How to Recover Accidentally Deleted Files in Windows

This step by step tutorial will show you how to recover files you may have deleted by mistake from your Windows PC.

The App we’ll be using (Recuva) can recover image files, documents, media files, or any other type of file you may have deleted. And it can recover from most storage devices: your hard drive, memory cards, external/USB hard drives etc. Best of all, the free version is totally functional and you don’t need to pay to recover your file(s).

  1. Start out by downloading and running the installation file for Recuva, which is super-straight forward (click the Install button and go from there).
  2. the Recuva installation wizard initial window

  3. At the end of the installation, click the Run Recuva button to start it now.
  4. the final window of the Recuva installation wizard with an arrow pointing to the Run Recuva button

  5. Click the Next button to start the “Wizard”
  6. an arrow pointing to a Next button

  7. You’ll be greeted with the Recuva Wizard. Select the type of file you wish to recover: Pictures, Music, Documents, Video or Compressed. By narrowing down the file type, the search time will be reduced. If you want to recover multiple files and they’re different types, choose the All Files option, which is what we’ll use for the sake of this tutorial. It takes a bit longer to generate, but you’ll wind up with a list of all of the files you can recover. After you’ve made your selection, click the Next button to continue.
  8. selecting the deleted file type to recover

  9. To try and speed up the recovery process, Recuva will ask if you know where the file was before it went mission. For example, if you put a file in the Recycle Bin and then emptied it, and later realized you need that file – select In the Recycle Bin from the list of options. If the file was on an SD card or other removable storage device, make sure that card/device is plugged in, and select On my media card or iPad. For the sake of this guide, and you may wish to follow suit, I selected I’m not sure – which will tells Recuva to search everything it can find. With that said, if the file you’re looking for is not on an SD card etc, make sure to remove any cards from your PC before you run the scan – since there’s no need to look on them.
  10. selecting the deleted files locations to recover

  11. You’ll be asked if you want to enable deep scanning. A deep scan will take longer but will be more thorough and will produce better results. If you’re OK with the idea that it may take many hours to run the scan, select Deep Scan. On my quite old PC with too little RAM a deep scan of a slow 1TB hard drive with a lot of files took 8 hours. A newer PC with an SSD drive and a good amount of RAM would not take anywhere near that long. Ultimately, the more times you scan your PC, the fewer the number of files will be recoverable, so if you’re really determined to get the file(s) back, select Enable Deep Scan and then click the Start button.
  12. enable deep scan in Recuva

  13. Recuva will display the approximate time remaining for the scan. Note that it can take quite a long time depending on the options you previously selected. It’s best if you don’t use your PC while Recuva is running, so perhaps now is a good time to make a cup of tea or coffee and grab a book (?).
  14. Recuva running a scan of a PC with the ETA being calculated

  15. After the scan has completed list of files will be displayed. Select the Filename row to sort the files alphabetically so you can find the one you’re looking for a bit faster.
  16. a list of files that can possibly be recovered in Windows via Recuva
    click to enlarge

  17. Files that have a “green” circle next to them are very likely to be able to be recovered. Files with an “orange” circle next to them are less likely to be recoverable. Files with a “red” circle next to them are very likely to be unrecoverable. Place a check next to the files you wish to attempt recover and click on the Recover… button.
  18. recovering accidentally deleted files in Windows
    click to enlarge

  19. You’ll be prompted to specify the location for the files you want to recover. It’s best to choose a storage drive other than the one where the file was originally stored. In other words, if the file was stored in your C: drive, the new location should be another drive (USB thumb drives, external drives and SD Cards are great choices).
  20. selecting a location to save recovered files

  21. After you’ve (hopefully) successfully recovered your files an Operation completed screen will appear. Click OK to close this window.
  22. the final Recuva window

  23. Open your file manager and navigate to the location where you told Recuva to save the recovered files. There they are!
  24. a Windows File Explorer window with an arrow pointing to two PNGs


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