Windows File Recovery Review – Internal Project Made Public
Out of 5 Total Score
No. 13 Among all Windows solutions
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!
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.
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.
Quick scan only. The program can only search for recently deleted files. If the file system has been corrupted or formatted, there will be no results.
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.
|Free version available|
|Free version details|
|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% 6.1% than avg
Reflects the share of online traffic within the niche occupied by data recovery software, based on data taken from ahrefs.com (from Google US search engine).
2200 52.6% than avg
Based on the number of brand-related search queries on Google US according to ahrefs.com.
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.
1975 • 48 years on market
Microsoft Privacy, Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington 98052, USA
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.
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.
|1||Installation||We start by installing the tested software from scratch on a dedicated computer.|
|2||Source selection||We continue by selecting our data recovery test drive.|
|3||Scanning process||We then initiate the scanning process and give the software the time it needs to finish.|
|4||Managing found data||Next, we carefully analyze the results and study how easy the software makes it to find specific missing files.|
|5||Recovery and post-processing||Finally, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More than 6 months
Available (View full update history)
|4||Latest Windows release supported|
Yes, all good
|5||Genuine or clone?|
|6||Brand name popularity|
|7||Online market share|
|9||Extensive knowledge base|
Windows File Recovery offers excellent value for money because the software is completely free, and users receive updates automatically directly from the Microsoft Store.
|4||Is it free?|
|6||Unlimited recovery in full version|
|8||Commercial rights in the cheapest license|
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.
|1||Modern user-friendly interface|
|4||Automatic implementation of multiple appropriate scanning methods without user interaction|
|5||Auto-resuming scans of failing drives|
|6||Auto-resuming backups of failing drives|
|7||Convenient source selection on start|
|8||Convenient file-by-file preview of recoverable items|
|9||Convenient thumbnail preview of recoverable items|
|10||Mount recoverable items as disk|
|12||Multiple view modes in scan results|
|13||Hex view for recoverable items|
|14||Filter recoverable items by type|
|15||Search recoverable items by file names|
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.
|1||Clever in-depth scan|
|The program can only search for recently deleted files.|
|The Quick scan feature supports only the NTFS file system.|
|3||Other types of scan|
|The program can only scan partitions—not entire disks.|
|Only file systems recognized by Windows are supported.|
|5||Real-life recovery challenge|
|The software doesn't perform well in real-life situations.|
|6||Other notable recovery features|
|Windows File Recovery lacks additional recovery features.|
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.
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
|1||The number of formats supported by deep scan|
|3||Windows shadow copies scanning|
|4||Scan for lost partitions|
|5||Recovered files' labeling|
|6||Partial file recovery|
|7||Disk 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.
|1||Internal and external HDD|
|2||Internal and external SSD|
|3||USB thumb drives / Classic iPods (non-iOS) / FireWire devices|
|7||Recovery from RAID1, 0, JBOD|
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
|1||Raw photo recovery|
|2||Video formats recovery|
|3||Document formats recovery|
Raw photo recovery
|1||3fr (Hasselblad 3F raw image)|
|2||arw (Sony alpha raw)|
|3||bmp (bitmap image file)|
|4||cr2 (Canon raw version 2)|
|5||cr3 (Canon raw version 3)|
|6||crw (Canon raw CIFF image file)|
|7||dcr (Kodak digital camera raw)|
