Data loss may occur at any moment and one of the most common reasons is accidental deletion. Many users have reported about deleting files mistakenly. Whether the file is deleted while clearing up the unwanted data on your hard drive or transferring files from one storage drive to another, you can easily get them back. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the best possible ways to recover deleted files for free.
How Did You Delete your Files?
There are two ways for deleting files on a Windows system:
- Using the ‘Del’ key or right-clicking on the file and choosing the ‘Delete’ option
- Using Shift + Del key or emptying the Recycle Bin
What happens after file deletion?
When you delete a file from your system simply using Del/Delete option, it directly goes to the Recycle bin, offering you a second chance to retrieve it. However, if the file is deleted using the Shift + Del key or by emptying the Recycle Bin, the file’s entry gets removed from its location. Windows OS removes the file pointers (starting and ending point of a file existence) after deletion, making that allocated space available for new data. However, the file data remains there, though inaccessible to you.
If you start adding new data to that allocated space, the file entries will be overwritten. In such a case, deleted file recovery will not be certain even with a powerful file recovery software. Hence, it’s advised to immediately stop using your drive or location from where you lost data to prevent overwriting. Also, do not perform any hit-and-trial method to restore them.
How to Recover Deleted Files?
You can follow the below-given free methods to recover deleted files on Windows 10 easily.
Method 1: Restore from Recycle Bin
When you remove a file by choosing only the ‘Del’ key or the ‘Delete’ option, the first thing to do is check the Recycle Bin. It acts as a container and holds the deleted items for a defined period, i.e., 30 days. After 30 days, the deleted items will be removed from Recycle Bin.
To restore deleted files from Recycle Bin, follow the given steps:
- Go to the Desktop, locate Recycle Bin and open it.
- Find the files that you accidentally deleted.
- Choose the files you want to restore from the list, right-click on them, and click Restore.
- The files will be restored to their original location.
Method 2: Restore From Backup
If you’ve emptied the Recycle bin or deleted files using the Shift + Del keys, the files will be gone permanently. However, there is no need to concern if you have a backup of your data. You can easily recover shift-deleted files with the following methods:
Note: To save the recovered files from backup, always use a different Windows drive partition or an external storage media.
A. Use Windows Backup & Restore (Windows 7)
Windows comes with a built-in backup utility named Backup and Restore (Windows 7). When enabled, it keeps copies your system data that you can retrieve in case of data loss or deletion. It allows you to backup your data on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. To restore files with this utility, follow the below steps:
- Go to the Windows Search bar, type Control Panel, and open it.
- Next, go to System and Security > Backup and Restore (Windows 7).
- You can also directly choose the Restore files from the backup option.
- On the next prompt, either click Restore my files or Restore all users’ files.
- Now, select the files you want to recover.
- Click ‘Browse for files.’ You may also select ‘Browse for folder > Next.
- Finally, select the external hard drive to save the recovered files.
B. Restore with File History
File History is another Windows built-in backup utility, which backs up the files stored in Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, and Desktop folders. It also saves the OneDrive files offline on your system. You can easily set up a drive for File History for creating a backup of your system data. Follow the given steps to restore data using the File History feature:
- Open Control Panel, find File History, and then click Restore Personal Files. You will be able to see the backup with time and date.
- Open backup, choose files you want to retrieve, and click Restore.
- Select the location where you want to save the retrieved files.
C. Restore Files from Previous Versions
The Previous Version is usually referred to as the shadow copies of the files and folders that Windows OS automatically saves as a restore point. You can recover files using the Previous Versions that are accidentally deleted or modified.
- Open File Explorer and go to This PC.
- Next, right-click the drive from which you deleted the files and click Properties.
- Now, navigate to the Previous Versions tab.
- The list of previous versions of all folders and files will appear. Choose the data you want to revert to their older state.
- Now, drag the files to restore to the desired location (choosing an external drive or another drive partition in the system is recommended). Click OK to proceed.
- Finally, the needed version of files or folders will be restored to the chosen location.
Method 3: Use Microsoft’s Windows File Recovery Tool
If the files are removed permanently and you don’t have backup, use Microsoft’s free Windows File Recovery tool. You can download this software for free from Windows Store. It’s a command-line tool, requiring you to run several commands to locate and recover files. It supports recovery in common cases of data loss, including accidental deletion, drive formatting, and corruption.
The tool enables you to search for specific file names, specific types of files, or use ‘wildcard’ searches, letting you find a disk for any file or folder with the word ‘receipt’ in the file name. You’ll need to use commands with specific syntax to perform searches for deleted file recovery in Windows 10.
It is available with three modes of operations, including Default, Segment, and Signature. Default mode supports only recently deleted files recovery from NTFS drives. Use Segment mode to recover data lost due to formatting, accidental deletion, and corruption from NTFS drives. Signature Mode lets you retrieve files in all these data loss scenarios from FAT, exFAT, and ReFS hard drives.
Limitations of Microsoft’s Windows File Recovery Tool
- As it’s a command-line tool, you’d require to run specific commands to recover different files.
- You’d also need to choose the mode of operation separately to retrieve data from NTFS, FAT, exFAT, and ReFS hard drives.
- The software only works on Windows 10 version 2004 and above versions.
- The file recovery results may also be corrupted or incomplete.
Method 4: Use a Third-Party Data Recovery Tool
The best option to retrieve permanently deleted files is by using a reliable third-party data recovery software, such as Stellar Data Recovery Free Edition. It is one of the most popular DIY software that works in all common data loss scenarios, such as accidental deletion, drive formatting, corruption, and malware attack. The software can even restore files from BitLocker-encrypted hard drives. It supports recovery from all Windows-based hard drives. It comes with a user-friendly GUI and helps you recover files in a few simple steps. Here’s how to recover deleted files using the software:
- Download, install, and run Stellar Data Recovery Free Edition on your system.
- On the ‘Select What to Recover’ screen, click ‘Everything’ or choose the data type and click Next.
- Next, choose the location, folder, or drive from where you want to recover files and click Scan.
- Once the scanning is done, select files and click Recover.
- Now your files are ready to recover.
- You need to Browse the location to store recoverable files. Then, click Start Saving to save the files.
[Caution: It’s always suggested to choose a different location or drive to store the recovered data to prevent data overwriting.]
Note: The free version of the software allows you to recover up to 1 GB of deleted files on Windows.
Deleted file recovery isn’t a tough row to hoe. However, the sooner you attempt to recover deleted files, the more chances of intact file recovery. All the above-discussed methods are tried and tested. Check how you ended up deleting your files and follow these troubleshooting methods to get back your access to your files, folders, and other data. Please feel free to share your queries or suggestions (if any).