Before you scroll through this article, let’s make one thing clear: It’s very much possible to recover uninstalled programs and their data.
Windows constantly rolls out new updates, often requiring large amounts of disk space. Then, to make more space temporarily, some users decide to remove certain programs. What’s more annoying is that Windows itself removes programs that are incompatible with its new updates. In such cases, you don’t even know which programs have gone missing.
When programs that you rely intensively upon are suddenly gone, is there anything you can do? Is there a way to recover the programs and the files that they have generated? Fortunately, yes! This article will lead you to recover uninstalled programs and their data files on Windows 10.
How Do Programs Get Deleted from A Windows 10 PC?
The most common way that programs are deleted is to make more disk space on the computer. However, this might happen intentionally, such as removing unwanted or outdated programs using the Control Panel. In such cases, you know what you are removing but might accidentally delete something you need.
However, the more troublesome way that programs are deleted is during Windows updates. Especially with Windows 10, many users complain about the need for extra disk space. Windows automatically prompts users to check their storage, and sometimes large folders get deleted: These large folders often contain programs and their data files, which then go missing.
Amongst such critical folders is the AppData folder located in C:\Users\<username>\AppData. This is a hidden folder containing essential information and configurations required by applications. For instance, the AppData folder saves temporary files (Word or excel files prior to being saved) and even Chrome cache & bookmarks.
Yet another problem is the updater for Windows 10. During updates, some of the programs get deleted without asking for permission. This is because the updater is designed to remove incompatible programs.
To be clear, Windows will only remove programs while updating to a new major version or ‘build’ of Windows 10. That is because these major versions or ‘builds’ are more like upgrading to an entirely new version of Windows.
Interestingly, although Windows removes the programs during such an update, it doesn’t notify the same. Also, a misleading message screen “All your files are exactly like you left them” will continue to appear. Still, Windows might have removed some of your programs.
The good thing is that as part of the upgrade process, Windows leaves your old Windows installation – or old Windows build-files in the ‘Windows.old’ directory on your system drive. That’s usually C:\Windows.old. This is also displayed as ‘Previous Windows Installations’ in the Disk Cleanup Application.
If you have these old installation points, you might have an easier time recovering your files.
Where Do Uninstalled Programs Go?
In Windows 10, when you uninstall a program (not delete it), three things happen simultaneously:
- You remove the .exe file of the program (required to run it) and delete its installation folder.
- All parts of the program loaded onto your computer get removed.
- Any data files that the program generated get deleted.
However, if you don’t care much about the program generated data files, things are a lot simpler. Just navigate to the setup file for the program and reinstall it. Remember that you will lose all your data associated with this program.
During uninstallation, some programs offer you the choice to retain user data. If you are merely making space on your drives, you might want to remove the program and keep the data. Pay attention during uninstall processes!
How Can I Recover Uninstalled Programs?
First, think about whether you want your data files back or not. If the data is not essential to you and you want to re-run your programs, the easiest thing is to reinstall the program.
On the other hand, if you want to recover your data files, things are slightly tricky. In such a case, you need to recover the .exe file and the removed files the program generates. If this is your case, we have a few methods you can try.
Use System Restore
System Restore is a feature in Microsoft Windows that allows users to return to a saved point on their computer. This includes system files, installed applications, Windows Registry, and system settings. Thus, it can be used to recover from system malfunctions or other problems. You can use this feature to recover uninstalled programs as well.
Restore points are generated when you install a new app, driver, or Windows update. Restoring won’t affect your personal files, but it will remove apps, drivers, and updates installed after the restore point was made.
Here’s how you can restore from a Windows System Restore Point:
Select the “Start” button and click “Settings (the gear icon)”.
Search for Recovery in Windows Settings.
Select Recovery > Open System Restore > Next.
Choose a restore point that is earlier than you uninstall the program and click Next.
If you don’t see any restore points, it might be because system protection isn’t turned on (the option is on by default). To check it, go to the Control Panel, search for Recovery, and then select Recovery> Configure System Restore> Configure and make sure Turn on system protection is selected.
From this point on, Windows will start making System Restore Points. However, you will not be able to restore your system to an older point. In such a case, your option is to use data recovery software.
Use Data Recovery Software
The second option for recovery is to use a data recovery tool. There are several data recovery software for Windows 10 users, but our tried-and-tested solution is Disk Drill. However, the steps for most recovery software are very similar. Here’s the basic outline of what to do:
Download and Install Disk Drill recovery software for Windows
The trial version of Disk Drill is free to download from the website, and the software installs easily with just a click. Provide it with the administrator’s privileges when prompted. The free trial allows you to recover up to 500 MB of data for free and gives you permanent access to the data protection tools included with the application.
Choose the location and the recovery method
Select the disk or device that contained lost programs from the list displayed in the application’s main window. You can also choose to use a specific recovery method with the drop-down menu in the bottom right of the screen.
The default is to use all recovery methods. Still, depending on the particular recovery situation, you can choose other options such as a partition search or a deep scan. Scanning the whole drive using all recovery methods offers the most complete results. It will find more programs than when employing a more limited scan.
Scan for lost programs
Once you have selected the location and recovery method, you are ready to begin the recovery process. Click the Search for lost data button to initiate the scanning algorithms and find your deleted files.
The scanning step can take a variable amount of time based on the recovery method chosen, with deep scans taking longer but providing more extensive recovery capabilities.
Select the programs you want to recover
When the scanning process has completed or you have paused the scan, you can view the uninstalled programs. Then, you can select the ones that you would like to recover. Finally, you can click the Recover all button to restore everything the tool has found.
Alternatively, select individual files/programs by checking the box next to their names. Thus, you have complete control over which data gets recovered. This way, you will recover deleted programs as well as their associated data files on Windows 10.
Recover the lost/deleted programs
Once you have selected the files you want to restore, click on the Recover button. You will then be prompted to choose a storage location to save the data Disk Drill is recovering.
Do not use the same disk that experienced the data loss to prevent overwriting or corrupting the files you wish to recover.
Programs that are deleted intentionally by users or unknowingly through Windows 10 updates can be recovered. While several programs do not generate essential data files, some associated files might be crucial to users. If you have lost your programs due to some process, it can be unpleasant but has a few simple solutions.
Your best bet to recover uninstalled programs is to restore the system to an old point using System Restore, which will retrieve your programs and their associated files. However, if System Restore is inactive, you will not be able to use this method. In this case, data recovery tools are your best friend. You will be able to rescue most of your data in this way.