3 Ways to Restore Files Deleted from Windows Recycle Bin

restore emptied Windows recycle bin

Oh no! So you've just emptied Windows Recycle Bin (or deleted several items from it), only to realize later that some important files got removed as well?

They can be work documents you've worked on for days or batches of precious photos you shot after a trip, doesn't matter.

The question is - is it possible to recover items deleted from Recycle Bin on a Windows PC?

Quick answer: YES, it is! BUT chances of recovery depends on several factors, for example, whether you've backup, what type of hard drive you are using, have you wrote any new data to the same PC hard drive, etc.

First things first - immediately stop using your computer

This is important because we don't know if you have any backups of the data. If you do, great! If not, then any continued data writing activities happened after you deleted the files can seriously endanger the chances of successful recovery.

Theoretically, if your PC hard drive is a traditional magnetic disk drive, even if you emptied Windows Recycle Bin or removed files out of it, the deleted files are actually not wiped out — at least for quite some time depending on the disk drive usage though. We'll explain the reason why later this article.

Is your PC equipped with an HDD or SSD?

Does it matter? Of course. And we have to ask because the way an HDD (hard disk drive) works is different from an SSD (solid state drive). Simply speaking, if your PC is loaded with an SSD, then what happens when you deletes a file from Recycle Bin is — it is gone for good. That means there is no way you can get it back unless you have a backup.

However, it's a whole different story if your PC is with an HDD. Again, I'll explain later. Good news is over 90% of Windows PCs on the market are equipped with HDDs.

To determine whether your PC has an HDD or SSD, check out this Superuser thread.

Next, follow these 3 steps (ways) to restore your deleted items.

#1: Fresh your mind and re-think if you've got another copy

We are sometimes forgetful. The moment we removed some supposed-to-keep items from Windows Recycle Bin, panic and fear started to occupy our brain. So calm down! Maybe it's not the end of the world because you might have saved or transferred them somewhere else.

For example, if they are Office documents, first check if you have saved them in another folder, also, don't forget to check your emails or Dropbox — because you may have sent them to your co-workers. If those are family photos, check your digital camera memory card, external hard drive, iCloud, OneDrive or online backup services, etc.

Anyway, you get the point. Just fresh your mind and think and check. Maybe you'll get some luck, who knows :)

Didn't work out? Go to step 2.

#2: Recover your files using Windows System Restore

Any PCs you use, they have a built-in backup and restore feature called - System Restore, it's a fantastic tool that aims to fix buggy software or to recover some individual files. You can do so by just rolling your Windows system back to any previous backup points.

So if you accidentally deleted some files out of the Recycle Bin, a System Restore could help you get back to a previous date (or status) that your files were still there. Previous versions are also referred to as shadow copies in Windows. To learn how to do so, see this Microsoft knowledge article.

Didn't work? Go to step 3 now.

#3: Use a data recovery software to recover your files

We'll have to warn you, though, it's not guaranteed that you'll get back your lost data, but it's worth a try.

We've reviewed a list of best Windows data recovery software, in this case, we take Data Recovery Pro as an example.

  • Step 1: download Data Recovery Pro and install it on your Windows PC.
  • Step 2: launch the software, select a drive or file type you'd like it to scan.
  • Step 3: wait for the scanning process to complete, then preview the found files to check if your deleted files are there. If yes, recover and save them. Done.

Why is it possible to restore deleted files and how do SSDs matter?

For a traditional hard disk drive (HDD), when you empty the Recycle Bin or delete some items out of it, you don't really delete the items. Speaking from a technical viewpoint, when you store or generate files on your computer, they are actually saved on specific clusters (contain sectors) of a hard drive that is attached to your PC. When you delete them either by emptying Recycle Bin, Shift + Delete, DOS command delete or other methods to get rid of the files, the file system (usually NTFS) only marks the spaces where those files occupy as "deleted" telling the system that those spaces are now free to be overwritten. One day your hard drive volume is almost full, new files will directly take the spaces without any choice. Until then your files are totally deleted. In short, cleaning the bin is just another way to make files or folders "hidden" which means they are highly recoverable.

However, the way SSDs work is entirely different when files are deleted from a solid-state drive, they are immediately erased, and the action is taken by the TRIM command to quickly free up space and make sure the SSD can be quickly reused in the future. It's safe to say that once files got deleted from a PC with an SSD, they are gone permanently.

Hope you find this article helpful and good luck with Windows Recycle Bin recovery. Any questions or comments, share below.

Chris Hwang

Chris is a certified computer technician since 2008. He writes everything related to computer issues and loves helping people solve problems. Currently, he's extending his interests into cloud computing.

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