If you have ever accidentally deleted a file or deleted the contents of a file, you know that it can be incredibly frustrating, and it’s even more frustrating when it’s something you have been working on for days, weeks, or even months.
Fortunately, deleting a file may not be the end of the world. In fact, in many cases the file is hiding in the recycle bin and can be easily retrieved.
Look in the Recycle Bin
Just double-click on the recycle bin or trashcan and you can see everything that's inside. Did you find what you thought you had deleted? Simply drag it back onto your Desktop, and you are good to go.
If it's not in your trashcan, then there are a number of other things you can try to recover a deleted file.
Hopefully you have been doing backups. If so, you can recover an earlier version of your file through the recovery service in backup. It might be a day old, but it’s better to lose a day than lose everything.
How to Recover Deleted Files Using File History
If you are not doing backups, hopefully you have turned on File History Backup if you're running Windows* 8, because it will automatically do version backups on your files. That can be a great solution, and it’s a service that is well worth enabling before you have to deal with lost or overwritten files.
To work with File History, first go to “Settings” on your Windows* 8 system, then “Control Panels.” Look for “Save backup copies of your files with File History” under “System and Security.” To recover a file from File History, select “Restore personal files” on the left side of the window.
This shows all the folders that are being tracked with File History. To check a specific folder like “Desktop,” double-click to see what it has archived.
To restore the most recently backed up version of the file, tap to select it, then tap on the round green restore button at the bottom of the window. A moment or two passes and the file returns, safe and sound back on your Desktop.
If you don’t have any backups and your file is not in the trash, you might want to try one of the many file recovery programs out there, either a free one or a commercial app like Easy Undelete*, Undelete 360*, or Pandora Recovery*.
Another option is Disk Drill*, a recovery tool originally designed for Mac* and now available for Windows*. It offers help with partition loss, hard drive reformatting, failed boot-ups, accidental deletions, and more.
Another possibility to consider: have you emailed the file to anyone? Have you saved a copy on a cloud-based service like DropBox*, iCloud*, or SkyDrive*? If so, you might be able to grab a copy from there. Again, even if you lose the most recent changes, it is better than nothing.
However you approach it, there are lots of options to explore after you realize you have accidentally deleted a photo, document, spreadsheet, report, or other file. And get those backups going too, so next time you need to find a deleted file, you have more options.
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