How to Recover Permanently Deleted Files for Free

By Joel Douglas

When you delete a file from your computer, Windows stores it in the Recycle Bin, allowing you to retrieve it later. Even emptying the Recycle Bin does not necessarily mean that a deleted file is gone forever. Instead, Windows simply instructs the hard drive to overwrite it at a future date, when the space is needed for another file. However, while it may still be on your computer, Windows lacks the tools necessary for restoring the file before the hard drive overwrites it. Fortunately, free applications exist that can help you recover a deleted file before it is erased forever.

NTFS Undelete

Step 1

Download NTFS Undelete.

Step 2

Install NTFS Undelete using the default settings, then start the application after the installation finishes.

Step 3

Click the "Search" tab and type the name of the file you want to recover into the search box. Specify which drive you want NTFS Undelete to examine, and then click "Search." When the search completes, select the location where you want the file copied, and then click "Recover."

Recuva

Step 1

Download Recuva.

Step 2

Install Recuva using the default settings, then start the application after the installation finishes.

Step 3

Click "Next" on the "Welcome to the Recuva Wizard" window. Then click "Options" and enable "Show Wizard at startup," if the wizard does not load automatically.

Step 4

Choose what type of file you want to recover from the "File Type" menu, and then select where Recuva should search for the deleted file. Have Recuva search your entire computer by selecting "I'm not sure," or point it to a particular drive or folder by choosing "In a specific location."

Step 5

Click "Start" and wait for Recuva to complete the search. Then select the file you would like to restore from the list of discovered files and click "Recover." Choose where you want Recuva to restore the recovered file.

Restoration

Step 1

Download Restoration.

Step 2

Extract Restoration to your hard drive. Restoration does not require installation, so simply unpack the program files from the compressed ZIP file you downloaded from the program's website.

Step 3

Start Restoration by clicking "Restoration.exe." Input the name of the file you want to recover into the text box labeled "All or part of the file," and then click "Search Deleted Files."

Step 4

Select the deleted file, if found, when the search finishes and click "Restore by Copying." Then enter a location on your computer where you would like the file copied.

Tips & Warnings

  • Attempt to recover a deleted file as soon as possible after deleting it. Your computer's hard drive will eventually overwrite the file, and then you will no longer be able to recover it.