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How to Recover Deleted Files using Recuva

Posted by on 27 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: recover deleted files

In this guide we are going to discuss how to recover deleted files using Recuva – a free data recovery program. Please be forewarned that this is a comprehensive guide designed to be both: easy to follow and effective. It is not the shortest guide out there; however, if you follow it carefully there is a fairly good chance that you will be able to recover your deleted files successfully.

Recuva

Recuva logoFor those who don’t know, Recuva is a well known data recovery program created by Piriform – a company which makes a number of popular software applications including CCleaner (for removing unwanted files from your computer) and Defraggler (for defragmenting your hard drive).

Recuva’s Strengths

  • Recuva is free: Recuva is 100% free to use. Only businesses and individuals who desire technical support need pay a fee.
  • Recuva is extremely easy to use: Recuva’s recovery wizard takes you step by step through the whole process of recovering deleted files. Even without our helpful guide you would likely be able to figure it out – although we still recommend that you follow along :]
  • Recuva is portable:  Some data recovery software must be installed on your computer before you can use it. This is fine if you are attempting to recover deleted files from an SD card, USB key, external hard drive, or CD/DVD. However, this is a horrible idea if you are attempting to recover deletes files from your recycle bin or local hard drive (we discuss this issue below)! Luckily, Recuva doesn’t need to be installed on your computer in order to be used which gives you greater freedom in the recovery process.

Recuva’s Weaknesses

  • Recuva isn’t the most effective program out there: We here at Seymour Computer Repair use Recuva frequently due to its simplicity. Most of the time it works perfectly well; however, we have noticed that Recuva isn’t quite as effective as some other data recovery programs.

A Few Warnings about Recovering Deleted Files

Before we describe the actual process of how to recover deleted files using Recuva we want to provide a few warnings. Please read these warnings carefully!

  • Attempt to recover your files as soon as possible: The sooner you realize that files have been accidentally deleted, the greater the likelihood that you will be able to recover them!
  • Don’t continue to use a device after accidentally deleting files from it: If you accidentally delete files from a device (local hard drive, SD card, USB, external hard drive, CD,DVD…) then stop using it immediately!
  • Don’t install Recuva onto the device where the deleted files reside: Installing data recovery software onto a device where deleted files reside is a bad idea! As an example: if your deleted files are on a USB key then don’t install Recuva onto that USB key.
  • Don’t recover deleted files to the same device: Recovering deleted files onto the same device they came from is a bad idea! As an example: if your deleted files are on a USB key then don’t recover these files onto the same USB key.

If you wish to know more then please don’t hesitate to take a look through our article: Deleted File Recovery: Do’s and Don’ts. It discusses a number of important concepts which highlight the ways in which deleted files can be lost permanently – something no one wants!

For computer novices: Don’t worry excessively! As long as you follow along closely, and choose the guides labeled safe, there is virtually no chance that you will permanently delete your files!

 

Where are your Deleted Files?

The first thing you have to do is decide where the deleted files you wish to recover are located as this will determine which guide you will follow. The most common locations for deleted files are:

  • In your recycle bin
  • On an SD card
  • On a USB key
  • On an external hard drive
  • On a CD or DVD
  • Somewhere else on your local hard drive (C:)

 

Choose the Appropriate Guide

Option 1: Read How to Recover Deleted Files from the Recycle Bin or Local Hard Drive – Unsafe Method if:

  • Your deleted files are located in the recycle bin or on your local hard drive (C: drive).
  • You want a guide which is unsafe (some chance of permanent file loss) but faster.

Option 2: Read How to Recover Deleted Files from the Recycle Bin or Local Hard Drive – Safe Method if:

  • Your deleted files are located in the recycle bin or on your local hard drive (C: drive).
  • You want a guide which is safe (no chance of permanent file loss) but slower.

Option 3: Read How to Recover Deleted Files from an SD card, USB, External Hard Drive, or CD/DVD if:

  • Your deleted files are located on an SD card, USB key, external hard drive, CD, or DVD.
  • You want a guide which is safe (no chance of permanent file loss).

 

How to Recover Deleted Files from the Recycle Bin or Local Hard Drive – Unsafe Method

This particular guide assumes that you are attempting to recover a deleted file from the recycle bin or from somewhere on your local hard drive (C: drive). It is important to note that this guide is unsafe since it requires you to work with the computer where the deleted files reside; this creates a situation whereby deleted files can, potentially, become permanently lost! If your data is absolutely critical then we recommend that you read How to Recover Deleted Files from the Recycle Bin or Local Hard Drive – Safe Method instead. If some risk is satisfactory then proceed…

What you will need:

  • A USB key
  • An external hard drive
  • Access to the computer where the deleted files do reside (we will call this PC-DEL henceforth)
  • Access to any working computer where the deleted files do not reside (we will call this PC-OTH henceforth)

1) Download the Portable version of Recuva onto PC-OTH

1-1) Log onto PC-OTH. Just as a reminder: PC-OTH refers to any working computer where the deleted files do not reside.

