How To Recover Deleted Files (Simple Options & Apps)

Aaron shows you how to resurrect lost files and data, saving a lot of headaches in the process. Read our How to recover deleted files.

How to recover deleted files

We’ve all been there, that moment when you realize a needed file or folder has mysteriously vanished. The last time you remember, it was there, waiting for you to peruse the file or folder contents, but when you come to actually look at it, it’s gone. You could have accidentally deleted it, or it could have been removed by another means, such as a system clean. Either way, it was data you needed, and it’s now gone. Is there anything that can be done?

Can you get this data back, saving you a lot of time and effort, or is it gone forever?

With a little luck and the right tools and know-how, no, all is not lost. It is possible to recover data, and there are a number of ways you can go about it, ranging from the simple to the complex. Whatever method you need to employ, aside from the harshest of scenarios, there’s usually a way to recover your lost data. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some free options open to recover your deleted files.

The Simple Options to recover your deleted files

Although it’s something many of us will instinctively check, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the simple option of the Windows Recycling Bin, especially if your lost data has caused you to panic and worry about the ramifications of its loss. Such worrying situations often cause us to overlook the simple options, so don’t forget to keep things simple to begin with.

The Windows Recycle Bin is where all deleted files go, unless you press Shift+Del to permanently delete the file, which will bypass an entry in the Recycle Bin. Even then, it’s still possible to recover a lost file, but we’ll look at this later. Assuming any potentially lost data has simply been deleted the usual way, try double-clicking the Recycle Bin to rummage through the deleted contents. Anything still in the Recycle Bin can be easily recovered by right-clicking it and selecting Restore. This will restore the file to the location it occupied before it was deleted. Easy.

Of course, this is the best case scenario and most will obviously know about this and check it right away, so this may not be the answer. In this case, some extra help

With a little luck and the right tools and know-how, no, all is not lost

is needed, and this is where file recovery programs come in.

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File Recovery Apps

The most common method used to recover lost files is the use of a third-party file recovery application. These are programs that can scan a hard disk for references to deleted files and recover them. This is made possible by the way in which files are deleted in the first place.

When you delete an item on your hard disk, the file itself isn’t actually deleted. All you do when you do this is remove the reference to the file in the file system table, and Windows no longer sees the data. This means the space the item takes up can be overwritten. Until this happens, which often isn’t right away, the data remains intact. File recovery programs are able to find these files without the file reference and can restore them for you. It’s a relatively simple procedure, and it’s easy to do with the right software.

There are many such programs around, and many major software publishers have their own options. However, these can be costly, and you may prefer to look for free alternatives, which is where we’re going to focus, with a brief look at just a few of the available choices.

First up we have Recuva ( This comes from the publisher of another product we often cover here in Micro Mart, Malwarebytes. Recuva can be used to scan your hard disk(s), as well as media cards or USB sticks for recoverable files, even after a format of the volume. Once a scan has been run, the program will display a list of results, along with an assessment of the possibility of recovery, as well as a hex preview of the data.

A useful feature is the option to limit a recovery search for files of a specific type, such as media or text documents, and the deep scan is a very useful tool for ensuring you have the best chance to find those required files.

The program also features a secure file deletion tool. For more information on this, see the File Shredder box elsewhere in this article.

Recuva is a great tool to recover deleted files, and it doesn’t even need to be installed. All you need to do is extract the files from the downloaded archive and double-click the exe. Easy. For more information, check out our simple step-by step how to use this free tool to recover deleted files.

Another option is Disk Drill ( This is another popular option and one that claims to be able to recover deleted or lost data from almost any storage device, be it PC hard disks, USB drives or iPods. Like many tools of this type, it uses both quick and deep scan algorithms, and once a scan is complete, you can try to

How to recover deleted files using Recuva

how to recover deleted files using recuva

Recuva is one of the best free file recovery tools around, and it’s also easy to use. To give you an idea, here’s a simple step-by-step on using the program.

Step 1: Once you’ve downloaded the program, simply extract it and run either the 32 or 64-bit version, with the latter being applicable to those with 64-bit CPUs and operating systems. At the first screen, all you need to do is select the type of file you’re looking for. If you’re not sure, just check ‘All Files’ and click ‘Next’.

Step 2: Next you need to pick the location to search. You can select the ‘I’m not sure’ option, which will search everywhere, but this can take a while. Alternatively, pick a more specific item or use the browse option to navigate to the exact location, if you know where the file was. You can also search optical media.

Step 3: Once you’ve picked your settings, you can start the search. Recuva will go through several stages during the scan, such as locating files and analysing any damage. This process can be quick if you know where the files were, or it can take a while if you have to search the whole system.

Step 4: Once the scan is complete, you’ll see a new screen with a list of checkable files, along with names, file paths, modified dates and, importantly, the current state of the file. This lets you know if the file is likely a possibility for recovery. To try to recover any files, check the box next to them and click Recover.

Step 5: The recovery process will occur automatically and shouldn’t take too long for most files. Once it’s done, you’ll see a simple completion box that will let you know if a file has been fully or only partially recovered.

