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Recovering Deleted Files in Windows

Recovering Deleted Files in Windows

Most of us have gone through the experience of deleting a file, only to later realize that we want it back. This article explains how to come out of such a situation and get the file back. This guide goes into the depth of things to help you learn the process of recovering a deleted file.

Have you really deleted the file?

As a first step, it is important to confirm whether or not you have permanently deleted the file. You may want to search it well before escalating the matter. Start with a search in the Windows File Explorer.

There are good chances that you may have just misplaced the file, and it can be found there. Go to the Recycle Bin, as all deleted files and folders land there.

There is also another way to locate your file in the Recycle Bin in a more systematic way. You need to first right-click in the Recycle Bin and then select Sort By->Date Deleted. This will arrange all the deleted files in a chronological manner.

Some software like CCleaner automatically empties your Recycle Bin. So, having such software installed on your device can make it difficult for you to recover the file that has been deleted. To avoid this, you can use the option to disable automatic cleaning of the Recycle Bin.

If you had stored your file in a cloud storage platform such as Dropbox and deleted the file by chance or choice, you can easily recover your deleted files.

Check your backups

It’s always a good habit to make backups of your data so that in case your files get lost or deleted for any reason, you have the backup ready to give you solace.

So, if you haven’t already backed up your critical data, be sure to do it now, as you never know what may happen to your precious data.

Windows provides you a number of tools to create backups of your data. Windows File History feature is a great way to back up your important files, although it is not enabled by default.

Another good way to back up your data is to use OneDrive. OneDrive is one of the most popular cloud storage services, as it is a part of the Windows 10 operating system. With OneDrive you get 5 GB of free storage.

Magnetic Hard Drives vs. Solid-state Drives

If reading this far hasn’t helped you recover your file, you probably have to use file recovery software to recover your deleted files. Traditional magnetic hard drives, as well as solid-state drives, operate in very different ways.

Once you have accidentally deleted from such a magnetic hard drive, the data on the disc is not instantaneously erased. Instead, the pointer to that record is deleted, allowing it to be overwritten. It may well be possible to access the hard drive for the remaining data and recover deleted files that have not yet been overwritten.

Whenever a file is deleted from a solid-state drive (SSD), it is instantaneously erased with the TRIM command to make more space in the SSD.

This means that the data deleted from solid-state drives cannot be recovered—once it’s gone, it’s gone. Older solid-state drives as well as operating systems, such as Windows Vista, do not support the TRIM command. But newer solid-state drives and operating systems do support it.

What is the Safest Way to Recover a Deleted File

If a user has deleted a file from a magnetic hard drive and is still using that desktop, the safest thing to do would be to shut it down instantly. If you continue to use the desktop, even if you are only installing file-recovery software, a program on your computer may write data that overwrites the deleted file’s data on the hard drive.

With the computer turned off, boot from a file-recovery live CD or USB drive. You can also consider removing the hard drive and use it as a backup drive.

The key is to avoid writing to the drive at all costs. Scan the drive with file-recovery software to see if you can find the deleted file. If you have deleted the file in recent times and have not yet written much to the drive, you should be able to recover it.

If you deleted this same file two weeks ago and also have written a lot to the drive, it’s nearly impossible that you’ll be able to recover it.

Professional Data Recovery

If the data is extremely significant, and you don’t have any backups. You should think about hiring a professional data recovery service. But first and foremost, turn off the computer if it is not already turned off.

The longer the computer is running, the more data is written to its hard drive, and the less likely it is that you will be able to restore your data. Professional data recovery solutions handle everything from accidentally deleted files to failing hard drives that must be repaired.

These services can be extremely expensive, costing hundreds and even thousands of dollars, making them an unsuitable solution. However, if you have absolutely crucial data that you cannot recover or replace and are willing to pay the price, this is an alternative solution.

These services, of course, cannot guarantee that they will be able to recover your data. But they will certainly charge you for their services even if they are unable to recover your data.


Regular backups are the best way to make sure you never have to restore a deleted file. Allowing the File History, as well as Windows Backup functionality in your Windows PC, will provide you with some sense of security.

It is still possible to delete a file, if you undertake regular backups, you will not end up losing much data. You’ll have a much better chance of recovering deleted files if you restore backups.

Backup services are also less expensive than professional data recovery services. Deleted files are not necessarily lost, but they are sometimes not easy to recover. As solid-state drives become more common in new computers, proper backup procedures are becoming even more critical.

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