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

Get your own favorite tip published! Know a neat tech tip or trick? Then why not have it published here and receive full credit? Click here to tell us your tip.

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.

Click here for more items like this. Better still, get Tech Tips delivered via your RSS feeder or alternatively, have the RSS feed sent as email direct to your in-box.

Share this
Average: 4.5 (57 votes)
Your rating: None


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? :'(.


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.

by fvijayami on 18. December 2012 - 20:07  (103734)

Hi friends...
Actually i restored my computer to earlier time using system image backup.
But i lost some important documents stored in desktop after restore..Now i cant recover my data..
The system could not show any other restore point except the same system image backup..

Any one can say how to restore my data

by john rey (not verified) on 1. December 2012 - 13:48  (103166)

i deleted the pictures of my girlfriend and i want it should i bring it back ?and yet i didnt remember the file name of that folder..

by v.laurie on 1. December 2012 - 16:35  (103175)

Try Recuva or one of the other free programs mentioned here

by loore (not verified) on 12. November 2012 - 20:42  (102213)

i had a similar problem like you@rizwan.i deleted a 14gb folder mistakenly i tried doing system recovery but nothing happened then i stumbled on a recovery software while trying to search for softwares on google the name of the software is wise data recovery. I downloaded d software fortunately for me all my document were recovered.i recomend d software for people who are going through the problem i faced.

by john rey (not verified) on 1. December 2012 - 13:44  (103165)

is that wise data recovery data is free?

by rizwan (not verified) on 9. November 2012 - 19:56  (102076)

all my data is deletedd from my laptop when i inserted a usb that was having viruses on windows 7,i used data recovery software to recover my data,i recovered my pictures but every picture is of 8 bytes.mean it is not showing the picturs..tell me any solution for ths ,,i will be very thankfull.

by v.laurie on 9. November 2012 - 20:37  (102077)

This is not the best venue for this type of question. Please log in to the Freeware Forum and post your problem in General Computer Support. There are knowledgeable people there who will try to help you.

by eri mun (not verified) on 16. August 2012 - 17:39  (97812)

hi,I deleted music from my laptop,it was all in folders and ther a method that i can get everything back to the way it was.please guys i need help

by Anupam on 16. August 2012 - 17:47  (97813)

Try Recuva. It should help find the files and folders. I would advise against installing or copying any new files on the laptop to avoid the deleted files being overwritten. Take Recuva on a pen drive and then run it from there.

Other software which can recover deleted data are covered in this review :

Recuva is the easiest one, and also excellent.

If you need more help in detail, please post in the freeware forum :

You will have to register on the site first.

by MrWednesday7 on 16. June 2012 - 18:39  (94977)

Neat trick, provided you can remember the exact name of the deleted file. LOL

Captchzaesque drek again, I see.

by charlieb (not verified) on 13. June 2012 - 14:52  (94798)

I have System Protection enabled for my C drive but not for my other partitions and my Win 7 Home Premium does not automatically create restore points - only when I tell it to

by Karthika (not verified) on 12. June 2012 - 11:21  (94728)

Sorry.I couldn't able to use both the tricks in my system. Though i'm using windows 7. I tried many times but i was not able to get the previous versions.

by v.laurie on 12. June 2012 - 12:01  (94731)

Do you have System Restore enabled?

by Karthika (not verified) on 12. June 2012 - 12:11  (94732)

No..Is there is any other way to get the deleted files?

by v.laurie on 12. June 2012 - 12:56  (94737)

You can try one of the programs given here - - and hope the lost files haven't been over-written.

by Karthika (not verified) on 13. June 2012 - 3:53  (94770)

Thanks laurie for your valuable information and time.

by SkiddMarx on 12. June 2012 - 12:52  (94735)
by Karthika (not verified) on 13. June 2012 - 3:54  (94771)

Thank you skid for your information....

Gizmo's Freeware is Recruiting!

Gizmos Needs YouShare your knowledge of free software with millions of Gizmo's readers by joining our editing team.  Details here.