7 Free Ways to Recover Deleted Files on Your PC

Accidentally deleting the wrong files on Windows is not the end of the world because there are multiple proven ways to get them back. If you’re not familiar with them, don’t worry. All you need to do is follow our detailed step-by-step instructions, which are written with the average computer user in mind. Or you can try Disk Drill right away by clicking the button below.
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Before We Start

To successfully recover deleted files on Windows, it’s paramount that you act quickly and get them back before they get overwritten.

To buy yourself more time, close all applications and processes that are not absolutely necessary and, most importantly, avoid writing new data to the storage device on which the deleted files were located.

While you can follow our top 7 free ways to recover deleted files on Windows in any order, we recommend you start with the first one and move down the list.

#1: Check the Recycle Bin

Whenever you accidentally delete important files, the Recycle Bin should be the first place you look. Deleted files stay in the Windows Recycle Bin indefinitely unless you manually configure to empty the Recycle Bin after a certain number of days or exceed its maximum size (as specified in Recycle Bin Properties).

To recover deleted files from the Recycle Bin:
  1. Double-click the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop.
  2. Locate the deleted files and select them. You can select multiple files by holding down the Ctrl key when you click their names or icons.
  3. Right-click any selected file and click Restore. The selected files will be instantly restored to their original location.

#2: Recover Deleted Files Using CMD

Just because this is arguably the least user-friendly way to recover deleted files on Windows described in this article shouldn’t automatically disqualify it. The Command-Line lets you access various system tools and use them to recover deleted files without any third-party software.

To recover deleted files using CMD:
  1. Press Win + X and select Windows PowerShell (Admin).
  2. Type the following command (replace X with the letter of your storage device): chkdsk X: /r
  3. - This command will invoke the CHKDSK utility and tell it to check the entire surface of the storage device for bad sectors and errors.

    - If asked if you want to “convert lost chains to files,” choose Y.

  4. Next, use the following command to change hidden, file protection, and system attributes back to normal (again, replace X with the letter of your storage device): attrib -h -r -s /s /d X:*.*

#3: Recover Deleted Files Using 3rd Party Data Recovery Software

Third-party data recovery software applications like Disk Drill can restore even permanently deleted files that the Windows operating system no longer sees.

You can download Disk Drill for free and use it to recover up to 500 MB of data. Disk Drill is easy to use, and it supports several hundred file formats and all commonly used storage devices, including spinning hard drives, SSDs, memory cards, USB flash drives, and more.

To recover deleted files using Disk Drill:
  1. Download and install Disk Drill.
  2. Launch the application and select the disk or partition where the deleted files were located.
  3. Click the Search for lost data button to initiate the scanning process.
  4. Use the filters on the left and the preview window on the right to find the deleted files. Click the checkbox next to each file you want to recover.
  5. Click the blue Recover button at the bottom and specify the recovery folder. Click OK to confirm.

#4: Restore Permanently Deleted Files from a File History Backup

File History is a backup feature introduced in Windows 10 as a replacement for the Backup and Restore component of Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. When enabled, it automatically creates copies of files in selected folders.

By default, File History backs up files in the Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, and Desktop folders, but you can easily add any folder you want.

To restore permanently deleted files using File History:
  1. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to the folder where the deleted files were located.
  2. Right-click anywhere inside the folder and select Restore previous versions.
  3. Pick the most appropriate File History backup and click Open to preview its content.
  4. Select the files you want to recover and click the green Recover button to recover them.

#5: Restore Deleted Files from a Previous System Restore Point

The Windows 10 operating system has a useful data backup feature called System Restore. The purpose of this feature is to automatically take snapshots of your system so that you can undo undesired changes by reverting your computer to a previous point in time.

To restore deleted files from a previous system restore point:
  1. Open the Start menu, type “create a restore point”, and hit Enter on your keyboard.
  2. Click System Restore.
  3. Select a system restore point and click Next.
  4. Confirm your restore point and click Finish.
  5. Your computer will restart so that Windows can apply the changes.

#6: Recover Files using Undo Delete

Not many Windows 10 users know that it’s possible to easily undo just about any action, including deleting the wrong file. Keep in mind, however, that it’s typically possible to undo only recent actions. What’s more, the undo history in Windows 10 doesn’t carry over from session to session, so you won’t be able to use this method if you’ve logged out or restarted/shut down your computer.

To recover deleted files using the Undo command:
  1. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to the folder where the deleted files were located.
  2. Right-click anywhere inside the folder.
  3. Select Undo Delete from the context menu.

Alternatively, you can press Ctrl + Z with Windows Explorer in focus, but you won’t be able to know which action you’re undoing.

#7: Recover Files from a System Image

The purpose of the System Image backup feature is to back up the entire Windows operating system, instead of just specific folders and files. Because this feature doesn’t let you restore individual files, you can think of it as your last resort when trying to recover deleted files.

To recover files from a System Image backup:
  1. Open Start menu, type “settings”, and hit Enter on your keyboard.
  2. Select Update & Security and choose Recovery from the list of options on the left.
  3. Save your work and click the Restart now button under Advanced startup.
  4. Click Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > See more recovery option > System Image Recovery.
  5. Select a System Image backup file and click Next.
  6. Choose additional restore options and click Next.
  7. Review the system image details and click Finish to begin the restore process.

Summary

With the 7 free ways to recover deleted files on Windows described in this article, you should be able to get your files back in no time and without any expert knowledge. The most important thing is to remember that data recovery is a time-sensitive process, and the sooner you start, the better results you can expect.

