How to recover lost files in Windows

How to recover lost files in Windows

Have you ever wanted to recover lost files in Windows? A free utility called Recuva can help you do just that and we show you how…

It’s easy to lose important files like work documents or precious photo memories. It might be that you suffer a hardware failure, like disk corruption, or you accidentally hit the ‘Empty the trash’ button when you really didn’t mean to.

While it’s always a good idea to keep back-ups, you can be sure that when disaster strikes it’ll be the one time your back-up system isn’t working either.

Fortunately, even when all seems to be lost, there’s every chance that it won’t actually be the end for your precious data.

When a Windows PC deletes a file, it doesn’t actually erase any information. It just tells the disk that a particular physical location is empty and can be written to – until new data is saved there, the chances are the old stuff remains hidden.

Here’s a quick guide to getting back stuff you think is lost.

1) Eject the disk

As soon as you realise you need to get something back that you shouldn’t have deleted, try your best to physically detach the disk from your PC or – in the case of a memory card – your camera.

This isn’t always possible, especially if it’s on the same drive as your Windows installation, but what we’re trying to do is to stop anything getting written over the data you didn’t mean to remove. In other words, don’t save anything at all to the disk in question.

2) Download Recuva

There’s an excellent free utility called Recuva, which is absolutely as good as any commercial program. This will deep scan your disk for deleted files by looking for familiar patterns in the data that might identify a JPG or Word doc, or so on.

If you can, install this on a different PC or laptop and hook the drive up to it – for the reasons outlined in step one.

3) Find lost files

Running Recuva is simplicity itself. There’s a guided step-by-step wizard which will identify the drive and begin searching. The nice thing about Recuva over more expensive options is that it’s fast, and will give you a list of files which are recoverable and are not recoverable – along with a reason for the problem in the latter case.

How to recover lost files in Windows

4) Recover them

Now all you need to do is to point Recuva in the direction of a different drive to save your lost files to – remember, it’s a really bad idea to use apparently ‘empty’ space on the same drive.

If there are files that you can’t recover for some reason, you can use Recuva to create a perfect disk image that can be sent off for inspection by a professional.

How to recover lost files in Windows

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