Windows File Recovery Review – Internal Project Made Public


Out of 5 Total Score

No. 19 Among all Windows solutions

Price range - free • Microsoft Corporation • Windows

Last update on

Windows users have been dealing with data loss issues since the first version of Windows was released in 1985. Over the years, many third-party software developers have released their own data recovery software applications to fill the void created by the absence of a built-in Windows solution. In 2020, Microsoft finally decided that the time to release its own data recovery application had come, giving us Windows File Recovery. But is this newcomer able to compete with established alternatives? Read on to find out!

Karma 37% - Karma


Bang for the buck 94% - Bang for the buck


Bang for the buck
Recovery performance 19% - Recovery performance


Recovery performance
Usability 7% - Usability


Extras 0% - Extras



Top Pros

  • Free recovery. Windows File Recovery can recover an unlimited amount of data for free.

  • Developed by Microsoft. The application is developed by Microsoft, so you can trust it with your most important data.

  • Distributed via Microsoft Software. Windows File Recovery is distributed via Microsoft Store, so it’s easy to download and guaranteed to be free of malware.

  • Decent results when scanning NTFS partitions. The Quick scan feature can reliably recover recently deleted files when scanning NTFS-formatted partitions.

  • Support for modern video formats. Many modern video file formats can be recovered using Windows File Recovery as long as the files are not fragmented.

  • Modest hardware requirements. The program does not require a powerful computer.

Top Cons

  • Crashes when scanning exFAT partitions. When scanning exFAT partitions, the application crashes.

  • No graphical user interface. Windows File Recovery doesn’t have a graphical user interface.

  • Can’t scan the entire disk. The program can only scan partitions. It is not possible to scan the entire disk.

  • Can’t scan file systems that are not supported by Windows. The program can scan only partitions with a file system supported by the operating system.

  • Formatted drives lose file names and folder structure. The program primarily uses a quick scan to search for recently deleted files. However, if the disk has been formatted, it recovers files using a signature scan so the original file names and folder structure are lost.

  • Limited set of signatures. The signature scanner supports a very small number of file signatures.

  • Quick scan supports only NTFS. The Quick scan feature supports only the NTFS file system. It will not find the folder structure and file names of any other file system.

  • Rarely updated. Windows File Recovery rarely receives updates.

  • Not easy to select a drive for scanning. To select a drive for scanning, you have to go to File Explorer and find out what its drive letter is.

  • Can’t create backup disks. There’s no way to create byte-to-byte copies of disks.

  • Lack of additional functionality. The program does not have any additional features. It can only recover lost data.

  • Difficult to use. Windows File Recovery is a barebones data recovery application that doesn’t make it easy for users to find and recover missing files.

  • Non-interactive scanning. The application doesn’t include a scanning wizard, so you must type the exact command corresponding to the type of scan you want to perform.

  • Windows 10 ver. 19041+ only. The program only works with Windows 10 version 19041 or higher.

Top Competitors


Score 4.55 72%

Best choice for Windows users

Compare In comparison

Score 3.37 28%

Intimidating but rewarding at the same time

Compare In comparison

Score 3.04 15%

Good for basic data recovery jobs

Compare In comparison

Windows File Recovery – Overview


First released in 2020, Windows File Recovery is one of the youngest applications of its kind. To run it, you need Windows 10 version 19041 and higher—older versions are, unfortunately, not supported at all. At the time of writing this review, Windows File Recovery is available only in English, but there’s not much text to read anyway because the software is operated from the command line.


Distributed as Freeware All features are provided free of charge without any limitations
Free version available
Free version details

Windows File Recovery is a freeware command line app available from the Microsoft Store

No credit card to try

Microsoft offers its Windows File Recovery tool for free, and you can download it directly from the Microsoft Store. In fact, that’s the only place where the tool is available since Microsoft doesn’t provide an offline installer. 

Developer — Microsoft Corporation

Microsoft doesn’t need an introduction. The company employs only top-notch software developers, so you can expect Windows File Recovery to run as intended despite being Microsoft’s first product of its kind.

2% 59.5% than avg

Online market share

Reflects the share of online traffic within the niche occupied by data recovery software, based on data taken from (from Google US search engine).