1-2) Open up a web browser (Firefox, IE, Google Chrome …).

Recuva portable download page

1-3) Head over to the Piriform website and download the portable version of Recuva. The download page for the portable version of Recuva can be found here.

2) Extract Recuva on PC-OTH

You might have noticed that the portable version of Recuva is in fact a compressed/zipped file. In order to make use of it we need to uncompress/unzip it. In order to do that:

Uncompress recuva portable

2-1) Right-click on the zipped file which you downloaded in step 1-3.

2-2) Select Extract All…

2-3) Click on the Browse button, click on Desktop (because we want to save everything to the desktop), and click the Ok button.

2-4) Click Extract

2-5) At this point you should see a new folder on your desktop; inside it should be a number of files including Recuva.exe and Recuva64.exe. Rename this folder: Recuva Program Folder.  

3) Put Recuva onto your USB key

Put Recuva portable onto USB

3-1) Take your USB key and plug it into PC-OTH.

3-2) Drag the folder, which you just named Recuva Program Folder in step 2-5, onto the USB key.

3-3) Take your USB key out of PC-OTH.

4) Connect your USB key and External Hard Drive to PC-DEL

4-1) Take your USB key and plug it into PC-DEL. Just as a reminder: PC-DEL refers to the computer where the deleted files do reside.

4-2) Take your external hard drive, plug it into PC-DEL, and turn it on.

Create recovered deleted files folder

4-3) Once the external hard drive has loaded, open it and create a folder on it; this folder will hold our recovered files so we will name it: Recovered Deleted Files Folder.

5) Open Recuva

5-1) Open up your USB key, then open up the folder named Recuva Program Folder.

Open Recuva 32 bit or 64 bit

5-2) If you are running a 32 bit version of Windows double click on Recuva.exe. If you are running a 64 bit version of Windows then double click on Recuva64.exe. If you are uncertain, just double click on Recuva.exe (as most systems are 32-bit).

6) Using Recuva

Recuva Intro Screen

6-1) Click on Next to proceed past the introductory screen.

7) File Type Selection

Type of deleted files to recover

7-1) Select the Other radio button – this will attempt to recover all types of deleted files. Note that you can choose the Pictures radio button if you know you are looking for a picture or the Music radio button if you know you are looking for a music file. However, we still recommend that you go with the “catch all” of Other just in case.

8) File Location Selection

Recover deleted files from location

8-1) If you wish to recover deleted files from the recycle bin then select the In the Recycle Bin radio button. If you don’t know where your deleted files are then select the I’m not sure radio button.

8-2) Click on Next.

9) Scan Selection

scan mode

9-1) Recuva has 2 modes: normal mode and deep scan mode. It is generally best to work in normal mode since this will preserve file names (recovered file names will correspond with their original file names). If, however, you have already tried normal mode unsuccessfully then turn on deep scan mode by clicking on the Enable Deep Scan checkbox.

9-2) Click on Start to begin the recovery scanning process.

10) Recovery File Selection

Recover Deleted Files

10-1) Once the recovery scanning process is complete you will be shown a list of files which Recuva was able to find. Select all of the files (by clicking on the checkbox next to “Filename”).

10-2) Click on Recover.

11) Recovering Files to your External Hard Drive

This is an extremely important step – Please follow along carefully! At this stage we want to make sure that the recovered files will be saved to your external hard drive (we do not want the recovered files saved to PC-DEL: the computer where the deleted files reside).

11-1) Within the Select location for recovery window search for your external hard drive (which you plugged into PC-DEL in step 4-2) and click on it. If you are uncertain which drive letter corresponds to your external hard drive then simply:

  1. Turn off your external hard drive.
  2. Turn your external hard drive back on (while attempting to note which drive letter suddenly appears).

Recover deleted files to location

11-2) Once you have selected your external hard drive, look for the folder you created in step 4-3 named Recovered Deleted Files Folder and click on it.

11-3) Only when you are sure that the Recovered Deleted Files Folder is selected should you proceed by clicking OK.

11-4) Wait as Recuva attempts to recover your deleted files. This may take a while!

12) Surveying the Deleted Files

Recovered contents

12-1) Once the recovery process is complete go back into the Windows environment and open up the folder named Recovered Deleted Files Folder which should be located on your external hard drive.

