You’re having trouble finding a certain file on your Windows PC, and you have a hunch that you might have deleted it. We were all there. But instead of whining and cursing, you can try to restore it. Assuming you’ve scoured the Trash and it’s empty, it’s time to switch to a good recovery tool.
Microsoft offers its own command-line recovery program, although it’s not entirely user-friendly. Instead, you can use free programs like Recuva and Glarysoft File Recovery Free. Here’s how they work.
How to Recover Deleted Files in Windows 10 or 11
What if I permanently delete a file on Windows 10 or 11?
If you permanently delete a file (press Shift + Del to do so) or empty the Recycle Bin entirely, recovering the file will be more difficult but still doable. This mainly depends on how fast you go to its rescue.
When you delete a file, the data is not erased from your disk. Instead, its space is marked as available by the operating system, which means that clusters allocated to that file can be overwritten by new data. If you access it quickly enough, the file can be completely intact and recoverable. However, the longer you wait, the greater the chance that most or all of the file’s clusters will be overwritten, reducing the possibility of fully recovering it.
Use Microsoft Windows File Recovery
Microsoft offers a Free command line utility for Windows 10 and 11 try to recover deleted files. Called Windows File Recovery, the tool supports mechanical hard drives, SSDs, USB drives, and memory cards. It also offers both regular and extended mode to attempt to recover a file.
Note about Windows File Recovery
As a command line program, Windows File Recovery can be difficult to use, requiring you to know the proper syntax and switches (a GUI version is essential). And even then, it doesn’t always find or recover the files you need.
I’ve used it a few times, and it’s definitely hit or miss. You might want to try it as a first step, but I think you’ll find a good third-party product less frustrating.
Third-party recovery utility
I have used a number of different third-party recovery tools and have generally had success with them. Again, their effectiveness largely depends on how quickly you try to recover the file after it’s been deleted. But assuming the file is still intact or complete, these tools will help you recover it.
A variety of programs are available, both free and paid. Here are two free utilities worth trying.
Glarysoft File Recovery Free
Another recovery tool available in both free and paid versions is Glarysoft File Recovery Free.
The biggest limitation with the free version is that you can only recover three files and the maximum size is 2GB. For more, the Pro version costs $50 per year. But if you only need to recover one or two or three files, the free flavor will do the trick.