2200 22.7% than avg

Brand name popularity

Based on the number of brand-related search queries on Google US according to

Even though Microsoft is one of the most widely recognized software developers in the world, its popularity within the data recovery niche is low, which is understandable considering that Windows File Recovery, Microsoft’s first tool of its kind, was released only in 2020. 

Developer website
Support email

1975 • 48 years on market

HQ location

Microsoft Privacy, Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington 98052, USA



Social media

Microsoft has been around for nearly half a century. In 2021, it became the most valuable company in the world. Like almost all successful companies these days, Microsoft spends a lot of money on marketing, and it maintains an active presence on many popular social media platforms. 

Data Recovery with Windows File Recovery

Tested on: Windows 11 (21H2)

In this section of our review, we describe how an actual data recovery job is performed using Windows File Recovery, highlighting everything we like and dislike about the process. 

How We Test

Our data recovery software tests follow the same format and involve the same carefully selected data sets to make them repeatable and useful for comparison purposes. 

1InstallationWe start by installing the tested software from scratch on a dedicated computer.
2Source selectionWe continue by selecting our data recovery test drive.
3Scanning processWe then initiate the scanning process and give the software the time it needs to finish.
4Managing found dataNext, we carefully analyze the results and study how easy the software makes it to find specific missing files.
5Recovery and post-processingFinally, we select a number of files and recover them to a safe destination to complete the recovery process.

We typically repeat the above-described steps multiple times to test all supported data recovery modes.

Step 1


Microsoft offers Windows File Recovery for free on the Microsoft Store. To install the application, you need Windows 10 build 19041 or later. The installation process itself is straightforward and in no way different from any other application you can download from Microsoft's digital distribution platform.

Step 2

Source selection

Once installed, Windows File Recovery can be launched from the Command Prompt or Terminal using the command "winfr." When launched without any other parameters, Windows File Recovery displays a simple usage guide that explains its syntax and describes the two modes of operation, as well as several popular switches. The guide also provides three usage examples and a link to the online user guide.

Step 3

Scanning process

Before we initiated our first scan, we instructed Windows File Recovery to tell us more about its advanced features using the "winfr /!" command. We also used the "winfr /#" command to see all supported extension groups and corresponding file types. 

Then, we tried to use Regular mode to recover data from a FAT32-formatted drive but failed because Regular mode can only be used with NTFS drives. So, we modified our recovery command from "winfr F: H:\Recovery /regular" to "winfr F: H:\Recovery /extensive" and pressed Enter.

Windows File Recovery asked us to confirm our decision to scan the specified storage device by pressing "y" on the keyboard. 

Step 4

Managing found files

Windows File Recovery recovers files as they are found, and it doesn't provide any features whatsoever to help you manage them. The best you can do is open File Explorer, navigate to the specified destination folder, and analyze recovered files manually. 

Fortunately, recovered files are grouped by their file extensions, so that makes things a bit easier. The data recovery application also creates a recovery log, which you can open in any text editor. 

Step 5

Recovery and post-processing

Once Windows File Recovery is done scanning, it lets you view recovered files in File Explorer with a single key press before it closes. As you can see, the entire recovery process is as barebones as it gets, and even other command-line data recovery software applications, such as PhotoRec, provide a far more convenient user experience.


Windows File Recovery – Tutorials and Other Videos

To help you better understand how Windows File Recovery works, we’ve put together a collection of useful tutorials and other video resources.

FREE File Recovery From MICROSOFT Windows File Recovery

The Microsoft Windows File Recovery is COMPLETELEY FREE and can do pretty much everything the paid for programs can do, but without the nice fancy user interface so be prepared to see the command line!

Recover Lost Files on Windows 10 For FREE

So you have deleted data files that you need and want to recover them for free? well, Microsoft has released Windows File Recovery, it's a way to do data recovery in windows 10 2004. its command-line based, so no GUI, but it works really well and better than any of the other free data recovery options available, and the best part, it has no limitations.

Windows File Recovery – Full Review

We spent a significant amount of time testing Windows File Recovery, and here’s what we found out.

Karma 37% by 12 rating criteria



12 rating criteria

Even though Windows File Recovery has been released fairly recently, it’s already clear that it’s not Microsoft’s top priority to make it better. The latest version was released not that long after the first version, and the differences between the two versions are minor. Users who encounter issues when using Windows File Recovery can contact the Microsoft help desk for support, but that’s the only support channel available.

