Best software for restoring deleted files for Windows XP

I urgently need help guys. I deleted some REALLY, REALLY important files. I am looking at all sorts of file restoration programs, and a lot of them are not free. Can someone please help me out with some recommendations, hopefully some free recommendations. Thanks in advance.
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  1. Because of the way hard disk drives work, and the way Microsoft's Windows manage various file systems (FAT32/NTFS) its a tricky thing to recover files. Thats why most software tools that works, costs a lot of money (check ontrack's easy recovery pricing). Not to mention a lot of fake tools that you pay for them and don't do ****.

    First step after loosing some files is to...shut down your PC. Check if:
    - you have partitioned your hdd into multiple virtual drives like C: for system D: for etc E:...
    - you have your lost files on a different than C: virtual drive
    * If its the case, you can still work on your PC, but be carefully not to use the virtual drive where you have lost the files (for example D: ). To do that fast, you can access the Windows's Computer Management-Disk Management and right-click on D: choose Change drive letters and paths and click Remove. Now you can jump to second step.
    * If this is not the case, its most likely files will get overwritten by the Operating System. There is still hope, if you stop using that hdd, and use other media to startup your PC, and recover on another drive or removable media.

    Second step is using a software tool.
    In my experience, nothing free worked in my case, I would like also to find a free tool that works like advertised. I used a piece of software thats not free, made by Active@ Data Recovery Software (I am not affiliated with them, I just find that their Partition Recovery tool works).
    For you, I think it will work, and is not expensive.
    You can go by using the standalone version, and create a boot disk for yourself, or do the recovery on another PC,
    but the bootable CD/DVD image is recommended.

    Always move the hdd in another PC and do recovery there if you can, or stop using the hdd by booting from another device. Always recover on different virtual drive or better different hdd or CD/DVD.

    I had over times more than 5 complete hdd data recovery, and more than 10 file recovery. Most of these were caused by power failures or by my litle sister playing on the PC :)

    I wish you success.
  2. Stupid question - are they in your recycle bin?
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