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Free tool from Microsoft to recover deleted data

If you’ve ever accidentally deleted a computer file that you needed, you know the panic that ensues immediately after it happens. It’s a terrible feeling, knowing that you don’t have access to the file anymore, especially if it’s something you’ve been working on for a while.

The same goes for damaged files that won’t open anymore — needing a file but being unable to access it can be extremely frustrating. Luckily, a new Microsoft utility can help cut down on the frustration and panic. RELATED: Tap or click here for three reasons you need IDrive for data backup.

This new tool helps you recover damaged or deleted files, which can be a lifesaver when you need it. Let’s take a look at this new utility and how it works. 

What is Windows File Recovery?

Windows File Recovery is a new utility available for Windows 10 (version 2004 and newer) that can help you recover damaged or deleted files. It’s the fix you’ve been hoping exists every time you’ve accidentally removed a file from your computer or tried to open a corrupted file, and will help those computer disasters seem less epic since you know there’s a way to fix the issue.

You can use this new utility to restore a number of deleted file types, including documents, videos, and photos. So, if you’ve been regretting that hard delete you did of all the memories from your last relationship, you can use this to recover the deleted files once you’re ready to.

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Or, if you’ve somehow managed to accidentally delete the work file you’ve been compiling for weeks on end, you can use Windows File Recovery to restore it.

Sounds pretty handy, right? Well, it is — but there are a couple of caveats. You’ll have to be somewhat familiar with Microsoft’s command-line interpreter, Command Prompt (cmd), to use it because according to Microsoft’s support page, Windows File Recovery is a command-line app, which requires some advanced knowledge of Windows to use it.

And, while this tool can help recover the files that have been deleted from local storage, it does not support recovery from cloud storage and network file shares, so if you’re trying to restore files from the cloud or network file shares, you’re out of luck. 

You should also use this utility to restore files shortly after they were deleted and should try to either stop using or minimize the amount of computer use you do before recovering files to avoid the “free space” created by deleting the file from being filled — which will make it almost impossible to retrieve your deleted file. 

How does Windows File Recovery work?

Windows File Recovery works in three available modes: Default, Segment, and Signature. Each mode works for different circumstances. For example, only Signature mode can enable recovering files from non-NTFS file systems, and you can also use it to recover files you lost after formatting a disk or other similar tasks. 

You should always start with Default mode (if possible) before moving on to Segment or Signature modes. Default mode uses the Master File Table (MFT) to locate lost files.

Default can be used to recover:

  • files that were deleted recently

Segment mode does not require the MFT but does require segments, which are summaries of file information that NTFS stores in the MFT, such as name, date, size, type and the cluster/allocation unit index.

Segment can be used to recover:

  • files that were deleted recently (though you should try Default mode first)
  • files that were deleted a while ago
  • files that were lost after formatting a disk
  • files that were lost from a corrupted disk

Signature mode only requires that the data is present and searches for specific file types and does not restore small files.

Signature mode can be used to recover:

  • files on an external storage device, such as a USB drive

How to use Windows File Recovery

Before you can use Windows File Recover you’ll need to download it, which you can do by tapping or clicking on this link. You will also need to be using Windows 10 (version 2004 or later).

Once the file is downloaded and installed on your computer, you can begin using it to recover deleted or corrupt files with a command-line tool called winfr.exe.

To do this:

  • Open the Start menu > Windows File Recovery Tool PowerShell (or you can opt to open the Windows Terminal as an administrator)
  • Type the command “winfr” and press Enter — this will pull up a list of the available commands
  • Alternatively, you can use the command “winfr /!” to pull up advanced commands for recovery
  • You will use these commands to recover files using the command-line tool winfr.exe

It’s important to note that when you need to specify the source drive, the drive files that will be recovered, and any filters that fine-tune what files are recovered and the file recovery mode. That’s why you need to have a command of Microsoft’s command-line interpreter, Command Prompt (cmd), to use this tool.

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For example, to Default mode to recover all deleted .JPG files on the D: drive and restore them to the E: drive, you would enter the command: winfr D: F: /n *.JPG. Or, to restore a specific file, a folder, different files based on filetype, or names, you would type: winfr sourcedrive: destinationdrive: [/switches].

Take some time to learn about Windows File Recovery before just jumping right into it. You don’t want to make any mistakes when using the Command Prompt that you won’t be able to easily figure out. Once you feel comfortable, give the new tool a try and get back those files you’d lost forever.

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