Deleting files off of your Windows PC is not a big scare. You know you have your trusted Recycle Bin as a purgatory in between to head into and recover any files that you did not intend to delete. Once you clear your Recycle Bin, however, or delete particular files from it, you, in theory, lose them forever. They are permanently lost and cannot be recovered. For those who don’t want to pollute their Recycle Bin with files that they know they want to delete permanently, there is a keyboard shortcut of [SHIFT] + [del] on Windows 10 which bypasses the Recycle Bin and deletes files permanently directly from their source. Deleting files off of an external drive such as a hard drive or a USB also permanently deletes them because they do not have their own Recycle Bin. Whether you have deleted a file from an internal storage and then deleted it again from you Recycle Bin, whether you have deleted it directly with the permanent deletion keyboard shortcut from the file’s source, or whether you have deleted files from an external drive, not all is lost because there is a work around just for this, to help you get your files back and we are going to break down some of the ways you can go about retrieving them here.
Method 1: Folder Previous Version Restore
The first method for recovering permanently deleted files is using the previous version restore on Windows 10. This requires, though, that you have your File History back up set up on your Windows PC. If you do not have this feature configured to regularly back up or maintain the history of certain files or folders on your computer then you will not be able to recover them using this method. If you do, then carry out the steps listed below:
- In the search bar on the bottom left of your screen, search of “File History.”
- A window will pop up that will show the file histories of the particular files and folders that you have configured in your File History setup. Browse these files to locate the folder in which your accidentally permanently deleted file was situated.
- Because this file history feature updates regularly in the background, it will display your most recent back up. This may not necessarily be the most updated version of your file if you happened to change it just before deleting it, but it will be the last most updated version from the point at which the file history was updated most recently.
- Click on the file that you would like to restore and click on the green button at the bottom with a counter clockwise arrow. This will restore the file to its original location.
- Head into the folder from where the file was permanently deleted and ensure that it has been recovered and is not corrupted.
- Exit the “File History” application window.
Method 2: File Recovery Tool
If you do not have File History configured on your Windows PC, you can use a File Recovery Tool or Client to recover your accidentally permanently deleted file. This method does not require prior setup or configuration and can simply be carried out to the same effect as the File History restoration method discussed earlier. The particular software we used for this is the EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard due to its wide recovery range. It can recover anything that you have permanently deleted from an internal drive, an external hard drive or storage device, and from the Recycle Bin. You do not have to use this particular recovery tool and can use any other one you see fit.
To go about using this particular recovery tool (for the purpose of this guide), however, you will first need to download and install it. The EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is available for download on Windows from the following link: download. Once you download the file, run its installer and follow the on screen instructions until the application is launched and ready to go. Once you have your tool started, carry out the following steps:
- On the main interface of the application, you will see main drive locations. If you deleted a file off of an external hard drive or storage device, ensure that it is connected to your computer and being displayed on this interface. From here, click on the drives and find the location from where you file was permanently deleted, whether it was from an internal storage location or an external device.
- When you enter each location, your tool will automatically search the folder and find deleted files that have been permanently removed from this location at any given time. These do not necessarily have to be files that were deleted recently. They can be deleted at any point in time and will show up in this search.
- In the left most column beside each file or folder that you want to recover, click the tick box to select it.
- At the bottom of the window, click on the recover button.
- Head into the directory where this file was deleted from on your PC through the Windows File Explorer. Check to see if the file or folder that you have attempted to recover has been restored to its original position. Unlike with “File History,” the most recent version of the file or folder you are trying to recover will be restored. The version is not dependent on a backing up schedule. The version that was deleted will be the exact one that is recovered.
Method 3: Windows Back Up
If you have created a Windows or external drive back up at any point in time, you can recover your recently permanently deleted files and folders by restoring your Windows or external drive to a point in time at which those files and folders were not deleted. To do this, carry out the following steps:
- In the search bar at the bottom left of your Windows 10 PC screen, search for the “Control panel.” Launch this application.
- Head into “System & Maintenance,” and then “Backup and Restore (Windows 7).”
- Scroll down to find “Restore my files.” Click on this button.
- Click on either “Browse for files” or “Browse for folders” and find the backup you created of that particular location from where you deleted your lost item.
- Choose to either save this backup “in the original location” or “in the following location” where you can specify a directory to restore it to on your computer. You can choose to copy and replace or don’t copy at all if there are any conflicts in the files you’re trying to copy from the restore point back up and the location you’re saving them to.
Is Permanently Deleted File Recovery Time-Bound?
The good news when it comes to recovering a file or folder that was permanently deleted is that your recovery period is not time sensitive. You are not limited to only recovering permanent deletes of the last 24 hours or the last week or month or even year. Whenever you permanently delete a file or folder from your hard drive, it removes the file from your mapping database so that you can no longer see, access, or change it, but that file still exists somewhere on your drive. Over time, the health of these deleted files does deteriorate so the longer you wait, the lesser your chances becoming of successfully recovering a file. However, there is no direct correlation with time as explained earlier. You can attempt a recovery from the last hour or the last 6 months and depending on the health of that file at that point, you’ll be able to make your restoration.
How To Prevent Accidental Permanent File Deletion
It is highly recommended that you configure the following two mechanisms on your Windows PC: “File History” and “Backup & Restore.” Configuring both and regularly updating or recreating restore or backup points will keep your computer safe by always providing you with a reasonable and recent backup or restore point to return to. With “File History,” you can create these restoration points for specific files and folders. It is recommended that you create these for the main files and folders that you use and make changes to often so that their changes are tracked and maintained in the file history for recovery. The “Backup & Restore” feature allows you to create larger scale backup points for your entire computer or particular drives such as the C or D drives on your PC. It is recommended to configure and update both regularly so that you ae able to use Methods 1 & 3. If you do not, those two methods are ruled out for you entirely and are unusable.
The three methods outlined above provide three distinct ways for you to recover lost or permanently deleted files and folders. Based on whether you’ve set up your “File History,” your “Backup & Restore,” or neither, you can use Methods 1, 3, and 2, respectively. For methods 1 and 3, you must set up those restore points to be able to return to them in the future and it is recommended that you do for your data’s safety. Method 2 allows you to use a third party application to recover deleted content. We strongly suggest that you rely on methods 1 & 3 as those are the in-built and most reliable Windows functions vesus Method 2.