There's Now a Windows File Recovery Tool. Here's How to Use It

Have you ever wished there was an "undelete" button? Accidental deletion of a precious photograph or a valuable work assignment can be quite a headache. And the Windows operating system has lacked file recovery features until very recently.

In fact, many people don't even realize that they can undelete a file. In the past, it required third-party software or the help of tech support (and a whole lot of panicking) to be able to do it.

But that all had changed when Microsoft rolled out its Windows 10 File Recovery Tool, which you can get for free online. You'll still need a little tech know-how to use it, but it is a great way to recover accidentally deleted files.

Here's what you need to know about it, along with some useful file storage tips you should always keep handy.

What is Windows 10 File Recovery?

It took more than 50 years for Microsoft to roll out this feature. Windows 10 File Recovery is a command-line only tool. It means it doesn't have an app interface that you'd see in virtually all other software you use on a daily basis.

Instead, you have to use command functions (think MS-DOS days) to recover your lost files. However, behind the less than a modern facade, it actually relies on the same principles most advanced recovery tools do: deleted data isn't really erased.

Your computer classifies the files as "erased" and notifies the system that their space is available. But if you haven't overwritten them with anything, then these files are still there. It only takes a little bit of digging for you to bring them right back.

With Windows File Recovery, you can recover deleted files via three different methods:

Method 1: Default Setting

You'll likely use this most of the time. It's used for NTFS files systems and is a quick and easy way to resurrect your deleted files. Using it, you can:
  • Search specific file names, keywords, paths, and extensions
  • Recover DOCX, PDF, PNG, JPEG, MP3, and many other file types
  • Get data from HDD, SSD, USB drives, and SD memory cards
It is the ideal option for files you may have deleted recently.

Method 2: Segment

Segment is a little more aggressive and can help retrieve files you may have deleted a little while ago. It does a deeper dive into your past, so it likewise takes longer to pull back data for you.

Method 3: Signature

Signature is the best option for external storage devices that use FAT, exFAT, and ReFS file systems. Do keep in mind that you'll have limited usefulness with solid-state drives since they erase files immediately, unlike traditional HDDs.

Windows File Recover Tips

The most important thing is that you should always act quickly. While files may not be truly deleted, it's only a matter of time before they're overwritten. For example, if you decide to download the entire nine seasons of Game of Thrones, your recently deleted files will be gone for good.

Likewise, you must have Windows 10 2004 to use this new tool. Moreover, Microsoft recommends installing Windows File Recovery before you even need to resurrect any files. If you install the program after you delete the data, it increases the chance of overwriting those file fragments that you're trying to claw back.

Windows also has a couple of other built-in recovery tools. For example, there is a document recovery feature in MS Word you can use to resurrect corrupted files. It's not always successful, but it's worth checking out.

There is also a File History feature that you can use. But you have to enable it first before you can try to recover lost data. This is why the new Windows File Recovery Tool is such a significant step up for users. And, unlike many of the online options, it's also free! Just be sure to manage your expectations because, even with it, there's no guarantee you'll get your files back.

Data and File Safety Essentials

While Windows File Recovery is useful, there are few other things you should know about the safety of your data.

Knowing how easy it is to recover it shows how vulnerable your data can be. Anybody who accesses your computer could use it to pull up files you've tried to delete. It could be anything from sensitive medical records and tax forms to personal photos and videos.

That's why losing files isn't the only "evil" related to data. Hackers breach computers and either lock people out of their data or expose their private files online.

You've likely heard of these ransomware attacks where hackers extort money from their victims. But what you might not realize is that hackers target not only hospitals, businesses, and governments but also individual users. For example, the WannaCry ransomware affected 200,000 computers across 150 countries.

For these reasons and so many more, you need to equip your computer with encryption software for Windows. It helps to harness the power of encryption to ensure that only you or those you authorize can access your files.

Not only does it apply to files you currently have but also to ones that you might upload to the cloud or delete. The simple rule is that if a file has any importance to you, you should encrypt it.

Why? Because hackers are crafty. Even if they only have access to innocuous and boring files, they can find different ways to harm their victims. And the easiest way to stop hackers is to encrypt these files.

Arm yourself with the latest encryption tools to protect your data from cybercriminals and everybody else who should mind their own business.

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