How to Recover Lost or Deleted Files For Free?

Windows 11 is now officially launched, and multiple users with the eligible system have installed this new OS. The new Operating System is praised for its fresh, clean look, design, and improved performance. However, like any previous OS versions, the latest one is not immune from one common problem, i.e., Data Loss. We’ve recently encountered some queries about file loss from the latest Windows OS version. And, if you’re one of those Windows 11 users that have lost or deleted their crucial files, don’t worry at all! With our tried-and-tested file recovery methods, you can quickly recover lost or deleted files for free. But, before that, let’s have a look at the most common reasons behind file loss.

What Causes Data Loss in Windows 11?

There could be multiple reasons due to which you may lose data while operating Windows 11, including

  • Human Error (Accidental Deletion and Drive Formatting)
  • Drive Corruption
  • Malware Attack
  • File System Corruption

Methods to Recover Lost or Deleted Files for Free

Here, we’re sharing some pre-approved DIY (Do-it-Yourself) methods to help you recover lost or deleted files for free. All these methods apply to the different case scenarios.

  • Restore Data from Recycle Bin
  • Recover files with Backup
    • Backup Drive
    • File History
    • Backup & Restore (Windows 7)
    • Previous Version
  • Use Microsoft’s File Recovery Software
  • Use Third-Party Data Recovery Free Edition

Let’s start without ado!

Method 1: Restore files from Recycle Bin

When the files are accidentally deleted from your system using the ‘Delete’ key, they usually go to the Recycle Bin. You can check and recover deleted files from Recycle Bin with the following steps:

  1. Open Recycle Bin and locate the files you’ve accidentally deleted.
  2. If the files are in the Bin, select and right-click on them and click Restore.

The files will be restored to their original location. In addition, you can select the files and drag-&-drop them on the desired location.

Method 2: Recover files with Backup

If you’ve taken the backup of your system files on an external storage drive or using Windows built-in Backup utilities such as File History, Backup & Restore, and Previous Versions, you can recover deleted files for free.

A. Use Backup Drive

Several users take their system’s data backup on an external storage media drive such as HDD, SSD, USB drive as per their data storage requirements. If you have a backup of your files on an external drive, follow the given steps to retrieve files:

  1. Connect storage media to your system (PC/laptop)
  2. Select the files you wish to restore.
  3. Copy-Paste them on the desired location in your system.

B. Steps to restore lost files with File History

If you’ve kept the File History (Windows built-in backup utility) turned on before losing or deleting files, you may follow the steps below and recover files for free:

  1. Go to Start and open Control Panel.
  • Navigate to File History from the available options.
  • Then click Restore personal files from the left panel and locate the backup with date and time.
  • Open the backup folder, choose the files or folders, and click ‘Restore’ to ‘Restore to.’
  • Finally, select the desired location to store the recoverable files. (Always choose a different partition or an external storage drive.)

C. Steps to recover files with Backup & Restore (Windows 7) utility

It is another Windows built-in utility that creates a backup of your system data if enabled before the data loss. You can follow the recover deleted files using this utility with the following steps:

  1. Open Control Panel and click Backup & Restore (Windows 7).
  • The backup will appear with the date and time. Locate the backup folder and open it.
  • Click Restore my files or Restore all users’ files on the next prompt.
  • Now, choose the files you want to recover and click either Browse for files or Browse for folders. Click Next to proceed.
  • Finally, choose the location to store the recoverable files and click Restore.

Note: Don’t choose the same location from where you lost the files in the first place. Always choose a different drive partition in your system or an external storage drive to save data.

D. Steps to recover files with Previous Version utility

Previous versions are the copies of the files and folders created on your system. These copies are automatically saved by Windows as a part of a restore point. You can also refer to the Previous Versions as shadow copies. To recover lost files and folders with Previous Version utility, follow the given steps:

  1. Open File Explorer and navigate to This PC.
  2. Next, right-click the drive from where you lost the files.
  3. Choose Properties from the available options.
  • On the next prompt, navigate to the Previous Versions tab.
  • The list of all the previous versions of files and folders will appear on the screen.
  • Choose the files or folders you want to revert to their older state and then drag the file/folder to restore to another location (another system drive partition or external media drive) and click OK to proceed.
  • The required file version will be restored to the chosen location.

Method 3: Use Microsoft’s File Recovery Tool

Microsoft now offers a command-line file recovery tool called Windows File Recovery that can help you restore lost or permanently deleted files. It can recover documents, photos, videos, and other files from Windows systems and external storage media drives such as HDD, SSD, USB drives, etc. Three different file recovery modes are available in the tool, including Default, Segment, and Signature.

Where Default mode only restores recently deleted files from NTFS hard drives, Segment Mode can help you get back your files lost due to deletion, drive formatting, and corruption from NTFS hard drives. Additionally, Signature mode supports recovery of lost or deleted files in all such data loss scenarios from FAT, exFAT, and ReFS hard drives.

Limitations with Microsoft’s File Recovery tool

  • You can recover files for free using this software. However, it’s a command-line tool that requires you to run multiple syntaxes and commands to change the file recovery modes and different file types. This makes it a little complicated for a non-technical user.
  • The tool only works on Windows 10 (2004) and above versions. Unfortunately, there is no support available for older versions.
  • The recovery results could be corrupted or incomplete, making it less preferable amongst non-technical users.

Method 4: Use Third-Party File Recovery Software

Another option is to use third-party file recovery software. There are plenty of data recovery tools available. However, we’d recommend you choose a reliable, easy-to-use yet powerful file recovery software such as Stellar Data Recovery Free Edition. With this software, you can have a hassle-free file recovery in all file loss scenarios, including accidental/permanent data deletion, drive formatting, corruption, malware attack, etc. It recovers deleted or lost files from Windows PCs, laptops, and external storage media drives for absolutely free. Furthermore, you can restore all file types from even BitLocker encrypted drives. To recover files with this software, follow the given steps:

  1. Download, launch and run Stellar Data Recovery Free Edition on your system.
  2. On the ‘Select What to Recover’ screen, choose the data you want to restore and click Next.
  • Then choose the drive/location from where you lost the files in the first place and click Scan. The scanning process will initiate.
  • Once the scanning is done, you’ll see the results on the screen.
  • You can choose the files you want to retrieve from the scanned results and preview them.
  • Once you’re satisfied with the results, click Recover to proceed.
  • Next, click Browse to choose the desired location. (It’s recommended to select a different drive partition or an external storage drive to save the recoverable files.)
  • Finally, click Start-Saving to store data to the chosen location.
Note: Stellar Data Recovery Free Edition lets you recover up to 1 GB of data. Also, support for Windows 11 is available.

Wrapping Up

Data loss is inevitable. And any significant data loss may make you anxious. However, the right approach and timely action can help you save a lot of money and effort. Whether you’ve lost files from Windows 11 or its previous versions, you can recover files for free with all the above-stated file recovery methods.  You can opt for the solutions as per the file loss scenario. If you’ve backup, you can copy-paste the files to a desired location/drive. If you lack the backup, you may choose Microsoft’s File Recovery tool or a third-party reliable data recovery software such as Stellar Data Recovery Free Edition. These DIY tools support recovery from Windows systems and storage media drives.

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