|8||dng (digital negative lossless raw image)|
|9||CinemaDNG (Blackmagic, Penelope, Pocket)|
|10||erf (Epson raw file)|
|11||exr (high dynamic-range file format)|
|12||fff (Hasselblad raw image)|
|13||gpr (GoPro raw format)|
|14||heic (high efficiency image file format)|
|15||iiq (intelligent image quality raw Leaf, Phase One)|
|16||insp (panoramic image Insta360)|
|17||jp2 (bitmap image format JPEG 2000)|
|18||jpg (joint photographic experts group compressed image)|
|19||kdc (Kodak digital camera raw image)|
|20||mef (Mamiya raw image file)|
|21||mos (Leaf and Mamiya raw image file)|
|22||mpo (multi picture stereoscopic object file)|
|23||mrw (Konica Minolta raw image format)|
|24||nef (Nikon raw image file)|
|25||nrw (Nikon raw image file)|
|26||orf (Olympus raw format)|
|27||pef (Pentax raw image file)|
|28||raf (Fujifilm raw image file)|
|29||raw (native digital camera file)|
|30||rw2 (Panasonic LUMIX raw image file)|
|31||rwl (Leica raw image format)|
|32||sr2 (Sony raw 2 image file)|
|33||srf (Sony raw file)|
|34||srw (Samsung raw image file)|
|35||tiff (tag image file format)|
|36||x3f (Sigma camera raw picture file)|
|37||x3i (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
|1||360 (GoPRO 360 degree videos)|
|2||ari (ARRI professional digital video camera)|
|3||arx (ARRI professional digital video camera)|
|4||avi (GoPRO CineForm intermediate codec)|
|5||avi (MJPG, H.264, MSMPEG4 v2 codecs)|
|6||braw (Blackmagic raw video file)|
|7||insv (Insta360 panoramic AVC H.264 video file)|
|8||insv (Insta360 panoramic HEVC HVC1 video file)|
|9||mov (Apple ProRes 422 Proxy/LT/HQ)|
|10||mov (Apple ProRes 4444 Raw/HQ)|
|11||mov (advanced video coding H.264)|
|12||mov (CineForm HD codec)|
|13||mov (HEVC, HVC1 codecs)|
|14||mp4 (advanced video coding H.264)|
|15||mp4 (HEVC, HVC1, Apple ProRes codecs)|
|16||mxf (advanced video coding H.264)|
|17||mxf (DVCPRO HD codec)|
|18||mxf (ARRI raw, Apple ProRes codecs)|
|19||mxf (XDCAM HD422, HD35 MPEG2 codecs)|
|20||r3d (Red digital camera company raw video file)|
|21||wmv (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
|1||accdb (Microsoft Access 2007+ database file)|
|2||djvu (compressed image format)|
|3||doc (Microsoft Word 97 – 2003 document file)|
|4||docx (Microsoft Word 2007+ document file)|
|5||fb2 (FictionBook 2.0 File)|
|6||key (Apple Keynote)|
|7||mdb (Microsoft Access 97 - 2003 database file)|
|8||numbers (Apple Numbers)|
|9||odp (OpenOffice presentation file format)|
|10||ods (OpenDocument spreadsheet file format)|
|11||odt (OpenDocument text document file format)|
|12||pages (Apple Pages)|
|13||pdf (portable document format)|
|14||ppt (Microsoft Powerpoint 97 - 2003 presentation file)|
|15||pptx (Microsoft Powerpoint 2007+ presentation file)|
|16||rtf (rich text format)|
|17||xls (Microsoft Excel 97 - 2003 spreadsheet file)|
|18||xlsx (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
|1||Overall non-intrusive read-only algorithms|
|3||Effectively filters out corrupted scan results|
|4||Byte-to-byte device backups|
|5||Bootable recovery drive creation|
|6||Convenient scan session management|
|7||Bad sector management|
|8||Recovery chance prediction|
|10||Disk vitals monitoring and tracking during scan|
|12||Links to in-lab recovery service for physically damaged devices|
|14||Scan free space only|
|15||Start file recovery without interrupting the scan|
|16||Preview recoverable items without interrupting the scan|
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.
Windows File Recovery is a single-purpose data recovery software application that doesn’t come with any extra features.
|1||Disk space mapping|
|2||Disk clean up|
|3||Corrupted video repair tool|
|4||Corrupted photo repair tool|
|7||Built-in disk space secure eraser|
|9||Disk surface test|
|10||Secure data shredding|
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.
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.
Will do ⚖️️
Out of 5 Total score
No. 13 Among all Windows solutions
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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 is Hardware Engineer at ACE Data Recovery. Yevgeniy has a Master's Degree in Physics, Information Technology; 15+ years of experience.