Losing a file stored on your PC can be stressing, because with it comes the urgency of recovery. In the event that you had a backup of the same, your worries could be less, but losing the backup as well is another horror. Good news is, there is still a chance you can restore them.
Windows has launched a solution in the Windows File Recovery, a command line app from the Microsoft Store. You can use the app to try to recover lost files that have been deleted from your local storage devices including internal drives, external drives, and USB devices, and can’t be restored from the Recycle Bin.
How to recover your lost PC file using Windows File Recovery
You need to ensure that you avoid using the computer when using the app so as to increase your chances of recovering a file. This is because any use of your computer can create files, which may over-write the free space left by the lost file.
Another point to note is that file recovery on cloud storage and network file shares is not supported by this process.
So, with the above in check, you can download the Windows File Recovery app for free from the Microsoft Store HERE. The app works on Windows 10 2004 or later, so ensure that you have it before you install it. Go on to launch it after successful downloading.
Then, press the Windows key, enter Windows File Recovery in the search box, and then select Windows File Recovery. When you are prompted to allow the app to make changes to your device, select Yes.
A Command Prompt window opens, and in it enter the command in the following format:
winfr source-drive: destination-drive: [/switches]
You need to ensure that the source and destination drives are different. When recovering from the operating system drive (often C: ), use the /n <filter> and /y:<type<(s)> switches to specify the user files or folder.
Microsoft automatically creates a recovery folder for you called, Recovery_<date and time> on the destination drive.
There are three modes you can use to recover files: Default, Segment, and Signature.
Default mode mode uses the Master File Table (MFT) to locate lost files. It works well when the MFT and file segments, also called File Record Segments (FRS), are present.
In Default mode, here’s how to:
Recover a specific file from your C: drive to the recovery folder on an E: drive.
winfr C: E: /n\Users\<username>\Documents\Example.docx
Recover jpeg and png photos from your Pictures folder to the recovery folder on an E: drive.
winfr C: E: /n \Users\<username>\Pictures\example.JPEG OR /n\Users\<username>\Pictures\example.PNG
Recover your Documents folder from your C: drive to the recovery folder on an E: drive.
winfr C: E: /n \Users\<username>\Documents\
This mode does not require the MFT but does require segments. Segments are summaries of file information that NTFS stores in the MFT such as name, date, size, type and the cluster/allocation unit index.
In Segment mode, here’s how to:
Recover PDF and Word files from your C: drive to the recovery folder on an E: drive.
winfr C: E: /r /n example.pdf OR /n example.docx
Recover any file with the string “invoice” in the filename by using wildcard characters.
winfr C: E: /r /n *invoice*
This mode only requires that the data is present and searches for specific file types. It doesn’t work for small files. To recover a file on an external storage device, such as a USB drive, you can only use Signature mode.
When using signature mode, it’s helpful to first see the supported extension groups and corresponding file types.
In Signature mode, here’s how to:
Recover JPEG (jpg, jpeg, jpe, jif, jfif, jfi) and PNG photos from your C: drive to the recovery folder on an E: drive.
winfr C: E: /x /y:JPEG,PNG
Recover ZIP files (zip, docx, xlsx, ptpx, and so on) from your C: drive to the recovery folder on an E: drive.
winfr C: E:\RecoveryTest /x /y:ZIP
When you are prompted for confirmation to continue, enter Y to start the recovery operation.
Depending on the size of your source drive, this may take a while.
To stop the recovery process, press Ctrl+C.
Deciding which mode to use
The following table can help you decide which mode to use. It is recommended to start with the default mode if you are not sure of which to use.
|File System||Circumstances||Recommended mode|
|Deleted a while ago||First try Segment, then Signature|
|After formatting a disk|
|A corrupted disk|
|FAT, exFAT, ReFS||Recovery file type is supported (See following table)||Signature|
Still unable to recover the file?
If you used default or segment mode, try again in signature mode if the file type is supported. It’s possible that the free space was over-written, especially on a solid state drive (SSD). If you need help, contact your administrator.