4 Ways to Restore Deleted Files in Windows

Recycle Bin Restore Featured

You might have accidentally (or not) deleted files from your Windows PC at one point or another and wondered whether you can restore them from the Recycle Bin. The good news is that you can do so without much fuss.

Windows automatically places files from folders or external devices in the Recycle Bin when you delete them, so you can easily recover these with just a few clicks. If you’ve permanently deleted a file, however, you won’t be able to restore it through the Recycle Bin. Luckily, there are other advanced methods for recovering your files, as we shall see below.

Note: the methods included in this article are compatible with Windows 10/11.

1. From Recycle Bin

This is the easiest method to restore any deleted files. When you delete a file, it’s not really gone. The Recycle Bin just marks the file as no longer needed and removes it from normal view. If you decide later that you want the file back, you can easily restore it.

  1. Click on the desktop icon labeled “Recycle Bin”.
  2. Find the file you want to restore then right-click on it.
  3. You will get the option to “Restore” the file to its original folder.
Recycle Bin Restore
  1. Alternatively, double-click on the file, and it will open in its original location or you can drag the file to the desired folder.
  2. For example, if you deleted a file from your Pictures folder, you could open it up and drag the file from the Recycle Bin back into that folder to restore it. If you dragged a file from the Recycle Bin into a folder that contained another file with the same name, you would be asked if you want to overwrite that file.
  3. If you’re restoring a large number of files, the method above can be tedious. Instead, you can select the files while holding down the Ctrl key then clicking “Restore all items”. In Windows 11, Recycle Bin has a convenient “Restore all files” button that doesn’t even require you to select the files beforehand.
Recycle Bin Restore Selected Items

2. Bring Back Previous File Versions

When you delete or move a file or folder, Windows keeps the old version of the file and stores it in the Recycle Bin. These previous versions appear in the File History window and you can use them to retrieve old files or even restore an entire drive to a previous state.

Understanding how to restore previous versions of files from the Recycle Bin can help you recover files if you have accidentally deleted them. You can also use this method to repair a file that has become corrupted or to view a file’s contents from several days ago.

  1. To restore previous file versions, open File Explorer and locate the original folder of the deleted files.
  2. Right-click on the folder and then select “Restore previous versions”.
Recycle Bin Restore Previous File Versions
  1. In Windows 11, once you right-click on the folder, you’ll need to select “Show more options” to be able to get to menu where “Restore previous versions” is available.

These two methods are the most basic methods of retrieving files in Windows. For more advanced troubleshooting, we’ll need to use the Command Prompt and the Windows File Recovery Too, as will be demonstrated.

3. With Command Prompt

You can actually do some pretty cool things from the Command Prompt, and recovering deleted files is one of them, even if you’ve permanently deleted them from your Recycle Bin on your Windows computer.

  1. On your PC, click on the search bar at the bottom.
  2. Type “Command Prompt”, and click the “Run as administrator” option.
Recycle Bin Open Command Prompt
  1. Once the Command Prompt window opens, type in the following command and press Enter. Don’t forget to change the “drive letter” to your respective drive where you want to recover your deleted files.
chkdsk "drive letter": /f
Recycle Bin Check Disk 1
  1. Now, type “Y” until the command lines open again.
  2. Next, input in the following command. Replace “drive letter” with your respective drive.
ATTRIB -H -R -S /S /D "drive letter":*.*
Recycle Bin Command Prompt Recover Files
  1. The above commands will trigger a thorough search by looking for Read-only files, multiple files, hidden files, and sub-folders.
  2. Once the commands have been executed, you can go back to your drive where a new folder will have automatically been created. In this folder, you can find all your recovered files. However, the files will all be in a new .chk format. You will have to adjust the file format and save them to your desired folder before opening them.
Recycle Bin Recovered Files Folder
  1. Alternatively, you can also use the Command Prompt to open the Recycle Bin and restore your deleted files.
  2. Just press the Win + R keys and type in the following command then hit Enter:
start shell:RecycleBinFolder
Recycle Bin Command Prompt
  1. The Recycle Bin folder will open and you can follow the steps in solution 1 to restore files.

4. Using Windows File Recovery Tool

Windows File Recovery is a dedicated app for data recovery. You can use it to recover files that can’t be restored from your Recycle Bin. It’s a command-line app that can recover files from a variety of sources including internal storage, external storage, and memory cards. Here’s how to use it on Windows 10/11.

  1. You’ll need to download the app from the Microsoft Store if you don’t have it on your PC.
  2. Once you’ve installed the app, you can use PowerShell or Command Prompt in admin mode. Although both PowerShell and Command Prompt can perform similar functions, PowerShell is a more advanced version of Command Prompt.
  1. Start by pressing Win + X.
  2. Select “Windows PowerShell (Admin)” or “Command Prompt (Admin).” Enter the following command. Remember to replace “X” with the drive you want to recover the deleted files.
winfr c: x:
Recycle Bin Powershell Command
  1. In Windows 11, just use the search button and look for Windows PowerShell to launch the app.
  1. Anyway, for a more specific file recovery, enter the following command.
winfr "source drive": "destination drive": /n \Users\Folder\
  1. Instead of recovering all your deleted files, the command allows you to recover files from a specific folder. Remember to replace “source drive” and “destination drive” with your own drive letters. Also add the specific folder you would like to restore files from.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to use one or more methods to restore your deleted files. While you are still here, it is also critical that you always back up your files to avoid such mistakes in the future. Also, if you are more tech-savvy and you’d prefer to automatically restore your deleted files, check out our top 5 software to recover deleted files.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I restore files deleted from my flash disk from the Recycle Bin?

The Recycle Bin can only restore files that were deleted from your hard drive. To recover files from other drives, you will need a special program.

If I deleted a corrupted file, will it still be corrupted when restored?

If a file was corrupted when you deleted it, restoring it won’t fix it. The actual data is still there until something new comes along and overwrites it, at which point the old data is gone forever.

How long are files kept in the Recycle Bin?

Files are kept in the recycle bin until you delete them or until your hard drive fills up and Windows needs to free space on your computer. You can also set how long files are kept in the Recycle Bin.

Press the Win+I keys to open “Settings-> System-> Storage” and then click the “Change how we free up space automatically” link.

Under “Temporary Files” select the checkbox for “Delete files in my recycle bin if they have been there for over” and select a time frame from the drop-down list.

In Windows 11, you’ll find the same option by going to “Settings-> System-> Storage-> Storage Sense”. Turn the feature on, to be able to configure the Recycle bin option.

Image credit: Pixabay

Claire Moraa
Claire Moraa

I love to write about the latest in technology and how it can be used to solve problems. Crazy about all things Android, Windows and a lot more.

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