Logically deleted files can remain resident on their hard drive for an extended period of time, based on your computer usage. Windows logically deletes files and marks their previous storage as available for reuse. The file is still physically available until the time that Windows actually overwrites it with new data, even though you can no longer access it through Windows Explorer. This makes it possible to recover permanently deleted files on Windows 10 computers.
When faced with a data loss scenario, there are several methods that can be used in an attempt to undelete or retrieve the lost information.
Your first action when a data loss is discovered should be to stop using the affected storage device as soon as possible. This will minimize the chance that Windows will overwrite the files before recovery can be performed.
Method 1: Check the Recycle Bin
This method should be the first one you employ when you need to recover deleted files on Windows 10 computers. If the file in question was deleted recently, it may be in the Recycle Bin where it is easily retrieved.
To restore deleted files follow these steps:
- Double-click on the Recycle Bin to open it.
- Find and see the files to be recovered. You can use the Ctrl and Shift keys to choose multiple items at once.
- Right-click on the selection and choose Restore. This will restore the file to its original location. You can also drag the file out of the Recycle Bin and drop it on a new location where it will be stored.
- Verify the files have indeed been restored to their original or new location.
Files that exceed the capacity of the Bin will be permanently deleted instead of stored for potential recovery. You will not find these files in the Recycle Bin. You can adjust the size of the Recycle Bin and how long it retains files by modifying its settings. If your lost files are not in the Recycle Bin, you will need to use another method for recovery. Read on to see what other options you have to recover lost or deleted files.
Method 2: Use Data Recovery Software
Using file recovery software may be necessary in order to undo the effects of a data loss event. We recommend CleverFiles’ Disk Drill for Windows as your data recovery tool of choice. It is a comprehensive data recovery application which makes use of advanced algorithms to scan any storage media for deleted files that can be recovered. Its deep scanning mode will scavenge your disk for fragments of files that can be reconstructed long after they have been deleted from the storage device.
Disk Drill can be downloaded for free and can be used to recover up to 500MB of data and view all files that are available for recovery without any financial investment. Larger restores will necessitate the purchase of the Pro version of the tool.
Here are the steps to recover lost data with Disk Drill.
- Download and install Disk Drill. It is strongly recommended that you do not use the disk that will be used for the recovery. Installing on that disk can lead to corruption or overwritten files before you get the chance to recover them.
- Launch the application. Select the disk or partition where the files were located from the list presented in the application’s window.
- Click the Search for lost data button to initiate Disk Drill’s scanning algorithms. As it processes, you will be presented with a list of the files that can be recovered.
- Select the files you wish to restore and a new location where you will store them. Don’t use files original location as this can lead to file corruption during the restore. Click Next to perform the data recovery.
- Navigate to the new location and verify that the files are fully recovered and usable by your applications.
Method 3: Restore From a File History Backup
One of the most important tasks for all computer users is the protection of the data that reside on the machine. The best way to accomplish this is to perform a regular system backup using the backup tool of your choice. Windows 10 offers a built-in backup and recovery tool called File History that can be instrumental in allowing you to restore deleted items. Windows users should take the time to set it up to protect the data on their laptop or PC.
Here are the steps to recover deleted files from a File History Backup.
- Click on the File Explorer icon and open the folder that contained the items that you want to recover.
- Click the Home tab and then the History button.
- Select the files or folder that you wish to restore.
- Navigate through time with the arrows to search for the version you want to recover.
- Click the Restore button to restore the file to its original location.
- Address any naming conflicts by replacing the original file with the restored version, skipping the file, or keeping both for your review.
Method 4: Restore Previous Versions of Files on Window 10
The Restore Previous Versions feature of the operating system can be very helpful if you accidentally delete a file with which you have been working. Using this feature enables you to revert to a previously saved version quickly and easily. These versions are saved when Windows creates restore points. You can access this feature by using the following steps.
- Open File Explorer and navigate to the folder that contained the lost files before they were sent to the Recycle Bin.
- Right-click on the item you would like to recover and select Restore previous versions.
Choose the version of the file you would like to recover and click the Restore button.
Method 5: Recover Lost Files with the Windows File Recovery App
The Windows File Recovery app is a command-line tool available for free from the Microsoft app store. It enables you to recover multiple types of files that have been accidentally deleted from your Windows 10 computer.
This tool allows you to recover photos, documents, videos, and other items. It can be used to recover data from your main hard drive or external devices such as an SD card. You might want to try this tool before looking at third-party recovery options. More details on the tool are available at this site.
