How to Recover Deleted Files for Free

By Techwalla Contributor

If you've accidentally deleted files from your PC, don't worry. You can recover deleted files from a hard drive for free. You can even recover permanently deleted files, so there's no need to panic if you used "Shift-Delete" to remove your files. They can still be restored.

Things You'll Need

  • Removable flash drive or blank CD

Step 1

Do not install anything or make any changes to your computer until you've recovered the deleted files. Even though your data is still saved on your hard drive after you delete it, your computer doesn't recognize it and sees it as free space. That means if you install new programs, you run the risk of overwriting the data you want to recover.

Step 2

Download a free data recovery program, such as Pandora Recovery (, FreeUndelete ( or Recuva ( Download the portable not install version so that you can run it without having to install it. An even better way to ensure that your data won't be overwritten is to download the portable version for flash drives and run it from a USB flash drive.

Step 3

Start the file recovery wizard and select the file type for which you are looking. Selecting all file types can take a very long time to complete, so it's best to narrow down your search. On the next page, select the locations you want to search and then click "Start" on the following page. If you happen to know the file name, that's even better. Just cancel out of wizard mode, type all or part of the file name in the search box, select the areas to be searched and then click "Scan."

Step 4

Allow the file recovery program several minutes to a few hours to complete. If you see the file(s) you were looking for, you can cancel the search before it's done. Otherwise, let it finish.

Step 5

Click to select the check box next to each file found that you want to recover. Insert a USB flash drive into your computer to recover your files to, or recover them to a second hard drive if one is available. You're more likely to recover your deleted files intact if you recover them on a different drive than the one from which they were deleted. Click "Recover" and select the flash drive or second hard drive as the file recovery location.