one meant to hook to the right kind of hard drive or some other kind of adapter. And if it's really important and mechanical drive failure, there are still places to get it back... for potentially tens of thousands of dollars.
    – Chris W
    Jul 22 '14 at 4:30

Unfortunately, I think pulling out a backup is your only hope but you can also vote for an ArcGIS Idea entitled ArcCatalog Recycle Bin.

I know that this is not ArcCatalog but when using the Delete tool of ArcGIS Pro:

Deleting a folder moves the folder to the system Recycle Bin, where it can be restored or permanently deleted.

  • 1
    I distinctly remember logging a support request for this during the ArcGIS 8.0.1 beta testing - in 1998! Good things come to those who wait... Jul 21 '14 at 22:59
  • 1
    @StephenLead Note to self - I need to look at catalog functionality in ArcGIS Pro - you did the right thing in 1998 and if it is in ArcGIS Pro your foresight should be appreciated and acknowledged :-)
    – PolyGeo
    Jul 21 '14 at 23:23

You can recover items deleted via ArcCatalog if they are backed up/synced on Google Drive. I ran a test on a folder called "temp_test_ajp" with a shapefile called "temp_ajp_polyline". Data was safe and sound after I restored it.

  1. Open Google Drive > Trash > Restore from trash (see screen shot).

enter image description here

  • That's a good idea, and possibly the subject of another question - what's a reliable way to synch/backup files while working in ArcGIS. I might post that later - thanks Jul 21 '14 at 23:02
  • 2
    @StephenLead gis.stackexchange.com/q/28491/753
    – blah238
    Jul 21 '14 at 23:50

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