1Update frequency
More than 6 months
2Updated recently
3Changelog available
4Latest Windows release supported
Yes, all good
5Genuine or clone?
6Brand name popularity
7Online market share
9Extensive knowledge base
Not available
10Helpdesk support
11Live chat
Not available
12Phone support
Bang for the buck 94% by 8 rating criteria


Bang for the buck

8 rating criteria

Windows File Recovery offers excellent value for money because the software is completely free, and users receive updates automatically directly from the Microsoft Store.

1Competitive pricing
2Price-quality ratio
3Free trial
4Is it free?
5Pricing policy
6Unlimited recovery in full version
7Free upgrades
8Commercial rights in the cheapest license
Usability 7% by 18 rating criteria



18 rating criteria

Usability is where things start to get really bleak for Windows File Recovery. First and foremost, the application doesn’t have a graphical user interface, so you better be comfortable using Terminal. That alone wouldn’t be a huge problem if there were at least a somewhat convenient command-line interface, such as PhotoRec’s. Unfortunately, Windows File Recovery understands only plaintext commands, which can be somewhat difficult to decipher.  

1Modern user-friendly interface
2Dark mode
3Easy-to-locate features
4Automatic implementation of multiple appropriate scanning methods without user interaction
5Auto-resuming scans of failing drives
6Auto-resuming backups of failing drives
7Convenient source selection on start
8Convenient file-by-file preview of recoverable items
9Convenient thumbnail preview of recoverable items
10Mount recoverable items as disk
11Built-in updater
12Multiple view modes in scan results
13Hex view for recoverable items
14Filter recoverable items by type
15Search recoverable items by file names
16Sort results
17Multilingual UI
18Simple deployment
Recovery performance 19% by 122 rating criteria


Recovery performance

122 rating criteria

The recovery performance of Windows File Recovery is severely limited by a number of major problems, such as the fact that the application can only scan individual partitions (not entire disks) that contain Windows-supported file systems. 

Windows File Recovery supports both file system- and signature-based scanning, but the former mode of operation works only with the NTFS file system, and the latter mode of operation is held back by a small number of supported file signatures.  

The application also lacks virtually all of the useful features we’re familiar with from leading data recovery software applications from Windows. 

1Deep scan
The program can only search for recently deleted files.
2Quick scan
The Quick scan feature supports only the NTFS file system.
3Other types of scan
The program can only scan partitions—not entire disks.
4Device support
Only file systems recognized by Windows are supported.
5Real-life recovery challenge
The software doesn't perform well in real-life situations.
6Other notable recovery features
Windows File Recovery lacks additional recovery features.

Clever scan

1HFS+ partitions
2APFS partitions
3FAT32 partitions
4exFAT partitions
5NTFS partitions
6EXT4 partitions

Windows File Recovery can only search for recently deleted files. It doesn’t deliver any results if the file system has been corrupted or formatted, so it’s not nearly as useful as it would have been otherwise.

Quick scan

1HFS+ partitions
2APFS partitions
3FAT32 partitions
4exFAT partitions
5NTFS partitions
6EXT4 partitions

The Quick scan feature supports only the NTFS file system. Use it to scan, for example, a FAT32 partition, and it will not recover any folder structure and file names.

Other scan types

1The number of formats supported by deep scan
2BitLocker support
3Windows shadow copies scanning
4Scan for lost partitions
5Recovered files' labeling
6Partial file recovery
7Disk images: scan and recovery

You can perform partial file recovery using Windows File Recovery, and the software can even scan BitLocker-encrypted storage devices if you unlock them first. We just wish the included signature scanner supported more file signatures because that would make it much more useful and capable of solving many more complicated data loss situations. 

Device Support

1Internal and external HDD
2Internal and external SSD
3USB thumb drives / Classic iPods (non-iOS) / FireWire devices
4Memory cards
5iOS devices
6Android devices
7Recovery from RAID1, 0, JBOD
8Unmountable partitions

Windows File Recovery can scan all internal and external storage devices that can be recognized and accessed by the Windows operating system. Mobile devices, RAID arrays, and unmountable partitions are not supported.