Step 6: If you’re a more advanced user or you want more help identifying files to be recovered, click the Advanced View button to the top-right of the main screen, and you’ll find extra tabs, including a hex header viewer and an information panel with the name and more information about the file. If the file is able to be previewed (such as an image), you can also see it here.


how to recover deleted files using disk drill

how to recover deleted files using pandora recovery

recover any detected items. Interestingly, you can also view results in real time as the scan runs, so you don’t even need to wait for the scan to finish. The program supports all kinds of file system and can recover partitions.

Our final example here is Pandora Recovery (, which is another favourite of PC users looking for a free file recovery option. This program can recovery deleted files from FAT16, FAT32 and NTFS formatted drives. It offers a quick scan option if you’re

Data loss is pretty much a given at some point in any PC user’s life

looking for freshly deleted files and a deeper scan for files that may have been overwritten.

Post recovery includes a list of files that have been found, along with the likelihood of a successful recovery operation. You can also search results for specific files, sizes and other criteria.

All of these programs are very useful, and in many situations, files can be recovered, even if you have to use the longer, more in-depth scans these tools offer. Sadly, however, as files get overwritten, the likelihood of recovery drops dramatically.

File Shredders

Although we’re looking at preventing the loss of data, we should also talk a little about the secure deletion of files. Just as file recovery tools can be a huge benefit, their ability to recover deleted files can also make them a security risk. You may have deleted a file for good reason and don’t want anyone else stumbling over it. If someone can easily recover it, that’s not good. This is where file shredders come in.

These applications are designed to securely delete data so that it can’t be recovered. Instead of simply deleting the reference to a file, as Windows and other operating systems do, they also overwrite the file multiple times, thus minimising the chance of a successful recovery. Different programs demonstrate more effective shredding than others, and there are some very powerful commercial options that boast advanced features. However, most of us won’t need this kind of power, and there are plenty of free options that will ensure your data stays deleted.

One such option is Eraser ( This is a free file shredder that overwrites your data numerous times and does so quickly. It features various secure deletion methods, such as Gutman and USDoD, and it can be integrated into the Windows context menu for easy access. It’s a great tool and one of many that can help keep your data private, even after you’ve deleted it.

If you want to ensure sensitive data stays deleted, you’ll need to use a file shredder like Eraser

Damaged sectors also make recovery using domestic applications less likely.

In situations like this, one of the only options is to seek professional help, which often means sending your drive to a specialised service that can perform high- end data recovery procedures on it. These services will inevitably have more success, due to their professional eguipment and means, but even this is no guarantee, and it can also be expensive. So the best idea world really be to prevent data loss in the first place. Enter the backup.

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Prevention Is The Cure

Data loss is pretty much a given at some point in any PC user’s life. We all lose data, and dealing with it isn’t always straightforward, so preventing it is a great idea, and the best way to do this above and beyond careful PC use is to back up your important files. Now, this is possible manually, by simply copying files to a secure storage location, but this can be time consuming, which is why backup programs are far more useful for most. Using these, you can perform and schedule backups utilising a host of advanced features. If you’re serious about protecting your data, you really should look into this. Here are a couple of great, free options.

Cobain Backup ( is a full backup suite that you can use to back up files, either locally or to an FTP server remotely. It makes this whole process easier, as you can schedule backups so they run automatically at set times, only backing up files that need to be copied due to changes. This can even be done if files are in use, so you don’t have to stop using your PC when the process runs. Backups are also encrypted, so they’re even more secure.

It’s very possible to recover some data that you might have thought lost for good

EaseUS Todo Backup Free ( is a powerful free backup solution, which features full automated backups, and it also features a selection of system-centric options, such as the ability to back up partitions, complete with current software installations and settings for system troubleshooting purposes. You can even mount backup images as virtual partitions and can use backups to restore a system to working order. Extra tools feature a disk cloner and the ability to create bootable recovery discs. This makes it a well-rounded solution for both backing up data to protect it and to look after your system as a whole.

As you can see, it’s very possible to recover some data that you might have thought lost for good, all without spending anything, and if you’re careful and make use of the right tool, you can also keep the need to recover data to a minimum. So take these important steps. They really can save you from a data loss nightmare, mm

Cobain Backup makes running backups easy and doesn’t interfere with your daily work

Repair Deleted Files

As we’ve already mentioned, files are not always easily recovered, and if they’re actually damaged in some way, either by overwriting or other issues, getting these files back can  be challenging. In these cases, you could try using a file repair tool.

These tools are designed to attempt reconstruction of a damaged file, in order for  the item to be retrieved. They can be found in various different guises, with some applications designed for a specific task. For example, CD Recovery Toolbox Free ( is an application that specialises in the recovery of data from scratched or damaged optical discs. This includes CD, DVD and Blu-ray. Recovery is | not guaranteed, but it can actually retrieve and reconstruct data from a damaged disc, making it a very useful recovery tool.

Likewise, Disklnternals Zip Repair ( is a program that focuses on the recovery of damaged or corrupted Zips archive files. It can analyse and reconstruct the structure of a damaged archive and attempts to create a new, working copy of the file so you can access it normally.

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