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How to Recover Deleted Files on Computer

Submitted on 02/19/2018

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:

Recovery software for PC:

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 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 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 software

Main features of the app:

  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 files removed to it 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.

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

2. Recuva

Recuva - recycle bin recovery software for Windows
Recuva app for PC

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.

Didn’t manage to restore files? Send us a question

Describe your issue using our feedback form. Give us details on where the files were deleted from, when and how, and we will try to give you an answer. Besides, your question will clarify and make more complete questions by other users, which is of great help for us in making our recovery guides more helpful.

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