How to Restore Files That Were Accidentally Deleted

How to Restore Files That Were Accidentally Deleted thumbnail
Those deleted files are still on the hard drive.

It happens to the best of us: we're sorting through files, getting rid of this, getting rid of that, cleaning our folders when we realize that the last folder we sent to hard drive oblivion was actually important. And we already hit the "Empty Recycle Bin" button, too. Although there are no guarantees in file recovery, what seems like the end for a group of discarded files may not be. If you're prepared and can act quickly enough, you may be able to save them before their hard-disk space is overwritten.

Things You'll Need

  • Second computer
  • Disc burner or USB flash drive
  • Media for the disc burner
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    • 1

      Stop anything you were doing with the computer immediately. Every action that you perform creates a new possibility for the deleted file's disk space, newly marked as available for new content, to be overwritten.

    • 2

      Obtain a third-party (non-Microsoft supported) recovery or "undeletion" program. You will need to use a different computer to do this, if you don't already have a copy of such a program available to you already.

    • 3

      Save the third-party recovery program to a CD or DVD or to a USB flash drive. This will allow you to insert the device into the computer with a deleted file without using any of that computer's hard-disk space. This means there will be no risk of overwriting the deleted file.

    • 4

      Insert the CD or DVD into the CD drive or a USB flash drive into a USB port of the computer you want to recover data from.

    • 5

      Run the recovery program on the disc or flash drive directly from the disc or flash drive.

    • 6

      Point the program to the original location of the deleted file. If it is still intact and not overwritten by any other files being opened on your computer, you will be able to use the program to restore or "undelete" the program.

Tips & Warnings

  • Alternatively, some third-party recovery programs offer a version of their programs that are designed to run directly from the Internet, so that no files are saved to the hard drive and you need no extra flash drive or disc to perform the recovery.

  • Other recovery methods do exist, where a file can still be read despite being overwritten, but these methods are much more costly and require expert knowledge to use. In most cases, if you follow the steps of this guide, you should be able to recover deleted files without resorting to such drastic measures.

  • Remember not to open any new programs or even to close certain programs that will make changes to the hard disk drive of a computer upon exit. Any alteration to the contents of the computers hard disk drive could be the final nail on a deleted file's coffin, at least when it comes to reasonable recovery.

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  • Photo Credit hard drive interior image by Curtis Sorrentino from

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