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How to Recover Deleted Files on Computer


Losing files, usually photos, documents and other data on computer is many users’ pain in the neck. This guide describes basic principles of data recovery. Hopefully you’ll be able to put them into practice. If any questions arise, send them to us using our feedback form.

Let’s have a closer look at three main scenarios of data recovery on computer:

Table of Contents

Are all files recoverable on computer?

Not all but lots.

After a file is deleted, it stays on a hard drive. In the file table it is assigned 0 value. It means that the space is free and can be used to write other data.

This way a file gets hidden from your eyes but it can be restored unless it’s been overwritten. By the way, it is actually possible to recover overwritten files but parts of them are likely to be damaged.

How to recover an overwritten file on Windows 10

How to assess recovery chances?

The likelihood of data recovery depends on a number of factors. Check out the following:

  • If your files were removed bypassing Recycle Bin (Shift + Del) or via formatting
  • The time from the moment your files were deleted on PC: the longer it’s been, the higher the probability they have been overwritten
  • Type of deleted data: some items (images, videos) can be recovered partially, while others you won’t be able to retrieve even if a byte of its was lost
  • Data storage type: HDD/SSD, RAID, etc.
  • Filesystem type: NTFS/FAT/exFAT and others.

With luck, you’ll be able to get back your files in the full or parts of them.

How to restore permanently deleted files from Recycle Bin (helpful for newbie)

Usually after you delete files using Del key, they are moved to Recycle Bin – a temporary storage – where they are stored for 30 days and then get removed automatically. If you change your mind, say realize having deleted some really important files, check Recycle Bin and restore all files from there.

How to retrieve permanently deleted items:

  1. Open Recycle Bin via the shortcut on the desktop or Explorer
  2. Choose files/folders to restore – click Restore in the right-click menu
  3. All deleted files will be restored to their original location
how to recover deleted documents from recycle bin

How to recover files from emptied Recycle Bin

Even after emptying Recycle Bin files are not deleted from PC irretrievably (see above). However, you’ll need certain utilities and time to get back your data successfully.

All recovery tools function in a similar way involving scanning the filesystem on your computer for the files marked as deleted.

Note. Installing an application you unavoidably make changes to the file table lessening the likelihood of recovery (depending on the volume of data written on the hard disk). We would recommend you to install recovery software on a USB stick, to another computer or disk partition which isn’t used as storage for deleted data .

Recovering files after formatting

Now let’s move on to tougher cases. Formatting affects not just single files but the whole hard drive partition. As a result files are lost for good. Yet is there a chance to retrieve deleted files on PC after that?

  • After quick format – yes
  • After full format – minimal

Among good apps we recommend Auslogics File Recovery desktop app. Here is a guide to using it:

How to restore files on computer after formatting

Which software can recover files on a hard drive?

In fact, there are dozens of HDD recovery apps for desktop. We wouldn’t suggest grabbing any first available since you risk wasting money on practically useless soft which won’t restore your data.

We listed three applications for computer file recovery ranked high by users.

1. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard - software to retrieve deleted files

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is a program for recovering deleted files from HDD / SSD drives and removable devices (such as (micro)SD cards and USB flash drives). It successfully combines the features of other recovery programs.

The program can be used for restoring photos, documents, videos, music and other data. The scan is not limited, any type of files is suitable for recovery.

Some basic features of Data Recovery Wizard:

  1. User-friendly. Data Recovery Wizard is integrated with Windows filesystem. Due to the built-in Recovery Wizard it is intuitively easy to operate.
  2. Protected Recycle Bin. Unlike a basic Recycle Bin, this one enables you to recover deleted files even after it gets emptied.
  3. Handling difficult cases. Restoring files removed bypassing Recycle Bin (Shift+Delete key), after formatting or raw partitions of HDD.
  4. You can choose between Quick Scan / Deep Scan mode, which affects the speed / recovery success
  5. Quick preview for recovered audio and video files before saving
  6. You can save session, pause or resuming the search the next time the program starts

How to recover deleted files
from hard drive via EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

2. Recuva

Recuva - recycle bin recovery software for Windows

Recuva is free actively developing software to recover deleted files from PC. Recovering data with Recuva is simple, and it doesn’t make you pay for basic features or removing limitations. The three most advantageous features of this app are:

  1. Recuva Wizard. For those who use Recuva for the first time it offers Recovery Wizard. You specify file type (say, images), location where you expect them to be found and other parameters helpful in finding your deleted data.
  2. Deep Scan. By activating this option you enhance your chances to recover deleted data, restore shift deleted files even if a lot of utilities in a regular scan mode didn’t manage to find any.
  3. Visual aspects. All found files are marked. The color marks the likelihood of recovery: high, average, low. Quick preview is provided for photos.

