How to Recover Deleted PDF Files

recover PDF files

There have been many different innovations in the digital world that have shaped our era of modern convenience.

From touch screens and WiFi to high-end computers and constant communication, the age in which we all are a part is full of these technological advances that allow us easy access to almost anything.

We sometimes don’t think about it much but these advancements are pretty revolutionary.

One innovation that might not seem too important but is actually of large importance is PDF files.

This is a now common file type that many of us use on a daily basis but this technology has made it really easy to share documents and images across a variety of devices with ease.

With PDF files becoming so important, it can be quite upsetting if you accidentally lose or delete one. Let’s take a look at how to recover a PDF file if this happens to you.

What is a PDF File?

A PDF is a common file type that is used for a variety of reasons today. They appear as a .pdf file when you are using them and the name itself stands for Portable Document Format.

This type of file was created in order to easily share documents that do not need to be edited or reformatted. The idea is that a PDF will easily translate exactly as it is displayed on the original file and will translate across devices and platforms with ease.

PDF files are great options for sharing documents that are intended to be read-only style.

Meaning that they are often intended to not be modified and are a great way to share images that contain text such as brochures, reports, and others where you want the basic elements of the file to remain consistent and unchanged when they are shared and moved across devices.

PDF files are very common and you might see one today without even realizing it.

PDF files were originally created in the 1990s and have continued to be a valid file type ever since then.

These are a very valuable and fully functional type of file that can include images, text, videos, hyperlinks, and just about anything else you can put on a digital document.

Most modern devices also have PDF readers built right into them so you can easily open and view any that you receive.

How to Recover Deleted or Lost PDF Files

Because PDF files are so common and we deal with them on a near-daily basis, they can sometimes be accidentally lost or deleted. This is unfortunate when it occurs but if it happens to you, don’t panic because there are some methods you can use to try and recover the lost file.

It is important to note that you may not always be able to recover a PDF file but by attempting the methods found below, you stand a good chance at getting your PDF back.

Before getting into the methods that can help you recover a PDF file, you should be aware of the fact that you should stop using your computer or other devices as soon as you realize that the PDF is missing.

You need to attempt the recovery process as soon as possible to make sure that file does not get overwritten on your computer. The longer you wait, the harder it can be to make a successful recovery.

Step 1: Check the Trash Can or Recycle Bin

The first step to recovering a PDF file is to check the Trash Can or Recycle Bin on your Mac or PC. Just as you would check the trash can at your house if you think you accidentally got rid of something important, you should do the same when looking for a lost or deleted PDF file.

If you have a Mac or Apple computer, you will have a Trash Can while PC users will have a Recycle Bin.

Regardless of which system you are using, all you need to do is either open up the Trash Can or Recycle Bin. These are typically found as icons somewhere on your desktop and you also can run a quick search to locate them as well.

Open the application and then you should see any recently deleted or removed files here. If you see the lost PDF file, simply click or double click on the item to recover or restore it.

Step 2: Restore from a Backup

If you have a backup of your system, you can also use this as another way to locate and recover a PDF file. It is a good idea to get into the habit of creating regular backups of your devices whether that is a computer, phone, or any other electronic device.

This makes it really easy to restore any lost or deleted files such as a PDF. Backups can be made on either an external hard drive or through cloud-based storage.

To recover your PDF from a backup, the first thing you need to do is locate the backup on either your hard drive or cloud storage. Plugin your hard drive to your computer or log in to your cloud storage.

Locate the most recent backup that you believe has the PDF file that you are searching for and open it. Locate the PDF file and then you can restore your system to this earlier version that contains the PDF.

Step 3: Use PDF File Recovery Software

Another option you can use to recover a PDF is data recovery software. This is an option that can help if the above methods did not and can serve a variety of other recovery needs in addition to PDF recovery.

Software such as Stellar Data Recovery and Recoverit makes it really easy to find and recover any lost file that you run into. The software is available both as a free limited trial version and a paid full version, and both offer a Windows and macOS version.

A screenshot of Stellar Data Recovery Professional running on Windows 10

To begin with, if your deleted PDF files are on an external drive or flash drive, you’ll need to connect the device to a PC or Mac first.

  • Download and install one of the recommended recovery software on your computer.
  • Open up the program to begin and then follow the on-screen prompts and instructions to begin the process of recovering your lost or deleted file.
  • Wait until the scan is complete.
  • Navigate through the list of files found, check by file type and see if your deleted PDF files are there. If yes, recover them.

Each program comes with a slightly different format but they are all user-friendly and easy to navigate. You can also read our best data recovery for Windows and Mac for more options.

Final Thoughts

PDF recovery is certainly possible but remember to act quickly as soon as you realize that the file is missing. If you don’t, you risk overwriting the file information which can lead to permanent file loss that cannot be recovered.

Start by simply checking your trash can or recycle bin on your computer and if you cannot locate the file there, continue on with the other steps listed here.

While you may not want to download and install an entire software program for one lost file, it may be your only option if other methods do not work.

If you end up needing data recovery software, remember that it can be useful in a variety of other situations and can easily make up for the cost of the program with all that it can help you with.

Have you ever lost a PDF file? Were you able to recover it? How? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • William Smith

    How do I retrieve deleted PDFs on my Android phone?