Recovering deleted files on Windows and Mac – DIY in 5 Ep 198

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Published on 21 May 2023, 13:00
Have you ever wanted to retrieve an important document that you just couldn’t find? You search through folders and your external SSD, but realize that the document isn’t just mislaid: it’s gone. But you don’t need to freak out and start your work document or term paper from scratch. In some cases, recovering deleted files on Windows and Mac is possible. This episode of DIY in 5 will show you how. Recovering deleted files is a painful and stressful process, but hopefully we can make it more tolerable.

Recovering deleted files on PC
The first place to check on your Windows PC is the Recycle Bin. Deleted files go here as standard. If your missing file is here, simply highlight it and click Restore. Multiple files can be highlighted for restoration, or simply dragged and dropped to the destination folder of your choice. The Recycle Bin is a great buffer between you and permanent file loss. However, some people prefer to delete files without prompts or a buffer. DIY in 5 recommends that you enable this buffer. If you want to verify that it is enabled, you can right-click on the Recycle Bin, select Properties, and make sure that the option ‘Don’t move files to the Recycle Bin. Remove files immediately when deleted’ is NOT selected. When using the Recycle Bin, don’t forget that it does need to be occasionally emptied. Of course, you should only do so when you’re sure there’s nothing in it you actually need.
Your next step should be File History Backup, a feature from Windows 8.1, 10, and 11. It saves files to network storage, external SSDs, or hard drives. If the Recycle Bin couldn’t help you recover your file, it’s worth a try. It isn’t set up by default, so it’s an unlikelier solution, but not impossible. Type ‘Restore my files with File History’ into the Windows search bar. Locate the file you want to regain, bearing in mind that there will be multiple versions. Click the version you want, and click Restore, or drag and drop it to your location of choice.
Another option is checking your OneDrive files, by logging into You may have had it set up to back up files automatically.

Lastly, we recommend using the Windows File Recovery app if all other methods fail. Regular and Extensive are your options: regular is best for recovering recently deleted files. If the files have been deleted for some time, extensive mode is recommended.

Mac file recovery
Mac users will notice that their process is similar to PC users. The Mac version of the permanent deletion buffer is called the Trash. Open your Trash, right-click on the file you want to restore and select Put Back. If you don’t see that option, just drag and drop the file to the location you want it in.
Next, check your Time Machine. Similar to Windows File History Backup, Time Machine automatically backs up to an external storage device. It could be weekly, daily, or even hourly. When the backup is full, Time Machine will remove the oldest files in order to make room for new ones. Make sure your backup drive is connected, go to the Apple menu, and click on System Preferences then Time Machine. When you locate the file, click Restore and it will return to its original location.
If these steps didn’t work, run the File Recovery Software (which is just like Windows). It might be referred to as “unerase” or “undelete”. Just like Windows File Recovery, this software will locate files that haven’t had their sectors overwritten yet, regardless of if they were on your HDD or SSD. You should check your external SSD too, to maximize your recovery chances. If you’re able to locate the file and can restore it, you too have dodged a bullet.
It's important to reduce the chance this happens again. Accidents can happen but with File History Backup and Time Machine, it pays dividends to at least have a scheduled backup of vital files mirrored to an external drive of your choice.

In summary, if you do have a file missing, check the Recycle Bin/Trash, check the file history, and as a last resort, try undeleting them with the software just outlined. Leave a comment if this video has been helpful!
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0:00 Intro
1:05 PC File Recovery
3:26 Mac File Recovery
5:18 Outro