How to Recover Deleted Files

The feeling of immersion when you’ve deleted a file you need will be familiar to many PC and laptop users.

Whether you’re sure you’ll never need it again or feel certain you’ve saved it somewhere else, there are plenty of reasons why files might not be there when you ask for them.

The Recycle Bin will usually come to your rescue on Windows, but you may have disabled it after getting frustrated with the two-step process to free up hard drive space.

Either way, with the help of some third-party software, all can be lost.

Before we reach your hopes, it’s worth mentioning that there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get your lost files back, especially if they were deleted quite a while ago. This is especially difficult on devices with SSD drives, where unused cells are frequently cleared to free up space.

There are free and paid options that can help you recover deleted files, but you need to be careful before installing and using them as you may overwrite the very files you are trying to get back. .

If you want to use the official Microsoft tool, check out our guide to Windows File Recovery.

If one of the following methods proves to be successful, we strongly recommend that you back up your files to avoid a similar situation in the future. Whether it’s automatic syncing with a cloud storage service or an external SSD you transfer files to each month, getting into good habits now will save you a lot of trouble in the future.

Most file recovery utilities work the same way, and we’ll cover some of the free and paid options below. This is the basic process

  • Download recovery software. Install it on a different hard drive than the one containing the deleted files if possible.
  • Select the disk or card containing your deleted files and let the tool scan for missing files
  • Select files to restore
  • Select a save location, which must be different from the original location

Recover deleted files from Trash

The first thing you should do is check the Windows Recycle Bin if you just deleted something you didn’t mean to. When you select a file and press the Delete key (or right-click and select the Delete option from the menu), Windows doesn’t delete the file.

Instead, it moves it to the Trash, which has its own icon on the desktop. Restoring files from the Recycle Bin is as simple as double-clicking the desktop icon to display the contents, then right-clicking the file and selecting Restore from the menu.

If the Trash icon isn’t there, search for ‘Show or Hide’ in the Start menu and you’ll see a shortcut to settings where you can tick the box next to Trash and make it appear .

However, don’t rely on the Recycle Bin as a safety net: it has a size limit, and once you exceed that limit, older files are permanently and automatically deleted. The default size is more than enough for most people, so there’s a very high chance that any files you want to recover will still be in the Recycle Bin. To check the space or change it, right-click the Recycle Bin and select Properties.

However, if you get in the habit of using the Shift-Delete shortcut to bypass the Recycle Bin and actually delete the data, this won’t help. Also, if your files are on an SD card or USB flash drive, there is no Recycle Bin function.

But before using file recovery software, you should still check other ways. Have you shared files or documents via email? Have you saved or synced it with a cloud storage service? Or you may have made a backup of the files on another hard drive? If the answer to all these questions is no, you’re ready to go down the software route.

Free and Paid Data Recovery Software

Here are some free options. Recuva – from Piriform – tends to be the go-to choice for many people.

In some cases, a free tool is all you need. But many of these have limited file recovery capabilities, or are limited in the number of files or data they will recover before you have to pay for their more powerful, deeper scan versions. . Usually, these premium versions can find and recover files that the free versions cannot. For example, if you format your hard drive (long option, not Quick option) you may find that free recovery software can still get files back.

Here are three of the best paid options, most of which offer trial versions or will at least show files available to restore before you have to pay:

Tips to recover deleted files

Quick action! The sooner you realize you’ve accidentally deleted a file, the better your chances of recovering it. When you notice your loss, don’t save anything to disk and don’t even download or install a file recovery utility if the file is on your PC or laptop hard drive as it can overwrite the very file you are trying to recover.

Use the mobile version. Some recovery software can be run directly from a USB flash drive, but you must download it using another computer. Even browsing the Internet for the recovery utility causes the files to be written to your disc, so use another PC to download the utility.

Free up some space. Recovery utilities only work reliably with sequential files. If your disk is reasonably full, Windows often has to split the file into redundant blocks around the disk, and in this case it is very difficult to recover the deleted file.

Also, different types of drives use different file systems, and any recovery utility will only work with specific types of file systems. Hard disks in Windows PCs use the NTFS file system, but USB flash drives and memory cards often use some variant of FAT (FAT16, FAT32 or exFAT) and you should choose software that has the necessary support for all methods. its own convenience.

Is it possible to recover files from a failed SSD or hard drive?

After dispelling the myth that deleted and corrupted files are lost forever, we now come to the problem that all PC users dread – hard disk failure. This can manifest in a number of ways, but generally Windows won’t start, even in Safe Mode, and turning on your PC can be accompanied by an unhealthy clicking sound. Therefore, what you might lose is not just a few of your precious files, but the entire contents of the disk.

It is often assumed that hard disks can be repaired by putting them in the freezer. While this has been known to work, getting the drive back up and running just long enough to decompress the most important files, it’s only effective for some very specific types of errors.

Often it won’t work and trying it might just prove to be the last straw for your ailing plate. Therefore, our recommendation is that you do not try this nor any other DIY repair.

Instead, as soon as you suspect a hardware failure, immediately turn off your PC and contact a data recovery company like Kroll OnTrack. These companies have a lot of parts that they can swap out in their cleanrooms to restore the disk to a working state.

Once this is achieved, they will copy all the data they can recover to an encrypted removable media such as a USB drive. This will work for failure of most parts of the disk including the circuit board, motor and read/write head, but there is a limit to what can be achieved.

Kroll OnTrack

As the part of the data that is actually stored, if the disc is scratched or broken the game is usually over although, fortunately, this rarely happens. As always, it pays to shop around before deciding which company to use, and you should also choose one that can diagnose the problem for free.

Technicians can also use the latest techniques to recover data from a failed SSD.

However, expect to pay around £700/US$700 for that service, so it’s really a last resort or for extremely valuable data.

How to recover deleted data

We used Disk Digger here, but the process is similar for all recovery software.

Step 1.Download Disk Digger. You don’t need to install it – just extract the contents of the .zip archive and run the .exe file. Remember that if you have accidentally deleted some files, you should not download DiskDigger to the disk containing your lost files as it may overwrite your files and make it impossible for you to recover them. Best, download it before you really need it.

Step 2. Start DiskDigger. The open screen shows all disks, so select the disk containing your deleted files and click ‘Next’ three times. The disk will now be scanned and any deleted files will be listed – this may take some time. If your missing files are listed, continue to the next step. If not, you can try changing some options in the previous screens.

Disk Scan

Step 3. DiskDigger will not be able to display the correct file names, so to help identify lost files, a preview option is provided. Select a file from the list on the left and choose either the ‘Preview’ tab (for photos) or the ‘First few bytes’ tag. Also useful for photos is the ‘Thumbnails’ option in the ‘View’ menu which will display thumbnails in a list.

File preview

Step 4. Once you’ve identified your lost file(s), select them in the list on the left and click ‘Recover selected files…’. Next, select the device and folder from which you want to recover your files (this file must not be on the same physical drive as the lost file) and click OK. The missing file(s) will be saved with the auto-generated filenames, so you’ll need to rename them to their original names or something meaningful. (See also: How to remove write protection from USB drives and memory cards.)

Save recovered files

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