Some weeks ago I was approached by Diskeeper and asked to review two products: Diskeeper 2008 Pro Premier and Undelete Professional 2009. I’ll talk a bit more about Diskeeper and how defragmentation relates to backups in a future Backup Reminder. Today’s subject is Undelete.
The first thing Undelete asks you when you install it is whether you have any files that you need to recover right now using the Emergency Undelete function. (You can make an Emergency Undelete CD for this, too.) I actually did, and said “Yes” to test it.
I’d accidentally dragged “My Received Podcasts” (containing a number of MP3 files in subfolders) into “My Pictures” by accident, gotten confused because Windows Explorer hadn’t caught up to it, and deleted the podcast folder from the pictures folder instead of dragging it back where it was supposed to be. Only the next day did I discover the problem, and I’d already emptied the trash.
Emergency Undelete managed to partially recover most of the files, but a partially-recovered MP3 file isn’t much good. Fortunately, all I had to do was download them again. Knowing I can get another copy easily is why I don’t include the “My Received Podcasts” folder in my regular backups.
Undelete replaces your Recycle Bin with a Recovery Bin. You might wonder why you would need one, since your computer already has a Recycle Bin (Windows) or Trash (Mac) from which you can retrieve things if you decide you don’t really want to get rid of them. The Recovery Bin is more sophisticated, and designed to allow you to restore your whole file, not just part of it. But it’s not immediately intuitive; this is a program where it’s a good idea to read the manual.
The Diskeeper website has a handy chart comparing Undelete to backup software. Naturally, it’s designed to favor Undelete. What it never mentions is the fact that Undelete guards against one cause of data loss—human error—and doesn’t do anything to protect you from drive failure, at least when the drive that fails is the same one on which you’ve installed Undelete. (By default, Undelete creates Recovery Bins on all your attached drives, though it didn’t seem to notice my network drives, or at any rate to show them with the rest.) Nor, of course, will it get your files off-site in the event of a fire or other natural disaster. And I don’t know that it really does much of anything with files you haven’t deleted.
If you understand those limitations, however, there’s still potential for Undelete to be useful to you. One interesting new feature is the SecureDelete® function, which lets you completely wipe files away (so that even Undelete can’t retrieve them, presumably). That might have some value if you deal with sensitive data or are preparing to give your machine away and want to remove all traces of yourself from it.
I had problems with Undelete that went beyond the need to RTFM, however. On fairly frequent but unpredictable occasions, Undelete would start to suck up 90% or more of my CPU. That meant I couldn’t use any other software, and there was no way to turn it off. (I could attempt to stop the UdServe.exe process from within Task Manager, but the darn thing wouldn’t stay off.)
Tech support at Diskeeper attempted to help me with this, and seemed to think it might have something to do with the InvisiTasking function in both Undelete and Diskeeper. They talked me through running “CACLS * /e /t /c /g Administrators:F System:F” from the command line. Don’t ask me what exactly that means, because I never understood DOS, but it has something to do with file permissions and open file support. (You can check the Wikipedia entry if you’re interested.)
I kept running into problems with that, most of which reminded me just how badly I need to reinstall this computer, because the errors frequently occurred in files relating to programs I no longer have installed. But I did finally manage to get it run on most of the C drive, and at first it seemed to help somewhat.
By the next day, or at most two days, the problem was back, just as serious as before. At that point, I gave up and uninstalled Undelete, and I’ve been deleting the Recovery Bin folders from my other drives as I discover them lurking. The whole thing was a frustrating enough experience that I don’t even feel especially guilty about writing a bad review, though I do want to stress that the employees at Diskeeper did their best to be helpful. Whatever the root cause of the problem, it isn’t customer service.
And I don’t really think I can put this one down to the anomalies that seem to come up when I test backup software, because the Ur-Guru reported similar problems with earlier versions of Undelete some years back.
Even if it had worked perfectly, however, I would still reach the same conclusions. When it works, Undelete Pro 2009 can be a useful supplement to backups, but not a substitute. The truth is that most of the time, when we delete a file, we do it on purpose. And human error only accounts for 12% of data loss, according to a recent survey of data recovery companies. (An earlier study put it at 29%, but that’s still a long way from 100%.)
So if you’re prone to deleting the wrong file, you might want to try Undelete 2009. (You can fill out a profile and get a free trial.) But get a backup system put in place first.