12-2) Search for your deleted files. If file names have been preserved (recovered file names correspond with their original file names) then simply look for accidentally deleted files by name. If, on the other hand, file names have not been preserved then you are going to need to do a bit of digging. There are 2 ways to make your search a little easier:

  • Organize and search through the files by type. For example, if you are looking for a JPEG image then only look at the files labeled JPEG. If you are looking for a Microsoft Word Document then only look at the files labeled DOC/DOCX.
  • Organize and search through the files by date modified. If you know that the file you accidentally deleted was created and modified today, then only look at files where “date modified” has today’s date.

13) Done

If you were able to recover your deleted files then GREAT, you are done!

If you were unable to recover your deleted files then you have several choices:

  • Try to recover your deleted files with a different data recovery program (other than Recuva).
  • Take your computer to a compute repair technician and let them have a look.
  • Take your computer to a data recovery specialist; these individuals have specialized data recovery facilities and can oftentimes recover hard to find deleted files (for a sometimes hefty price).
  • Move on and forget about recovering your deleted files.

 

How to Recover Deleted Files from the Recycle Bin or Local Hard Drive – Safe Method

This particular guide assumes that you are attempting to recover a deleted file from the recycle bin or from somewhere on your local hard drive (C: drive). It is important to note that this guide is safe; your deleted files can not be permanently lost by following it! This is because you are going to be recovering from your local hard drive as if it was a USB key, making sure that no new files have a chance to permanently overwrite your deleted files.

What you will need:

  • An appropriate hard drive to USB adapter
  • Access to the computer where the deleted files do reside
  • Access to any working computer where the deleted files do not reside

1) Convert your Local Hard Drive to a USB

1-1) Convert the local hard drive, where the deleted files do reside, into a USB and connect it to a working computer where the deleted files do not reside. In order to do so read our article: how to convert a hard drive to a USB.

2) Recover your Deleted Files from the USB

2-1) Follow the sub-guide: How to Recover Deleted Files from an SD card, USB, External Hard Drive, or CD/DVD as if you were recovering deleted files from a normal USB (think of the local hard drive, which you converted to a USB in step 1, as a normal USB). Note that step 1 of the sub-guide is redundant as you have likely already attached the local hard drive (now USB) to a working computer.

3) Put your Local Hard Drive Back

3-1) Put your local hard drive, which you converted to a USB in step 1, back into the computer from where it originally came from.

 

How to Recover Deleted Files from an SD card, USB, External Hard Drive, or CD/DVD

This particular guide assumes that you are attempting to recover a deleted file from an SD card, USB key, external hard drive, or CD/DVD. It is important to note that this guide is safe; your deleted files can not be permanently lost by following it!

What you will need:

  • Access to the device (SD card, USB, external hard drive, CD, DVD) where the deleted files do reside.
  • Access to any working computer where the deleted files do not reside (we will call this PC-REC henceforth).
  • A memory card reader only if you are attempting to recover deleted files from an SD card and your computer doesn’t come with a built in memory card reader.

1) Attach the Device with the Deleted Files to PC-REC

1-1) Attach the device where your deleted files do reside to PC-REC. Just as a reminder: PC-REC refers to any working computer where the deleted files do not reside.

  • If you wish to recover deleted files from an SD card: Plug the SD card into PC-REC’s memory card reader. If PC-REC does not come with a memory card reader then plug the SD card into an external memory card reader and then plug the external memory card reader into PC-REC.
  • If you wish to recover deleted files from a USB: Plug the USB into PC-REC.
  • If you wish to recover deleted files from an external hard drive: Plug the external hard drive into PC-REC and make sure that its power is turned on.
  • If you wish to recover deleted files from a CD or DVD: Insert the CD or DVD into PC-REC’s CD/DVD drive.

2) Create a Recovery Folder on PC-REC

recovered deleted files folder

2-1) Log onto PC-REC and create a new folder on the desktop named Recovered Deleted Files Folder. Initially this folder will be empty; however, we will fill it with recovered files shortly.

3) Download Recuva

Recuva normal download

3-1) Open up a web browser (Firefox, IE, Google Chrome …).

3-2) Head over to the Piriform website and download Recuva. The download page for Recuva can be found here.

4) Install Recuva

Recuva exe

4-1) Double click on the executable file downloaded in step 3-2 and follow the installation instructions.

5) Open Recuva

Recuva folder location

5-1) If Recuva is already open then you can skip this step! If Recuva is not open then open it(you can generally find it by going Windows Button –> All Programs –> Recuva).

6) Using Recuva

Recuva Intro Screen

6-1) Click on Next to proceed past the introductory screen.

7) File Type Selection

Recuva File Type Selection

7-1) Select the Other radio button – this will attempt to recover all types of deleted files. Note that you can choose the Pictures radio button if you know you are looking for a picture or the Music radio button if you know you are looking for a music file. However, we still recommend that you go with the “catch all” of Other just in case.