Method 6: Use the Command Prompt
The Command Prompt can be used to recover lost data with the following procedure:
- Open a Command Prompt on your Windows machine.
- Type chkdsk ‘drive letter’ /f and press Enter.
- Press Y until the command line reappears.
- Type the drive letter and hit Enter.
- Enter this command: drive letter: attrib –h –r –s /s /d *.*.
These commands display hidden folders that may contain your lost data. Filenames will be displayed in generic form and it may be hard to verify that you have restored the desired data.
Method 7: Restore Using Backup and Restore
Backup and Restore is a backup feature that was introduced with Windows Vista and Windows 7. It has survived through multiple releases of Windows for its reliability, as many still rely on it as a primary backup solution to restore permanently deleted files in Windows 10. In addition to the ability to retrieve permanently deleted files, you can create system image backups in the event that your operating system doesn’t boot.
The only condition is that you need to have set it up before your files were lost. If it wasn’t, there will be no record of the files to restore from. If you configured Backup and Restore prior to your data becoming lost, you can restore it directly from a backup by following these steps:
- Press Windows Key + S and search Backup settings. Select the first option.
- Click Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7).
- Click Restore my files.
- Click Browse for files. Find your files and mark them for restoration.
- Click Next.
- Choose whether you want to restore the files to their original location or a new one. When ready, click Restore.
- Click Finish.
Once you click Restore, the files will either be returned to their original location or a new one, depending on which option you chose.
Method 8: Check Cloud Backup
Cloud-based storage applications like OneDrive and Google Drive include bin systems similar to the Recycle Bin found in Windows. When a file is deleted, there’s a chance the file is sent to the bin instead of being deleted for good. This acts as a safeguard against accidental deletion.
Something to consider is Google Drive will automatically delete files in the Trash after 30 days. Other cloud-based solutions have similar policies. Of course, this will depend on the type of plan you have. Until the data is deleted from the bin, it acts as a reliable method to recover permanently deleted files from a PC easily and safely.
In this method, I’ll demonstrate what recovering a file from the Trash in Google Drive is like:
- Go to your Google Drive storage and log in using your credentials.
- In the left panel, click Trash.
- Right-click the file you want to restore and click Restore.
When you restore the files, they will be restored to their original location in your cloud storage. This may be different if you’re using a different cloud solution. Once restored, consider keeping a local backup of the files if they’re important to circumvent the 30 day limitation of the Trash folder.
Recovering Permanently Deleted Files in Windows 11
Windows 11 was released on the 5th of October, 2021. With its release, many are wondering what the recovery process will look like on the brand new operating system from Microsoft. In truth, it’s not that different (if not the same) as Windows 10! Many of the same features you use now will be available to you, some with a new design.
For those who have already updated their operating system from Windows 10 to Windows 11, you should check out our guide on recovering deleted files in Windows 11 to get specific instructions for navigating the new user interface.
How to Prevent Accidentally Deleting Data on Windows 10
Preventing the accidental deletion of data from your computer is certainly preferred over spending time recovering from data loss events. Here are some tips that may help you protect your valuable information and enable you to access it at any time.
|🧍♂️ Minimize human interaction||Human error is the primary cause of data loss. Controlling access to a computer and its data can go a long way in protecting it from unexpected data loss. Training in correct procedures can help minimize mistakes, but as long as people are interacting with computers the chance of an accident that wipes out some data will continue to exist.|
|💾 Take regular backups||Backing up your computer is critically important if you value the data that it contains. At a minimum, you should be using the internal File History method of backing up a Windows 10 machine to an external storage device. You should also consider cloud backups to maintain copies of important data in an alternate location to protect against physical disasters such as fire or flooding.|
|💻 Keep system software up to date||Installing the latest system updates can help prevent data loss. These updates often address bugs and security flaws that could increase your chances of losing data.|
It is impossible to totally guard against data loss. Most experienced Windows users have had to recover lost files and folders at one time or another. Using the methods outlined above will give you a great chance of recovering all of your lost data. Remember to get those backups set up, and good luck with your recovery efforts.
- You can choose to restore a folder that resides in the Recycle Bin. Just right-click on the folder and select Restore to retrieve the item.
- Recovering from a backup enables you to restore complete folders. When choosing the items to recover in your backup/recovery tool, select the full folder.
- Data recovery software can be used to recover full folders and their contents. When making your selections for recovery, be sure to indicate the folder and its contents should be restored.