It’s happened to most of us. You delete a file, and then realize you need it back. This guide explains when you can get that file back and how to go about it.

We’ve covered a variety of tools for recovering deleted files in the past, but this guide goes more in-depth. We’ll cover everything you need to know if you want to successfully recover deleted files.

Is the File Really Deleted?

If you’re not sure whether you permanently deleted a file, be sure to look around for it first. Try performing a search in File Explorer. Hopefully, you just misplaced the file and you can find it again.

In Windows, take a peek in the Recycle Bin. You can search the Recycle Bin using the search box at the top-right corner of the window, which may help if you have a lot of files in there.

You can also right-click in the Recycle Bin window, and then choose Sort By > Date Deleted to more easily view recently deleted files.

Note: By default, programs like CCleaner empty your Recycle Bin when you run them, so having CCleaner or a similar program automatically run in the background can prevent you from recovering files from the Recycle Bin. CCleaner—and similar apps—do let you disable cleaning the Reycle Bin, so that may be an option worth exploring if you like to hang on to deleted files until you’re ready for them to go.

If your file was stored in a cloud storage service like Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive, be sure to log into your account on the service’s website and check your deleted files there—you may find the file is still recoverable. This is the cloud storage version of the Recycle Bin.

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