hands typing on a laptop keyboard looking up documents

How to Recover Deleted Files on Windows and MacOS

Have you ever wanted to show your family some important files, like images or videos, on your computer and not be able to find them? Heartbreak! The sad truth is the accidental deletion of files happens more regularly than you would think. With some luck, you may be able to recover whatever you have lost with these tips!

How to Recover Deleted Files on Windows

1. Check the Recycle Bin

When files have been deleted or even lost, the Recycle Bin is always the number one place to check. On almost all computer systems, once a file has been deleted this is the place it will end up next. With a quick search in the Bin, your wayward file can easily be selected and restored to its original folder as long as you have not emptied it.

You can set up a confirmation dialog so a confirmation pop-up will appear on your screen every time you go to delete a file. To enable this, right-click on the Recycle Bin on the desktop, click Properties, and then check "Display delete confirmation dialog."

How to restore files from the Recycle Bin:

  • Open the Recycle Bin from either the desktop or the Start menu.
  • Locate the missing file you want to restore.
  • Highlight the file you need and click "Restore." If you require a bulk restore, you can select multiple files and click "Restore the selected items" in the top left.
  • Alternatively, you can drag and drop files from the Recycle Bin to another folder if you do not want it to go to the original location.

2. File History Backup

File History Backup is a feature in Windows 8.1, 10, and 11 that saves copies to network storage or even an external SSD or hard drive. This would definitely be the next option to try if your Recycle Bin is empty! Please note, you the user would have to enable this prior to losing your files and running your first backup. This is not set up by default. Please see our guide for details on how to setup file backups for Windows.

How to restore files using File History Backup:

  • Go to the Windows search bar and type "Restore your files with File History."
  • Locate the file you want to regain. There could be more than one version!
  • Click the version of the file and click Restore. You can then drag it to a new location or keep it in the original folder.

3. Windows File Recovery

The final option we suggest is Windows File Recovery. This app has the ability to recover deleted files from a range of local storage devices, such as a USB drive or an SSD. There are two modes you can use: Regular and Extensive mode. Regular is the best option to use for recovering recently deleted files, whereas Extensive mode will broaden your search for files deleted a while ago. Although this will be a difficult task for the standard user, it could be the savior of a dedicated user! No need to worry, all the instructions can be found on the "Recover lost files on Windows 10" page.

How to Recover Deleted Files on MacOS

1. Check the Trash

Exactly like Windows, MacOS sends almost all deleted files to the trash can. The only way these files can move from the trash is if you delete them manually or if the apps place files there when you delete them from within the app. Emptying the trash can also be done manually or if you have set the Finder preferences for it to be emptied after a certain number of days.

How to restore files from your trash:

  • Open the Trash.
  • Locate the file you want to restore and click.
  • You can also drag and drop the file to a new location if this is what you would prefer.

2. Time Machine Backup

Time Machine is a built-in application that allows users to set up an automatic backup process to an external storage device and can be carried out on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. However, once the storage device is full, the disk will then remove the oldest files.

To restore files from Time Machine, you will have had to set it up before your files went missing and run a backup. Please see our guide for details on how to setup file backups for MacOS.

Restore files with Time Machine:

  • Connect the storage device you set up with Time Machine.
  • Go to the Apple menu and click on System Preferences and click Time Machine.
  • Locate the file you are missing and click Restore to return it to its original location.

3. File Recovery Software

Just like Windows, file recovery software could be your savior. The software, sometimes also referred to as “unerase” or “undelete” software, may be able to locate files that have been deleted after you have emptied the trash, but the system has not yet overwritten the sectors on the HDD or SSD that the files were stored on. You could take this one step further and download the software onto an external SSD to maximize your chances!

If one of these options did help, then you’re welcome! But the situation may happen again, even if it’s by accident! To reduce the likelihood of this, it’s recommended to have a backup plan. There are some simple backup tips you could follow, whether it’s a built-in backup tool or an external storage device. This will definitely be helpful next time you’ve lost a file.


Related articles