8) File Location Selection

Recover deleted files from location

8-1) Choose the appropriate radio button.

  • If you wish to recover deleted files from an SD card: Click the On my media card or iPod radio button.
  • If you wish to recover deleted files from a USB: Click the On my media card or iPod radio button.
  • If you wish to recover deleted files from an external hard drive: Click the On my media card or iPod radio button.
  • If you wish to recover deleted files from a CD or DVD: Click the In a specific location radio button. After this you need to click on the Browse.. button, select your CD or DVD drive (likely D: drive or E: drive), then click the Ok button.

8-2) Click on Next.

9) Scan Selection

scan mode

9-1) Recuva has 2 modes: normal mode and deep scan mode. It is generally best to work in normal mode since this will preserve file names (recovered file names will correspond with their original file names). If, however, you have already tried normal mode unsuccessfully then turn on deep scan mode by clicking on the Enable Deep Scan checkbox.

9-2) Click on Start to begin the recovery scanning process.

10) Recovery File Selection

Select deleted files to recover

10-1) Once the recovery scanning process is complete you will be shown a list of files which Recuva was able to find. Select all of the files (by clicking on the checkbox next to “Filename”).

10-2) Click on Recover.

11) Recovering Files to PC-REC

This is an extremely important step – Please follow along carefully! At this stage we want to make sure that the recovered files will be saved to PC-REC (we do not want the recovered files saved to the device where the deleted files do reside).

Recover deleted files to location

11-1) Within the Select location for recovery window click on the Desktop icon and then click on the Recovered Deleted Files Folder (which we created back in step 2-1).

11-2) Only when you are sure that Recovered Deleted Files Folder is selected should you proceed by clicking OK.

11-3) Wait as Recuva attempts to recover your deleted files. This may take a while!

12) Surveying the Deleted Files

Recovered deleted files folder contents

12-1) Once the recovery process is complete go back into the Windows environment and open up the folder named Recovered Deleted Files Folder which should be located on your desktop.

12-2) Search for your deleted files. If file names have been preserved (recovered file names correspond with their original file names) then simply look for accidentally deleted files by name. If, on the other hand, file names have not been preserved then you are going to need to do a bit of digging. There are 2 ways to make your search a little easier:

  • Organize and search through the files by type. For example, if you are looking for a JPEG image then only look at the files labeled JPEG. If you are looking for a Microsoft Word Document then only look at the files labeled DOC/DOCX.
  • Organize and search through the files by date modified. If you know that the file you accidentally deleted was created and modified today, then only look at files where “date modified” has today’s date.

13) Done

If you were able to recover your deleted files then GREAT, you are done!

If you were unable to recover your deleted files then you have several choices:

  • Try to recover your deleted files with a different data recovery program (other than Recuva).
  • Take your computer to a compute repair technician and let them have a look.
  • Take your computer to a data recovery specialist; these individuals have specialized data recovery facilities and can oftentimes recover hard to find deleted files (for a sometimes hefty price).
  • Move on and forget about recovering your deleted files.

 

Summary

By now you have either recovered your deleted files using Recuva or you were unsuccessful doing so.

If Recuva was able to recover your deleted files then you are done. The only thing we can recommend is that, in the future, you always make sure to back up your files whether they are on an SD card, USB key, external hard drive, CD, DVD, or local hard drive. Having files in a number of locations is extremely wise and will prevent the need for worrisome data recovery.

If Recuva was unable to recover your deleted files then you have a number of options which we touched upon above. As a quick refresher, you can either:

  • Attempt to recover your deleted files using a different program: we recommend that you look at MiniTool Power Data Recovery, PhotoRec, and R-Undelete
  • Take your computer to a computer repair technician. Computer repair technicians can sometimes find alternative methods to retrieve your deleted files, although often they will use the types of programs we are talking about here.
  • Take your computer to a data recovery specialist. Data recovery specialists focus on 1 task: data recovery. They generally have advanced recovery facilities and are able to recover files which others, computer users and repair people, can not. The one issues with data recovery specialists is that they can be a tad expensive.
  • Move on and forget about your deleted files. If you are only losing a few hours of work then you should ask yourself: is it really worth all of this time and effort? If, on the other hand, you are losing weeks or months of work then it is likely well worth your time and effort – in such a situation go with one of the alternatives listed above!

Hopefully this comprehensive article, detailing how to recover deleted files using Recuva, has been useful. If you have any questions then feel free to email us – Seymour Computer Repair – or leave a comment. Furthermore, if you need to recover deleted files, we just might be able to help!

 

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