How do I undo a delete on my hard drive?

If you’ve accidentally deleted a file or folder from your hard drive, don’t panic. With the right tools and techniques, it is often possible to recover deleted data and undo the delete. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the steps for trying to recover deleted files on both Windows and Mac operating systems.

Quick Answers

Here are quick answers to common questions about undoing deletes on a hard drive:

  • Use data recovery software like Recuva or Disk Drill to scan your hard drive and recover deleted files.
  • Stop using the drive immediately to avoid overwriting the deleted data.
  • Recovering from the Recycle Bin on Windows or Trash on Mac is easy if the file was recently deleted.
  • If the delete was long ago, recovery is still possible but becomes harder over time.
  • Turning off your computer to prevent overwriting data can help increase chances of recovery.

How Does File Deletion Work?

When you delete a file on your computer, it isn’t immediately erased from your hard drive. Instead, the operating system simply marks the space occupied by that file as being available for new data. The contents of the file still exist on the drive until new data overwrites it.

This means that with the right tools, it’s possible to search your hard drive and recover data from deleted files before they have been partially or fully overwritten by new content. However, it’s critical to act fast, as the longer you wait, the higher the chances the deleted data will get overwritten.

Recovering Deleted Files on Windows

If you use a Windows PC, here are some steps to try recovering deleted files:

  1. Check the Recycle Bin – Restoring accidentally deleted files from the Recycle Bin is easy. Simply open it, locate your file and restore to original location.
  2. Use recovery software – Download and run data recovery software like Recuva or Disk Drill to scan your hard drive and restore deleted files.
  3. Turn off your PC – Powering down your PC after accidentally deleting files can prevent further data overwriting.
  4. Attach drive to another computer – Connect your hard drive to another PC as an external drive and run recovery software from there.
  5. Send to a recovery service – For complex data loss situations, consult with a professional recovery service for possible options.

Recuva from Piriform is a great free option for trying to recover deleted files on Windows. It scans your hard drive and allows you to restore discovered deletions with one click. Just be sure to select the “Deep Scan” option for best results.

Using Recuva Step-By-Step

Follow these steps to recover deleted files with Recuva:

  1. Download and install Recuva from
  2. Open Recuva and select the drive you want to scan.
  3. Choose “Files Deleted From Recycle Bin” or “All Files” depending on when deletion occurred.
  4. Click “Scan” and wait for scan to complete.
  5. Once complete, select the files to restore and click “Recover” button.
  6. Choose a folder to save the recovered files in.

Recuva makes it easy to restore deleted files as long as they have not been partially overwritten by new data written to disk.

Recovering Deleted Files on Mac

For Mac users, here are some options to try recovering deleted files:

  1. Check Trash – Recently deleted files may still be in the Trash. Check and restore if available.
  2. Use Time Machine – If enabled, Time Machine backups can help recover deleted files.
  3. Use recovery software – Download software like Disk Drill to scan and restore deleted Mac files.
  4. Stop using Mac – Don’t save anything new to the disk to avoid overwriting deleted data.
  5. Send to a recovery service – For complex data recovery cases, enlist an expert recovery service.

Disk Drill is excellent Mac data recovery software that can restore deleted files from both internal and external hard drives. Like Recuva, it searches your drive and lets you preview and recover found files.

Using Disk Drill Step-By-Step

Here are the basic steps for recovering deleted files with Disk Drill:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill from
  2. Open Disk Drill and select the drive to scan for deleted data.
  3. Click “Recover” button next to desired recovery option.
  4. Preview and select the files to recover after scan completes.
  5. Choose a safe location to save the recovered deleted files.

As long as your Mac’s deleted files are still present and un-overwritten, Disk Drill should be able to find and recover them.

Tips for Improving Chances of File Recovery

To maximize your chances of successfully recovering deleted files, keep these useful tips in mind:

  • Act fast – The sooner you attempt recovery, the better the chances.
  • Avoid saving new data – Prevent overwriting by stopping usage of the drive with deletions.
  • Turn off your computer – Powering down can help stop file overwriting.
  • Try multiple recovery tools – Different software utilize varying recovery techniques.
  • Scan thoroughly – Opt for “Deep Scans” over quick scans for best results.

With the right approach, there’s a good possibility of getting back deleted files as long as they have not already been partially or fully overwritten by new data.

Recovering Permanently Deleted Files

If a file was permanently deleted long ago and partially overwritten, recovery becomes much more difficult but may still be possible in some cases. Here are some tips:

  • Use advanced recovery software with specialized techniques for finding old, permanently deleted data.
  • Send your drive to a professional recovery service – they dismantle drives and use forensic tools.
  • Recover previous file versions from cloud backups like Time Machine, Windows File History, etc.
  • On SSDs, enable TRIM support in recovery software if available – it can help find deleted data.

While recovering permanently deleted files is challenging, deep scanning with advanced tools can sometimes find remnants of old deleted data that have not yet been overwritten.

Recovering Deleted Files from SSDs vs HDDs

Solid-state drives (SSDs) and traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) store data differently, which impacts deleted file recovery:

Recovering Files from SSDs

  • No magnetic platters – flash storage instead of magnetic media.
  • TRIM command deletes data quickly by resetting cells.
  • Smaller recoverable window before TRIM erasure.
  • Enabling TRIM support in recovery software can help.

Recovering Files from HDDs

  • Magnetic platters retain residual magnetic data fields.
  • Slower to overwrite deleted data.
  • Larger window of recoverability.
  • Head assembly failures can damage platters and make recovery difficult.

In general, HDDs offer a longer window of recoverability for deleted files, while SSDs make recovery possible for only a shorter period before TRIM erasure.

Recovering Lost or Corrupted Data vs Deleted Files

It’s important to understand that data recovery is different from restoring deleted files. Some key differences:

Data Recovery

  • Used for lost or corrupted data, not deleted files.
  • Reconstructs damaged drive structures like boot records, file tables, etc.
  • May involve repairing failed hard drives.
  • Recovery from physical damage or logical errors.

File Recovery

  • Focuses specifically on undeleting and restoring deleted files.
  • Relies on file data still being present on disk in some form.
  • Scans disk for deleted file patterns.
  • Works as long as deleted data is still intact.

Data recovery tools utilize a variety of techniques like rebuilding drive structures, while file recovery involves directly restoring deleted files from disk.

Preventing File Deletion Problems

Prevention is always the best solution. Here are some tips to avoid file deletion issues in the first place:

  • Be very careful when permanently deleting files.
  • Back up your data regularly to external drives or cloud storage.
  • Enable versioning in backup software to retain previous copies.
  • Use the Recycle Bin and Trash as temporary holding places before deletion.
  • Consider write-protection for flash drives to prevent accidental erasing.

Carefully managing your files, performing regular backups, and enabling file versioning provide protection against permanent data loss due to deletion.

When File Recovery is Not Possible

While deleted file recovery is often successful, it does not always work. Recovery may fail if:

  • Files were completely overwritten by new data.
  • Drive hardware physically failed.
  • Extremely old files from long ago.
  • Data was lost due to formatting or repartitioning.
  • Encryption like BitLocker was enabled on drive.

With older magnetic hard drives, some recovery is usually possible. But solid state drives and extreme overwriting can prevent recovery entirely.


Undeleting files from your hard drive is often possible using the right tools and techniques. The key is taking quick action before the deleted data gets overwritten. Recovery software like Recuva and Disk Drill make finding and restoring deleted files easy as long as they still exist intact on the drive. Plus preventative measures like backups and versioning go a long way towards avoiding permanent data loss from accidental deletion in the first place.