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Can You Recover Deleted Files?

Can You Recover Deleted Files?

Linsey Knerl
Reading time: 5 minutes
You know the feeling; you need to access a file or folder for work or school, only to realize you deleted it. Maybe you didn’t know at the time that the file would come in handy at a later date. Perhaps you deleted it by accident, intending to move it to another location. Whatever happened, don’t panic just yet. There are a few steps you should take before you give up hope; it’s possible to restore some deleted files. Here are the facts about how to find and restore deleted files on your Windows computer.

1. Check the recycle bin

Did you know that it often takes two steps to permanently delete a file? When you first click to delete an item, or drag and drop it into the trashcan on your desktop, it actually goes into what's called the "Recycle Bin." This gives you one more look to decide if you want to delete something permanently.
As part of a regular cleanup on your PC, it’s customary to empty your Recycle Bin. If you haven’t done this in a while, your item may still be there.
  1. To restore files from the bin, double-click on the Recycle Bin on your desktop
  2. Find deleted files by sorting by name or date last used. You can also use the search box in the upper left to type part of the name of the file
  3. When you’ve located it, click on it to select it, and take note of the original location directly to the right of the file name. This is where you will look for it later
  4. Then, click on Restore the Selected Items in the upper toolbar
Your item will be restored to its original location on the computer at the time you deleted it. If you’re not sure where this is, either because you failed to take note before restoring it or you forgot, use the search box from the Startup menu to find it.

2. Restore from a previous version

If you’ve emptied your Recycle Bin recently, you have lost access to the file, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. Restoring Windows to a previous version, also known as a “shadow copy,” may help to restore files. Here are the steps to follow to complete this task:
  1. Click on the Start button and select Computer
  2. Open the directory and find the direct location, such a C:/ or Documents, where the deleted file was originally stored
  3. Right-click this folder. Then, select Restore previous versions
  4. Choose the previous version that you wish to restore. You may have several to choose from, so pick the date in which you knew the item hadn’t been deleted yet. Double-click this version. Whether it’s one file or an entire folder you wish to restore, you may choose it from the earlier configuration of your computer
  5. After the file or folder has been identified in the version you need, drag the item to another location, such as your desktop
You should now be able to see the restored file or folder on your desktop.

3. Restore a file to a previous state

You can also choose to restore from the file itself.
  1. Select the file or folder from the directory
  2. Right-click and select Restore previous versions
  3. Choose the version that applies. You’ll only see versions available if you have them saved on your Windows Backup or previous restore points. If these haven’t been created, you won’t see any versions to select
  4. Click to Open the file. Make sure it’s the version you want. Then, go back to the list of available versions, and click Restore on the version to confirm
  5. Versions of files created in Windows Backup aren’t available to open and view before restoring. This only works for previous restore point versions
Restoring a previous version will replace the version you have on your computer now, so be sure it’s the right one. Once it’s restored to an earlier version, you cannot undo this action.

4. Restore from a backup

If you don’t have what you need on a previous version, a saved backup could provide a solution. Backups are usually stored on a disc or USB drive.
  1. Insert the backup device into your computer's USB port or disc drive. Follow any on-screen prompts to allow access to the device, if needed
  2. Select the Start button at the left-hand bottom of your screen. Then select Control Panel and System and Maintenance
  3. You’ll have the option to open the Backup and Restore program. Do this, then, select Restore my Files, and follow the on-screen prompts
  4. When prompted, indicate where your backup device is located so that the computer can access those backup files, including the file you hope to restore
After the backup restoration is complete, search for your file in the original location. If it was included in the backup, you should be able to access it now.
  1. How to restore deleted files from the cloud
What if the above methods don’t help and you are unable to recover deleted files? You have a few more options that could help. While you can’t truly undelete files, there may be copies stored elsewhere you haven’t considered.
Places to check for backup copies of your files and folders include:
  • Windows OneDrive
  • Google Docs
  • Your computer backup provider – either on the web or through a physical drive
  • Other computers that share network access with your computer
  • Emails in which you may have sent the item to yourself or to others
  • Other cloud-based services
Depending on the file type, the odds are good that you used it in a cloud-based function. A tax document, for example, may still be stored with a cloud-based tax prep provider. You may be able to recover deleted files from a photo album in an online storage provider or photo-printing service. While it may take time to brainstorm all the places your file may have been stored, it’s well worth it to find what you’re looking for.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.

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