Use These Tricks to Recover Lost Files In Windows 7

Did you ever delete a file only to discover later that you wished you hadn’t? Of course, if it’s in the Recycle Bin, there’s no problem. But what if it isn’t there? Since you are a reader of Gizmo’s you probably have a backup or you know how to use one of the free recovery software programs reviewed at this link.

But sometimes we don’t have backups or it’s too late for the recovery software because the old file’s disk space has been written over. What then? Maybe it’s time to take advantage of the fact that, as long as System Restore is enabled (see this link), Windows 7 has an automatic file and folder backup called "Shadow Copies" built in. This service creates backup copies called “previous versions”.The only catch is that you have to remember the name of the file you deleted and what folder it was in. Here is one way to get your file back:

  1. Follow the procedure given in a previous tip (at this link) to open a list of the previous versions for the folder that contained the lost file. 
  2. Choose a previous version of the folder from a date when it still contained the lost file. (See the figure below for an example.)
  3. You can click the button  “Copy” to place a copy of the folder as it was in some place convenient and then copy out the file you are interested in back to its previous location. If you click the “Restore” button, all the files in the original location will be replaced by the older versions, something you may not wish.
  4. If you click "Copy" a dialog box will open where you can choose the place to put the copy
  5. Or if you click the button "Open" instead of "Copy", a list of the files in the backup will be shown. You can drag or copy the file you want from the list to wherever is desired
  6. Click “OK” to close the dialog window

Here is a second trick that may also work:

  1. Create a dummy file with the same name and extension as the lost file and place it in the original folder where the lost file resided. The contents of the file are irrelevant  
  2. Right-click the dummy file
  3. In the context menu, choose “Properties”
  4. Click the tab “Previous Versions”
  5. With luck, a list of backup copies of your lost file will appear
  6. Choose the copy you want (probably the most recent one) and click the “Restore” button
  7. Click “OK” to close the dialog window

I have successfully used this second trick several times. It can be very handy. 

Previous versions dialog

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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Comments

by danielraysir on 17. January 2013 - 23:31  (104595)

I deleted some VERY important files and didn't realize I didn't have backups until a month or two later. I've tried Recuva and Wise Data Recovery, and neither worked. I also tried the "Previous Versions" trick and nothing works. It only shows files from about a week ago. Is there ANY other way to get those files back, or is it just too late? :'(.

Thanks!

by v.laurie on 17. January 2013 - 23:50  (104596)

If you are willing to pay up, there are professional services to recover lost files but they are not cheap. You may have to go to a local PC repair shop and seek advice. We can't make commercial recommendations here.

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