How to Retrieve Deleted Files

by C. TaylorUpdated September 28, 2017
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Few things are more mind-numbing than the realization that 20 hours of your time went down the drain when you accidentally deleted a file containing your work. Luckily, you can probably salvage your hard work. Windows 7 offers two helpful features for recovering deleted files. The first is the Recycle Bin, which stores deleted files until you permanently remove them. Even if you emptied the Recycle Bin or opted to bypass it when deleting files, you may be able to access a previous version of a deleted file through a shadow copy, which is a feature related to System Restore.

Recycle Bin

Press "Win-E" to open Windows Explorer.

Click "Recycle Bin" in the left pane.

Hold the "Ctrl" key and click multiple files to select them.

Click "Restore the Selected Items."

Restore Previous Version

Press "Win-E" to open Windows Explorer and navigate to the folder that previously contained the deleted files.

Right-click on the folder and select "Restore Previous Versions."

Double-click the most recent date in the Previous Versions list.

Hold "Ctrl" and click multiple files to select them.

Drag and drop the files into another folder location to copy them there.


Some programs, such as Microsoft Word and Excel, have a native backup feature, so you can recover unsaved files through those applications as well.

If you previously backed up your hard drive, you can retrieve deleted files from the backup archive.


Shadow copies are limited by the creation dates, so the file will likely be at least one day old and may not include recent updates. When recovering deleted files, always try the Recycle Bin option first.


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