How to Recover Deleted Files: Proven Free Methods to Restore your Lost Data


recover deleted files

Most computer users have experienced a data loss scenario at one time or another. It can be very unnerving to attempt to locate some important documents only to discover that they are missing. Your first action, if you believe the items were recently deleted, should be to search in the Recycle Bin. Perhaps you can just restore your files from there in a few seconds.

If you have emptied the Recycle Bin or the files you seek are not there, you can still undelete files that were previously removed from the system. Due to the way that Windows handles file deletion, you can recover deleted files even if they are no longer recycled. Until the storage space that a file occupied is overwritten, there is a very good chance that you can rescue your valuable information. This article will show you the best ways to retrieve deleted files.

recover deleted files with disk drill

How to Restore Deleted Files Using Disk Drill

Before going through the steps required to have Disk Drill unerase your lost files, let’s look a little more closely at how they are deleted in the first place. Windows simply makes a file logically inaccessible to the operating system and applications when it deleted files or folders. The file still physically exists on the hard disk drive and data recovery software can be employed to restore files that your system can no longer access.

The more a specific disk is used after files are deleted, the greater the chance that erased files will be overwritten. For this reason, you need to stop using the storage media that contained the deleted files or images as soon as you realize that you may need to perform data recovery. At some point, the OS will reclaim the space and make it impossible to recover the data in question.

To restore deleted files using Disk Drill data recovery software, follow these steps:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill for Windows. Don’t use the disk that contained the files you wish to recover.
  2. Launch the application.restore deleted files
  3. Select the disk or partition from the list provided by the tool.
  4. Click the Search for lost data button to start the scanning algorithms that are used to find deleted to restore deleted files
  5. Browse the file list that Disk Drill displays to preview the files which can be recovered by the app.find deleted files
  6. Select the files to be recovered as well as a new storage location where they will be saved. Do not use the original location to avoid possible file corruption.retrieve deleted files
  7. Click the Recover button to recover the deleted data.recover deleted files

That’s all you need to do to recover lost files with this excellent utility. Disk Drill’s advanced Quick and Deep scanning procedures can undo file deletions and recover data that you thought was permanently deleted.

How To Recover Deleted Files Without Any Software

There are some methods of retrieving data that may have been deleted by mistake which do not require the use of a software tool. Depending on when and how the files were deleted, if you have Windows PC, you might be able to recover your files in one of the following ways.

retrieve deleted files with recycle bin

Recover Deleted Files From the Recycle Bin

You may be able to extract recently deleted files from your system’s Recycle Bin. It’s always worth a look before going on to more elaborate repair efforts.

Follow these simple steps to manually restore files from the Recycle Bin:

  1. Open the Recycle bin by double-clicking or right-clicking and selecting Open.
  2. Choose the file or folder you want to recover.
  3. Right-click on the files and select Restore.retrieve deleted files with recycle bin

If the Recycle Bin was emptied after the files were deleted, you cannot recover with this method. Once a document is gone from the Recycle Bin, data recovery software is your best bet for restoring it.

how to restore deleted files with previous versions

Recover Deleted Data From the Previous Versions

You might be able to restore a previous version of your file. To try this method, follow these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Navigate to the file or folder which contained the files that you wish to recover.
  3. Right-click and select Restore previous versions from the menu.
  4. Select the version you wish to recover from the list provided by Windows.
  5. Click the Restore button to recover your photo.restore deleted files with Previous Versions

There needs to be a previous version of the file in order for this procedure to work. Newly created files may not be recoverable with this method.

restore deleted files with System Restore

Retrieve Deleted Files Using System Restore

Another way to undo a file deletion is by using Windows System Restore. Unfortunately, this method will not help you recover a personal document or images that you have created. It is used exclusively to restore your operating system to a previous state. If you are missing system files or experiencing OS problems, you can try to roll back to a previous place in time with System Restore.

To recover system files via System Restore you need to:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Click on System and Security.
  3. In the System and Security window click on System.
  4. Click on System Protection link.
  5. Click the System Restore button.find deleted files via system restore
  6. Select the restore point you want to use.
  7. Click Next and follow the prompts to start the restore.find deleted files via system restore

As stated above, this will only affect system files.

Disk Drill Recovery Software vs Native Windows Recovery Methods


Disk Drill

Basic Windows Tools

Recover files from an emptied Recycle Bin.

Yes. Disk Drill can restore files and folders after the Recycle Bin has been emptied.

You cannot recover files from an empty Recycle Bin with native Windows tools. You may be able to recover a previous version of the file.

Recover data from a formatted drive or partition.

Yes. Disk Drill can recover files from a formatted drive or partition.

No. Native Windows tools do not allow recovery from a formatted hard drive. System restore may be able to recover some system files from a previous system state.

Recover erased files from external storage.

Yes. Connecting the device to your computer enables Disk Drill to recover its data.

No. Files deleted from external storage often do not make it to the Recycle Bin and will not be recoverable with basic Windows tools.

Recover recently deleted data.


Yes. If they are still found in the Recycle Bin, they are easily recoverable.

Is There Any Way to Protect Important Files From an Accidental Deletion?

There are a number of ways you can help protect your important data from accidental deletion. Here are two of them.

  • Backup your computer – This is the best method you can use to protect your data. Making regular backups of your important files and data enable you to recover from data deletion by reverting to a previously backed-up version of the item.
  • Label removable storage devices – Preventing accidental deletion can be a problem if you use a large number of flash drives or other removable storage. You may not readily recollect which files are on a particular drive and mistakenly format one so you can use it for another purpose. Meaningful labels can help avoid this issue.


Q: Does the system restore recover deleted files?

Yes, but this only applies to system files. Your personal documents and data are not recoverable with system restore.

Q: After how long can I recover files deleted from my hard drive?

The ability to recover deleted files from your hard drive is not tied to the amount of time that has elapsed since their deletion. Old files may still be resident on storage media that has seen little use, preventing the deleted data from being overwritten.

Q: Can I recover deleted files after formatting my computer?

Yes. If you accidentally format your laptop or desktop machine you can use data recovery software to recover the files. Use a different computer to perform the recovery by connecting it to the formatted machine.


You may be able to recover some or all of your deleted files through methods readily available to all Windows users. This is not always the case though, and data recovery software offers more flexibility in the types of files that can be recovered. Disk Drill provides a comprehensive data recovery tool and can be used to recover up to 500MB of data on a Windows machine for free. Give it a try and see how easy it is to recover from the inevitable data loss situation you are bound to face one of these days.

Jeff Cochin is a data management and recovery professional, who has been with Pandorarecovery for nine years and has always been an essential part of the team. Jeff also works as a technical writer at Macgasm, being a first hand in testing, trying and writing about big and small tech software.