Download Recuva

3. DiskDrill

DiskDrill will help to recover overwritten files on computer

DiskDrill is a new product on recovery software market for desktop. Yet sufficient technical support and community prove program’s maturity. It can be used to recover most file types stored on a personal computer: images, music, video, documents, archives. There are versions of this tool both for Windows and Mac OS. Regardless of OS, 100MB of data can be restored for free (which is quite generous we must admit).

Other features of DiskDrill:

  1. Selecting type of data to recover. Only the types which will be in the search results can be selected. Filter by attributes and flexible search for recovered files are available too.
  2. Pause and continue scan at any stage. A nice feature for large HDD/SSD.
  3. Write protection. Enabling this option for the time DiskDrill does its job, you make sure your deleted files won’t be overwritten.

Download DiskDrill

Related: Best Hard Drive Recovery Software


Photos from my computer got deleted, no idea how it happened. I suppose it’s a virus. I tried recovering deleted files using Wise Data Recovery. The status of the files which had been found was “LOST”. As far as I understand, they are irretrievable? Have they been destroyed by a virus? Or is there a chance to cure and recover them? How do I recover deleted files? Please help me.

Answer. Check out Deep Scan mode in Wise Data Recovery. It’s unlikely though. Install other recovery apps, for example Recuva – it provides deep scan which boosts the likelihood of file recovery. To get back deleted photos on computer try PhotoRec. Both utilities are free.

I was transferring documents with images from a flash drive to a PC, but decided to abandon the process. As a result, some files were lost. What should I do in order to recover them?

You should have copied the files and only then, after checking that the files are on the recipient, delete them from the source.

Therefore, you should search for the files on the source drive. In order to do this, you have to:

  1. Connect the SD card to your computer via a card reader.
  2. Download and install the PhotoRec software.
  3. Select the file types you're searching for.
  4. Specify the folder where you want to save the recovered files and start the scanning process.

There were free 50 GB on a hard disk and now the amount of free space is 360 GB. I don't see any lost files in the Recuva program. How can I recover files, if I don't even know their names?

The name and date of a file will be lost after recovering it via Recuva (this is also applicable for other recovery tools). The thumbnails of your photos will be available in the scan results. You can view a video by opening it.

In any case, you can check the results by opening and previewing them.

My laptop was fully formatted and then Windows was reinstalled. A year has passed since then, is there still a chance to recover any files?

The chances are extremely low. If you've been actively using your laptop during the specified time, new files may have been already written over the deleted ones. This mostly happens when there isn't enough space on a drive. But you can still try to recover them, read here the manual.

I accidentally deleted a video from my PC (it was a video from my wedding). I found a software to recover it, but unfortunately, half of the files are damaged.

There are different kinds of programs for recovering damaged videos. Among them we can highlight Video Repair Tool, JPEG Recovery LAB, Stellar Phoenix Video Repair and others. However, even they can't provide you with 100% chances of a successful result. Files fragments might have been lost when they were overwritten by other files.

Files are blocked by a virus. When I try to open a folder, a message appears: "Files are blocked, transfer money to the number...".

We highly recommend checking your computer for viruses. In order to do it, use Dr Web CureIt! (free one-time antivirus) or Malwarebytes (it removes ads, blockers and various trojans).

I tried to recover a deleted file via Wise Data Recovery. All the files that the program managed to find have "LOST" in their status. I guess it means that they can't be recovered?

Check whether there is a deep scanning mode in Wise Data Recovery. Most likely there isn't. Thus we suggest installing other recovery software. For example, Recuva has the option of deep scanning, which significantly increases your chances of recovering the deleted files. You can also use PhotoRec to recover photos on your computer. Both recovery tools can be downloaded for free.

Vlad Brown, USA, Buffalo, WY

Vlad is a professional writer. He has expert knowledge in data recovery with 15 years of experience. He started his career as a journalist by reviewing PC and mobile apps. His current responsibilities are to keep track of users' questions and answer them. 

His current responsibilities are to keep track of users' questions and provide answers to them, write proven manuals, be the website technical support and also run a Youtube channel.

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