To close the circle, my exploration of hex editors was driven by the dire need to try to recover the four files I'd accidentally overwritten.
WinHex came the closest to helping, finding several fragments of interim saves of the files here and there on the hard drive. But when a file is truly overwritten, it's usually beyond software recovery -- you need special hardware that can ignore the most recent and strongest magnetic signals on the disk, looking instead "beneath" (or actually beside, in some cases) the newer files. It's a slow and expensive process, and usually trashes the hard drive in the process.
If the files had merely been deleted, I have no doubt that either WinHex or Active Undelete would have been able to help. But my overwritten files were well and truly gone, and beyond the reach of software. Sigh.
But the good news is that I can reconstruct the lost files -- I've only lost a couple hours time. And I've found a great new tool -- WinHex -- to add to my collection against future need.
Now, if I can just remember not to try file transfers when I'm tired and distracted... .
What's your experience with hex editors? Which have you used, and to what effect? Have you tried any of the narrow-focus, task-specific tools, or the general purpose editors? Join in the discussion!
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