How Do I Restore My Pictures Folder?

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Unlike normal user-created folders, the Pictures folder is a special Windows shell folder that is a little tricky to restore once it has been deleted. Restoring the Pictures folder depends primarily on how you deleted it, as does whether or not the images stored within can be restored.



In most cases, whether you're using Windows 7 or 8, Windows automatically replaces the Pictures folder with a new, empty version as soon as you re-open File Explorer.

This folder may appear as Pictures or My Pictures, but for all intents and purposes they are the same folder.

Always back up your pictures on a separate storage device or a cloud service, in case the Pictures folder is irretrievably deleted or an error forces you to factory reset your computer without backing anything up.

Restore From Recycle Bin

If you deleted your Pictures folder but haven't emptied the Recycle Bin, there's a good chance the Pictures folder is recoverable. Items in the Recycle Bin can be restored to their original location if they were deleted accidentally. Restoring the folder with this method retrieves all the images stored in the original folder, so check to see if the folder is in your Recycle Bin.

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Image Credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft.
  1. Open the Recycle Bin from your desktop.
  2. Find the Pictures folder in the list.
  3. Right-click the folder and select Restore.


Use My Pictures Shell Command

Windows comes equipped with a command to call up the Pictures folder. When the folder has been deleted, this command usually recreates an empty version of the folder instead of just opening it. This method doesn't recover the images in the original Pictures folder, but it does restore the folder itself. If you back up your pictures on another storage device or cloud service, you can download the backups into the new Pictures folder.

Step 1

Press Windows-X on your keyboard and select Run from the Power User menu.


Image Credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft.

On Windows 7 computers, click Start and type Run in the search bar and then press Enter.

Image Credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft.

Step 2

Enter the following in the text field: shell:My Pictures. Press Enter or OK to run the command.


Image Credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft.

Step 3

If the Pictures folder doesn't pop up right away, press Windows-X again and select Shut down or sign out followed by Restart to restart your computer. When your computer starts back up, check to see if the Pictures folder has returned. If not, repeat the process — sometimes it takes a few restarts to get the folder to show up again.


Image Credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft.

On Windows 7 computers, click Start and select Shut down, followed by Restart.

Image Credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft.

Factory Reset Your Computer

If the Pictures folder isn't in the Recycle Bin and the shell command isn't restoring the folder, your only option may be to factory reset your computer. Most computers are equipped with a recovery partition that can be accessed on startup or can be restored using recovery CDs/DVDs.


Restoring your computer to factory defaults should be your last resort. This process deletes everything on your computer, which means you have to reinstall all your programs and move your data back onto your hard drive from a backup. Only use this method if you have no further alternative and you absolutely need your Pictures folder.