How to Recover a File That Is Accidentally Deleted?

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There’s nothing worse than realizing you need a computer file you just accidentally deleted. Perhaps you realized right after you deleted the file or you didn’t know it was deleted for several days. Whatever caused the file to be deleted and whenever you removed it accidentally from the computer, there’s likely a chance you can still recover it. Now, file recovery has changed in recent years and sometimes it may depend on the kind of hard drive you have running inside the computer. Regardless of the circumstances though, you can follow these tips and suggestions to go back and perform a file recovery.

Can You Recover a File That Was Accidentally Deleted?


In some instances, yes, you can recover a file that was accidently deleted. Now, it isn’t always the case as it hinges on several factors. Some programs, for example, do not automatically send the deleted file to the recycling/trash bin on your computer (which is available on both Mac and Windows computers). Depending on the program, the software might bypass this and delete it from the hard drive, so this will impact the ability to recover the file.

Another aspect to whether you’re able to recover a file is what kind of hard drive you have in your computer. Most modern computers coming out now use a solid state drive (SSD). This is similar to the storage used in a smartphone or tablet. In fact, it’s the SSD flash storage that made the Apple iPod possible (and why it could recall a song instantly where a computer hard drive might take a few moments). The other hard drive is a traditional spinning hard drive. In terms of recovering a computer file it’s easier to do so on the older hard drives. With an older hard drive information is saved on the drive like a spinning disc, moving outward away from the center.

When files are deleted, this leaves a blank space on the drive. This causes fragmentation of the hard drive but it also leaves a blank space which still has the ghost information from when you deleted the file. It is possible to recover this ghost information. However, with an SSD hard drive, there are no spaces. Information is saved in blocks and, when something is removed, a block is pushed over and fills this space. This reduces the amount of energy needed to retrieve information and it also speeds up the process. It makes it more difficult to perform a file recovery.

What Are Some of the Best File Recovery Methods?

File Recovery

File recovery has changed in the last several years. Once a file has been removed it is much more difficult to recover than in years past. Not that it is impossible, but you need to follow some very specific steps.

Check the Recycle/Trash Bin


Open the bin to see if the file was removed to the bin. Chances are, unless you deleted the file and then emptied the bin, it will be located here. If it is here, you can restore the deleted files. Just right-click the file and select to restore it back to its original location. However, if you have deleted the file, and it isn’t in the recycle/trash bin, you must move on to more extreme measures of file recovery.

Don’t Download, Install or Delete Anything

Delete Anything

If at all possible, don’t use your computer at all. If you download any new files, create new files, or delete more files there’s a chance your SSD will push the file blocks over where your old file had been located. Once the old file’s location has been covered it’s nearly impossible to recover it (unless you look toward forensic file recovery methods and these are likely impractical and far too expensive to recover the file you’re interested in).

Download a File Recovery Program onto an External Drive Using a Different Computer

If you have an older hard drive that spins (if you’re not sure, you’ll be able to hear something spinning inside your computer if you have an old hard drive) you may be able to download and install the program onto your computer. The deleted file is likely too small to be filled in by the new program. However, with an SSD hard drive your removed file will probably be patched over. Either way, it is generally better to use a different computer and install the recovery software onto a flash drive. Recuva is one such option although you can head over to (run by CNET) and choose the top recommended file recovery program.

Once the recovery software is downloaded and installed onto the flash drive, plug it into the computer in question and run the software from the connected device. When the program is open have it run a complete diagnostic scan of your hard drive to see what files it can recover. Should it find your file tell the program to recover the deleted file. It will then be placed back into its original location.

Time Machine


Some computer systems have a recovery system in place that will revert the computer back to a set period of time. Go to this feature on your computer and check to see when the last backup was created. If the previous backup occurred before you deleted the file you can have your computer revert to this older configuration. However, consider that if you choose this option, you will lose every file you created since the backup. You can save any new files to a flash drive, perform the recovery, and then place the files back onto your computer. Just make sure to back up all the files you created before using this Time Machine feature.

Where Can You Find More Help with File Recovery?

There might be times when you cannot recover files. Perhaps the recovery program is not able to identify the files you’re attempting to track down. In some instances, the hard drive might be damaged (such as from dropping a laptop or from part of the hard drive breaking down and not allowing the drive to spin correctly). Whatever the issue might be, your next bet, if the file is of that much importance to you, is to take your computer in to a local computer recovery center.

At the computer repair center, the location will work with your computer using hardware and software you likely did not have access to. The employees can connect your hard drive to their own setup and perform a more thorough scan. They may identify the file you are interested in (make sure to tell them the file you’re looking for). Depending on the size of the hard drive and the number of files you have stored on the device this scan may take a few hours to perform.

If your hard drive has been damaged, the facility may repair the hard drive. It depends on what the problem with the hard drive is. They may also send your hard drive out to have it repaired. It just depends on how important the missing file is.

Always Back Up

Back Up

Whatever happens with the missing file you’re attempting to recover, let this be a warning for any future issues. You need to do what you can and backup your important files as often as possible. If your computer system has a Time Machine feature, have the computer perform routine backups at night when you will not be on the computer. You may also want to connect external hard drives to your computer and perform complete system backups from time to time. If you have vital files you need for work or home, you can never be too careful with protecting your information.


When it comes to computer systems, there really is no worse feeling than realizing you accidentally deleted an important file. Sometimes you may recover the files. The first step is to check the recycle or trash bin to see if the files are there. In most instances, the files you need will be there. However, if the files are not in the recycle or trash bin, you will need to follow several very important steps. Stop using the computer and install a recovery software onto an external storage device using a different computer. This is the best way to attempt to scan your computer and see if the file is still there. If this still does not work even after you take the computer (or hard drive) into a local computer repair center then there isn’t much that can be done. File recovery is not always possible, and it really comes down to the file, the hard drive you have, and how long the file has been gone. Whatever happens, just make sure to always backup your work in the future. By backing up the files in the future you’ll be able to avoid this kind of problem and hopefully never again need to try and track down a file that was accidentally deleted.

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