How to use Windows file recovery tool to restore lost data

When you accidentally delete a file, that terrible feeling overwhelms you. The feeling of cold, the discomfort at the thought of lost work, lost hours or a lost memory.

You will be happy to know that all is not lost immediately. There is a chance that you can recover the deleted file if you act quickly. Using Windows File Recovery, you can attempt to restore the file to its original location.

What is Windows File Restore?

Windows File Recovery is a command line app that you can use to attempt to recover deleted files from your computer. Microsoft released the file recovery tool in 2020 and you can use it to try to restore data on your hard drive, external drives, and USB flash drives. It won’t work with cloud storage devices and network file shares.

The Windows File Repair tool is free and available for Windows 10 version 2004 (Build 19041 and later). Not sure what version of Windows you have? Here’s how to check which version of Windows you’re using .

Note that the Windows File Repair tool is a command line tool. It doesn’t have a graphical user interface (GUI) with buttons to click. You need to enter commands to restore the data. While it sounds a bit complicated, the commands are easy to learn.

Read on for a tutorial on how to restore your data using the Windows File Recovery tool and its commands.

Windows file recovery mode

The Windows File Recovery tool has three operating modes:

  • Default:Use the master file table to locate lost files.
  • Segment –Use file summaries to search for lost files.
  • Signature –Search for specific file types.

The master file table is like a huge table of contents for your hard drive, detailing the location of each file. When you delete a file, the MFT updates itself, marking the disk space available for new data.

However, the data does not immediately flow into the new space. Although the space is marked as available, existing data is not overwritten until the computer specifically writes data to that space. This is why data recovery is possible.

That said, solid state drives (SSDs) play by a different set of rules when it comes to deleting data.

Related: Can SSDs Really Delete Data Safely?

Due to the way SSDs handle data deletion, you may have a hard time recovering data from the drive or find only fragments of data rather than entire files.

How to recover lost data with Windows file recovery tool

The Windows File Repair tool is a great free option for restoring files, but it does require some learning. The following tutorial guides you through the process of restoring basic files using the tool, with some explanations on the commands entered.

1. Download and install Windows File Recovery

The first thing to do is download and install the Windows File Recovery tool. Go to the Microsoft Store page using the link below, then select Get . The app will be downloaded and installed automatically.

Download : Windows File Recovery for Windows 10 (Free)

Once the installation is complete, launch the tool. Alternatively, enter Windows File Recovery in the Start menu search bar and select the best match.

2. Recover a single file with Windows File Recovery

Let’s take a look at basic file recovery. Windows File Recovery requires you to recover the data on a separate drive. It is not possible to recover data to and from the same drive at the same time.

The following command allows me to attempt to restore a specific file from my C: drive to restore to a folder on my D :: drive

winfr C: D: /n UsersGavinDocumentsReportsimportantreport.docx

The Windows File Recovery tool will scan the file. When (and if) it is found, it will restore the file to a folder on the other drive. Microsoft automatically creates a recovery folder, with the name Recovery_ [date and time] .

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Backing Up Windows 10 Data

3. Retrieve specific file types from a single folder

You can use Windows File Restore to restore data for specific file types. If you want to restore a specific file type or multiple file types from a folder, use the following command:

winfr C: D: /n UsersGavinPictures*.JPEG UsersGavinPictures*.PNG

The above command will scan the folder for JPEG and PNG and restore all the data in the recovery folder.

4. Recover a folder with Windows File Recovery

If you want to restore an entire folder, use the following command:

winfr C: D: /n UsersGavinDocumentsReports

Just make sure the output folder is large enough for the recovered data.

5. Retrieve any files including a specific term

The Windows File Repair tool can scan the terms of the file name instead of the file type. You can use file name search with segment mode to find old files, of which only small fragments remain.

For example, the following command will attempt to restore all files with the string “report” using wildcard characters:

winfr C: D: /r /n *report*

Note that scanning and attempting to restore from an entire drive can take a long time.

6. Retrieve specific file signatures

Windows File Recovery can attempt to recover lost data using specific file signatures. This means that, for example, instead of looking for “JPEG” and just that type of file, Windows File Recovery can attempt to recover similar file types, such as JPG, JPE, JIF, and so on.

The signature scan mode is limited to the file signature types in the image above. However, it provides decent coverage for many common file types, especially the common document types in the ZIP extension group.

If you want to check the list of signature file extension groups yourself, use the following command:

winfr /#

You can use the following command to attempt to recover JPEG file extensions and PNG file extensions:

winfr C: D: /x /y:JPEG,PNG

Note that there are no spaces between “/ y: JPEG, PNG” as this is the correct syntax for the command.

7. Advanced Windows File Recovery commands and syntax

The Windows File Repair tool includes a list of advanced commands and syntax. You can access the advanced command line syntax by using the following command:

winfr /!

Advanced commands provide additional control over the file restore process or provide additional options for creating script files.

One of the more interesting advanced command line options is “/ e”, the file filter toggles. The Windows File Recovery tool automatically filters out a bunch of file types. This helps reduce recovery time for desired file types and makes file recovery results easier to understand.

Does the Windows File Repair Tool Work?

Yes, the Windows File Repair tool works perfectly. The success of the tool (and any consumer file recovery tool) depends on the time between deleting and running the file recovery process. The larger the gap, the lower the chances of recovery.


by Abdullah Sam
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