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It’s one of our worst computer nightmares – searching for an important work document or precious family photo and realising you’ve deleted the file. The very thought may make us gasp in horror. But the fact is - accidental deletions happen. Files go missing. Important data gets lost. And then we find ourselves scrambling to recover deleted files.

Luckily, all hope may not be lost. Take a look at some useful tips for recovering deleted files on both Windows 10 and Mac.

How to Recover Deleted Files in Windows 10

1. Check the Recycle Bin

When files are lost or deleted, the Recycle Bin is the recommended first checkpoint. A standard deletion of a selected file moves it into the Recycle Bin where it is temporarily kept until the bin is emptied.  In a pinch, the file can be easily searched and restored within a few clicks. 

To restore deleted files from your Windows 10 Recycle Bin:

  1. Open the Recycle Bin from the desktop or start menu.
  2. Browse through to locate the file you want to restore.
  3. Right click on the file and select Restore to return the file to its original location.
  4. If you don’t want to restore the file to its original location, you can also manually drag the file onto your desktop or into a different folder.

If you are unable to locate a file in the Recycle Bin, it may have been permanently deleted. In this case, it may take more extensive efforts to retrieve your file.

2. Recover Files from a File History Backup

File History is a backup and data recovery feature that saves copies of files to a network drive or an externally connected drive. This tool could be a lifesaver if you’ve made the mistake of accidentally deleting files. 

To recover deleted files using File History:

  1. Go to the search box on the taskbar.
  2. Type Restore Files.
  3. Select Restore your files with File History.
  4. Locate your file. Browse through different versions of the file.
  5. Click the version you need, then select Restore to save it in its original location.
  6. To change the location it’s saved in, select Restore to and choose a new location.

If you can’t view any files using this method, you probably don’t have File History enabled.

3. Check Backup from Previous Versions of Windows

In some cases, it may be helpful to check an older backup from a previous version of Windows to see if you can find your missing file. Although Backup and Restore is no longer a maintained feature on Windows 10, if you’ve used it in the past then you might be able to access old backups.

To see if your old backups are available:

  1. Go to the search box on the taskbar.
  2. Type Control Panel.
  3. Go to System and Security.
  4. Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

Once here, you will be able to see if you have any old backups saved. If so, you’ll see an option to restore your files.

4. Try Windows File Recovery

Another route to recovering a lost file is via Windows File Recovery, a command line app that recovers deleted files from local storage devices, such as hard drives, SSDs, USB drives, SD cards etc. Windows File Recovery is optimized for two recovery modes: regular mode allows for recovery of recently deleted files, while extensive mode broadens your search for files deleted long ago, even if the drive has been formatted.

This tool may intimidate the average user, but be patient and follow Microsoft’s detailed instructions, which cover basic use of the app, file systems and modes, command line syntax, and FAQs.

How to Recover Deleted Files on Mac

1. Check the Trash

Similar to Windows, Mac’s default setting sends most deleted files to the Trash, where they remain until the Trash is emptied manually or automatically after 30 days. In the case of a standard deletion, recovering your file from the Trash should be a quick and easy process.

To recover Trash on Mac:

  1. Double-click the Trash icon in the dock.
  2. Browse through to locate the file you want to restore.
  3. Right click on the file and select Put Back to return the file to its original location.
  4. If you don’t want to restore the file to its original location, you can also manually drag the file onto your desktop or into a different folder.

If you can’t locate a file in the Trash, it may have been permanently deleted. In this case, retrieving your file will take more effort.

2. Recover from Time Machine Backup

Time Machine is a built-in backup tool that allows Mac users to send their data to an external storage location for automatic and incremental backups done on an hourly, daily and weekly basis. Only when the backup disk is full are the oldest files deleted. For recovering deleted or lost files, this option will only work if Time Machine was enabled beforehand. 

To restore files with Time Machine:

  1. Ensure your storage device is connected.
  2. Go to the Apple Menu and click System Preferences.
  3. Click Time Machine.
  4. Browse through and locate the desired file(s).
  5. Click Restore to return files to their original location.

3. Try Data Recovery Software

If you still can’t recover your deleted files, data recovery software may come in handy. This option can actually be used for both Windows and Mac.  Data recovery software may be able to locate files that are no longer visible but haven’t yet been erased from the system. 

To maximize the possibility of locating your file before it’s overwritten, you should stop saving new data to your internal drive before running the file recovery programme.  For that reason, download and install the data recovery software to an external storage device instead. 

Protection for the Future

You may figure out how to restore your files this time around, but this time may not be the last. For future protection, at the very least make sure you have built-in backup tools like File History and Time Machine enabled. You also may want to consider investing in an external storage device such as one of our Crucial hard drives or solid state drives.

The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the individual authors and not Micron Technology, Inc., its subsidiaries or affiliates.  Upgrading your systems and components can cause damage to the system or components, including potential data loss.  Micron is not responsible for any damage or harm, including data loss or system interruptions, that may occur.  All information is provided “AS-IS” and neither Micron nor the author make any representations or warranties with respect to the information provided.  Neither Crucial nor Micron Technology, Inc. is responsible for omissions or errors in typography or photography. Micron products are warranted as provided for in the products when sold, applicable data sheets or specifications. Information, products, and/or specifications are subject to change without notice.  Micron, the Micron logo, Crucial, and the Crucial logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Micron Technology, Inc. Any names or trademarks of third parties are owned by those parties and any references herein do not imply any endorsement, sponsorship or affiliation with these parties.