Real-life recovery challenges

1Raw photo recovery
2Video formats recovery
3Document formats recovery
Raw photo recovery
13fr (Hasselblad 3F raw image)
2arw (Sony alpha raw)
3bmp (bitmap image file)
4cr2 (Canon raw version 2)
5cr3 (Canon raw version 3)
6crw (Canon raw CIFF image file)
7dcr (Kodak digital camera raw)
8dng (digital negative lossless raw image)
9CinemaDNG (Blackmagic, Penelope, Pocket)
10erf (Epson raw file)
11exr (high dynamic-range file format)
12fff (Hasselblad raw image)
13gpr (GoPro raw format)
14heic (high efficiency image file format)
15iiq (intelligent image quality raw Leaf, Phase One)
16insp (panoramic image Insta360)
17jp2 (bitmap image format JPEG 2000)
18jpg (joint photographic experts group compressed image)
19kdc (Kodak digital camera raw image)
20mef (Mamiya raw image file)
21mos (Leaf and Mamiya raw image file)
22mpo (multi picture stereoscopic object file)
23mrw (Konica Minolta raw image format)
24nef (Nikon raw image file)
25nrw (Nikon raw image file)
26orf (Olympus raw format)
27pef (Pentax raw image file)
28raf (Fujifilm raw image file)
29raw (native digital camera file)
30rw2 (Panasonic LUMIX raw image file)
31rwl (Leica raw image format)
32sr2 (Sony raw 2 image file)
33srf (Sony raw file)
34srw (Samsung raw image file)
35tiff (tag image file format)
36x3f (Sigma camera raw picture file)
37x3i (Sigma super fine detail picture file)

It’s clear that Windows File Recovery and raw file formats don’t go well together. Our set of data recovery sample data includes many different raw image files, as well as regular .jpg files. No raw image files were recognized by the data recovery applications—only .jpg files were found.

Video formats recovery
1360 (GoPRO 360 degree videos)
2ari (ARRI professional digital video camera)
3arx (ARRI professional digital video camera)
4avi (GoPRO CineForm intermediate codec)
5avi (MJPG, H.264, MSMPEG4 v2 codecs)
6braw (Blackmagic raw video file)
7insv (Insta360 panoramic AVC H.264 video file)
8insv (Insta360 panoramic HEVC HVC1 video file)
9mov (Apple ProRes 422 Proxy/LT/HQ)
10mov (Apple ProRes 4444 Raw/HQ)
11mov (advanced video coding H.264)
12mov (CineForm HD codec)
13mov (HEVC, HVC1 codecs)
14mp4 (advanced video coding H.264)
15mp4 (HEVC, HVC1, Apple ProRes codecs)
16mxf (advanced video coding H.264)
17mxf (DVCPRO HD codec)
18mxf (ARRI raw, Apple ProRes codecs)
19mxf (XDCAM HD422, HD35 MPEG2 codecs)
20r3d (Red digital camera company raw video file)
21wmv (pro raw 9 codec)

To be honest, we expected Windows File Recovery to recognize much fewer video file formats than it did, especially considering how abysmal its photo recovery performance was. The only major disappointment was the application’s inability to restore .avi files encoded using the H.264 codec. 

Document formats recovery
1accdb (Microsoft Access 2007+ database file)
2djvu (compressed image format)
3doc (Microsoft Word 97 – 2003 document file)
4docx (Microsoft Word 2007+ document file)
5fb2 (FictionBook 2.0 File)
6key (Apple Keynote)
7mdb (Microsoft Access 97 - 2003 database file)
8numbers (Apple Numbers)
9odp (OpenOffice presentation file format)
10ods (OpenDocument spreadsheet file format)
11odt (OpenDocument text document file format)
12pages (Apple Pages)
13pdf (portable document format)
14ppt (Microsoft Powerpoint 97 - 2003 presentation file)
15pptx (Microsoft Powerpoint 2007+ presentation file)
16rtf (rich text format)
17xls (Microsoft Excel 97 - 2003 spreadsheet file)
18xlsx (Microsoft Excel 2007+ spreadsheet file)

Microsoft clearly developed Windows File Recovery with its own document file formats in mind because the application does a great job when it comes to the recovery of Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations. Sadly, other document file formats (with ODT files being an exception) are not nearly as well supported.