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated on by Disk Drill Team

Deleted files can be recovered in a number of ways. In some cases, you can use native Windows tools or system backups to get back your data. Data recovery software can also be used to search for deleted information and can locate files that cannot be retrieved through the use of basic Windows facilities.

You can recover deleted files for free by using the Recycle Bin or restoring previous versions of the file. A system backup can also be used to restore deleted files. Disk Drill for Windows allows users to recover up to 500 MB of data without any financial investment in the tool.

Follow these steps to recover deleted files on Windows 10:

  1. Download, install, and launch Disk Drill.
  2. Select the storage device on which the deleted files were located.
  3. Click Search for lost data.
  4. Select the files you want to recover.
  5. Restore the files to a specific location by clicking the blue Recover button at the bottom.

Read our comprehensive overview of data recovery on Windows 10 to learn more about this complex topic.

When Windows deletes a file it usually goes to the Recycle Bin. Once it is removed from the bin or permanently deleted, logical references to the file are deleted but the data remains physically on the storage media. This fact enables data recovery software to recover permanently deleted files.

There are several ways to recover permanently deleted files from your PC, such as those described in this article, and you should choose the one that can deliver the best results with the least amount of effort.

In the vast majority of cases, data recovery software for PC like Disk Drill is the best choice because it combines the ability to recover permanently deleted files with a simple user interface that anyone can instantly figure out.

Files that have already been deleted from the Recycle Bin can be recovered using several of the methods described above, so feel free to pick the one that you’re comfortable with the most.

In practice, however, Disk Drill and other data recovery software is often the only option available because most PC users don’t back up their files, or they don’t do so nearly as often as they should.

The answer to this question depends largely on your computer skills and the specific data loss scenario you’re trying to solve.

For example, if you’ve recently deleted an important file that was stored on your system drive, you will most likely be able to recover it from the Recycle Bin.

On the other hand, the Recycle Bin won’t help you recover files lost during formatting. That’s where hard drive recovery software like Disk Drill comes in.

Despite storing important data, external hard drives are fragile devices prone to both physical and logical damage. Since external hard drives are typically used for back up purposes and most people don’t create backups of backups, straightforward data recovery from a previous backup is usually not possible.

To recover data from a broken external hard drive, we recommend a data recovery software application like Disk Drill, which supports all external hard drive brands and popular file systems, including NTFS, FAT, FAT32, exFAT, EXT3/EXT4, HFS, and APFS.

The Mac alternative to the Recycle Bin in Windows is called Trash, and you can recover deleted files from it just by dragging them to your desktop or any folder.

But what if you want to recover deleted files on Mac that are not in Trash? In that case, you can either recover them from a Time Machine backup or use a third-party data recovery software application like Disk Drill.

SD cards present a unique data recovery challenge because most people delete files from them directly from smartphones, cameras, and other devices that don’t have temporary storage for files that have been deleted.

Fortunately, deleted files remain on SD cards until they are overwritten by other files. With a data recovery application like Disk Drill, it takes just a few clicks to perform SD card recovery and get them back.

Even though flash drives and hard drives have very little in common in terms of their design, data is stored on them using the same techniques. That’s why you can recover deleted files from them using familiar methods and free data recovery software applications like Disk Drill.

We’ve already covered the subject of flash drive recovery in detail before, so all you need to do is read our article and select the right data recovery method for you. Just keep in mind that the sooner you start recovering your deleted files, the better results you can expect.

To recover deleted files from Recycle Bin:

  1. Open the Recycle Bin by double-clicking its icon.
  2. Locate and select the files you wish to recover.
  3. Observe the original file location so you can find it once it is restored.
  4. Right-click on the files and select Restore.
  1. Download and install Disk Drill.
  2. Launch the program and scan the disk that contained the deleted file.
  3. Select a new storage location where the restored file will be saved.
  4. Click the Recover button to restore the Excel file to its new location.
  1. Launch a data recovery software tool such as Disk Drill.
  2. Select the drive or partition that contained your OneDrive folder.
  3. Scan the disk for recoverable files and determine if the desired files are available.
  4. Perform the recovery to restore your data.
  1. Log in to the Google Admin Console.
  2. Click on the Users icon in the Admin Console.
  3. Hover over the name of the user whose data will be restored and click the ellipsis icon.
  4. Select RESTORE DATA from the pop-up menu. Specify the date range and click Restore.
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Restore Deleted Files in Hundreds of Formats

Disk Drill for Windows is capable of restoring data in hundreds of different file formats. The list of fully supported formats is almost limitless and includes many common file types which may have been lost, damaged or permanently deleted. Supported formats include:
  • Word Documents (.doc)
  • Excel Documents (.xls, .xlsx)
  • Image Files (.jpg, .png, .gif, .bmp, .psd)
  • Music Formats (.mp3, .wav, .wma, .aac, .ogg)
  • Emails (Outlook, Windows Mail)
  • Compressed Archives (.zip, .rar, .7zip)

Disk Drill Supports your Device

Disk Drill can help to undelete data on your computer’s internal hard drive, external hard drive, your USB drive, and many other devices. Some common file storage devices Disk Drill can recover media from include:
  • Internal Hard Drives
  • External Hard Drives
  • USB Pen Drives
  • SD Cards
  • Devices in “Mass Storage” Mode (Android, etc)
  • Camera Memory Cards
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