Other notable recovery features

1Overall non-intrusive read-only algorithms
2Network recovery
3Effectively filters out corrupted scan results
4Byte-to-byte device backups
5Bootable recovery drive creation
6Convenient scan session management
7Bad sector management
8Recovery chance prediction
9RAID reconstructor
10Disk vitals monitoring and tracking during scan
11Data protection
12Links to in-lab recovery service for physically damaged devices
13Scan speed
14Scan free space only
15Start file recovery without interrupting the scan
16Preview recoverable items without interrupting the scan
17Forensic features

The best data recovery software applications can retrieve data from RAID arrays, create byte-to-byte device backups, and sometimes even gather data for forensic analysis. Windows File Recovery can do none of these things. The only two things it has going for it are the ability to scan free space only and start file recovery without interrupting the scan process. 

Extras 0% by 10 rating criteria



10 rating criteria

Windows File Recovery is a single-purpose data recovery software application that doesn’t come with any extra features.

1Disk space mapping
Not supported.
2Disk clean up
Not supported.
3Corrupted video repair tool
Not supported.
4Corrupted photo repair tool
Not supported.
Not supported.
6Duplicate finder
Not supported.
7Built-in disk space secure eraser
Not supported.
8Disk cloning
Not supported.
9Disk surface test
Not supported.
10Secure data shredding
Not supported.

We understand why Windows File Recovery doesn’t include the same extra features as other data recovery applications, such as Disk Drill. The application doesn’t make Microsoft any money, and it probably started as an internal tool. It’s possible that Microsoft will include more features in the future, but we don’t expect that to be the case.

What Users Say about Windows File Recovery

The Windows File Recovery tool took over 5 hours to run and it's STILL saving files it's finding, but it WORKED, and it seems to have found and recovered my deleted video files!

Howzabout that 🙂

Nerly Señor Citzen

There’s only 2 real reasons why Windows File Recovery was big news. It’s partly because it’s shocking that Microsoft even bothered to create this after a couple of decades. It’s also partly because it plants a tiny seed of hope that Microsoft will continue to develop the utility and maybe create a full-blown, unbeatable file recovery tool. Time will tell.

Guy McDowell,

My whole storage drive got deleted somehow. The partition is still intact, I can write to it, but not even the windows file recovery can find anything. what

Dylan Burrell

The biggest takeaway here is that WinFR uses drive letter references instead of disk ID references.

This is going to GREATLY reduce the effort involved in recovering data from external bitlocker encrypted drives without having to first use other microsoft tools to image the decrypted data and running third party tools against the image.

Reddit comments

Bottom line

Windows File Recovery is a welcome alternative to established data recovery software applications. In its current state, it offers only limited data recovery performance and even worse usability, making it suitable only for fixing only the least serious cases of data loss. 

We hope that Microsoft will soon release a major update to make its data recovery tool more capable, but Windows File Recovery doesn’t seem to be a priority for the tech giant. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to several frequently asked questions about Windows File Recovery.

Yes, the users of Windows 10 version 19041 and higher can recover lost data using Microsoft’s Windows File Recovery tool.

Windows Recovery Tool, better known as Windows File Recovery, is a command-line data recovery tool that’s designed to be used directly from the Terminal, like this: Winfr C: E: /regular /n \Users<username>\Documents\

If Windows Recovery Tool isn’t working on your system, then you should check if you have Windows 10 version 19041 or higher. If not, then you need to update because Windows Recovery Tool doesn’t run on older versions of Windows.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to download Windows File Recovery without the Microsoft Store, but there are many third-party data recovery applications for Windows that you can download directly from the web.

No, there isn’t an offline installer for Windows File Recovery. You need to download the application from the Microsoft Store.

👌 Satisfactory

Windows File Recovery Review – Internal Project Made Public

Out of 5 Total score

No. 19 Among all Windows solutions

It’s nice that Windows File Recovery exists, but its performance and usability pale in comparison with available alternatives.

Visit developer website
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David Morelo

David Morelo is a professional content writer with a specialization in data recovery. He spends his days helping users from around the world recover from data loss and address the numerous issues associated with it.

When not writing about data recovery techniques and solutions, he enjoys tinkering with new technology, working on personal projects, exploring the world on his bike, and, above all else, spending time with his family.

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Yevgeniy Tolkunov
Yevgeniy Tolkunov

Yevgeniy Tolkunov is Hardware Engineer at ACE Data Recovery. Yevgeniy has a Master's Degree in Physics, Information Technology; 15+ years of experience.

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