How to Recover Deleted Files without Programs

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Determined to put some order on your trusty computer, you deleted a bunch of files the other day that you thought you didn't need anymore. Shortly afterwards, however, you realized you had made a mistake and actually deleted some documents you needed. Desperate, you rushed online in search of some kind of system to deal with it. You've become aware of the existence of special file recovery software, but before you download and install it, you'd like to find out if there's a way to do it all by hand.

I beg your pardon? This is precisely the situation and would you like to know if I can help you or not by explaining how to recover deleted files from the recycle bin without programs? Of course you can. That's exactly why I'm here. Give me a few minutes of your precious free time and I will show you how to do it.

I anticipate immediately that, contrary to appearances and beyond what you might think, you won't have to do anything particularly complicated or out of the reach of the less "geeky". Are you ready? Are you ready? Great. Let's cut the small talk and get on with it. Have a good "job"!

Preliminary information

Let's start from a basic assumption: all the files that are moved to your computer's recycle bin are not deleted from your hard drive until it is emptied. That said, if you have simply deleted your files without deleting the contents of the recycle bin, they are still present on your HD and can be restored at any time, quickly and without complications.

If, on the other hand, you have emptied the bin, the situation becomes a little more complex but is not irremediable. In this case, in fact, you can recover the deleted items using the backup copies of the same that both Windows and MacOS are able to create automatically when the appropriate function is enabled.

Recover deleted files from recycle bin without programs on Windows

Are you using a Windows PC and would you like to know how to recover deleted files from the trash without programs? Then follow the instructions below.

Recovering from Recycle Bin

If you haven't emptied the Windows recycle bin yet you can, as I told you in the step at the beginning of the article, recover it in an extremely practical and immediate way as the items of your interest are still actually present on your computer.

To do this, double click on the recycle bin icon on your desktop and select, in the window that opens, the items you want to restore. If you don't know how to select multiple files at the same time, you can read my guide on how to select multiple files to find out how to proceed.

If, at first glance, you can't find the files you married into the recycle bin and want to restore, use the search field at the top right of the window to search for them by title or extension.

Next, click the Restore selected items button on the toolbar. You will find the restored files in their original location. Alternatively, drag the files of interest directly out of the window. If you then want to restore the entire contents of the recycle bin, click on the Restore All Items button at the top of the recycle bin window.

Shadow Copies

On Windows operating systems, you can recover files that have been deleted from the system (or different copies of them) using the feature called Shadow copies, which allows you to manually or automatically create backup copies of files, folders and volumes at a given time.

In order to use this feature, it is of course essential that it is enabled. To be sure, click on the Start button (the one with the Windows flag at the bottom left of the taskbar), type in file history in the search field, select the result Restore files with file history and check the settings through the window that appears on the screen.

Once you've made sure that the feature in this step is active on your computer, to use it, simply open the File Explorer (by clicking the yellow folder icon on the taskbar), go to the folder where the file you were interested in before you deleted it, right-click on it and select Properties from the context menu that opens.

In the window that now appears on the desktop, select the previous versions tab, locate the version of the file you want to restore, select it, click on the Restore button at the bottom then on the OK button to confirm the execution of the operation.

If you need to preview a specific version of a file before restoring it, click on the Open/Preview button at the bottom of the open desktop window.

If you can't find the files you wanted to recover in this way, you can try to take advantage of the restore points, but they will bring the entire system back to an earlier date, so not only the individual files of your interest that you deleted by mistake but also the programs, PC settings, etc. will be restored. For more information about this and to find out how to take advantage of this feature, you can refer to my tutorial on how to restore the PC to the day before through which I talked to you about this issue in detail.

Recover deleted files from Trash Bin without programs on macOS

What about macOS? How do I recover deleted files from the recycle bin without using programs? To find out, go on reading, you'll find everything explained in detail in the following lines.

Restore from Recycle Bin

In a similar way to Windows, files that are moved to the recycle bin on macOS can be recovered quickly and easily, as long as the recycle bin hasn't been emptied yet.

So to do this, first click on the recycle bin icon at the bottom right of the Dock bar. In the window that now appears on your desktop, search for the files you want to restore (you can also help yourself with the search bar at the top right by typing in their name or extension) and select them. If you don't know how to select multiple items at once, read my guide on how to select multiple Mac items to clear your head.

At this point, click on the File item on the menu bar (at the top left of the desktop) and select the Restore option. The files will then be restored to their original location. Alternatively, you can also drag and drop the items you want to recover directly out of the recycle bin.

Time Machine

If you have emptied the recycle bin and, therefore, the files you chose to delete are no longer present on your Mac, you can always recover them using Time Machine, a utility already installed on all Apple-branded computers that allows you to back up the entire contents of your computer's hard drive but also, as the name suggests, to view and, if necessary, restore old versions of files.

To use it, it is first necessary that the utility is configured on your Mac. To find out if this is the case, simply click on the Time Machine icon (the clock with the arrow) at the top right of the system bar and select Open Time Machine preferences from the menu that appears. In the window that opens, check that there is a check mark next to the Auto Backup item. For more details, I suggest you read my tutorial on how Time Machine works.

Once you've made sure that Time Machine is running, click the Finder icon (the one with the smiley face) on the bottom left of the Dock Bar and go through the window that opens to the location where your files were before you deleted them.

At this point, click on the Time Machine icon at the top right of the macOS system tray and select Enter Time Machine from the menu that opens.

On the screen you will see, choose the version of the file you want to restore using the time bar on the right side of the screen or the directional arrows (always located on the right), then right-click on it and select the Restore [name] item from the context menu that is shown, taking care to indicate the folder where you want to save it.

After completing the recovery process, you can exit Time Machine by clicking the Cancel button located under the Finder window in the middle of the screen.

Deleted files recovery software

I know, using programs to recover files was not your intention but, for the sake of completeness of information or in any case if using the systems indicated in the previous lines had not yet succeeded in your intent, it seems to me to have to report those that in my opinion represent some of the best solutions belonging to the category available on the market. Here they are.

  • Disk Drill (Windows/macOS) - this is without a doubt one of the best data recovery solutions available for macOS and Windows. It costs $89, but you can download the free trial version with which you can view the files you can recover.
  • MiniTool Power Data Recovery (Windows/macOS) - program usable on both PC and Mac that allows you to recover up to 1GB of data (any file type is supported) at no cost. To get around this limitation you need to upgrade to the paid version (the cost of the basic version is $69, for personal use only).
  • Recover (Windows) - is one of the most used deleted file recovery software on Windows operating systems. It is totally free and is available in two variants: a portable and a standard installation procedure. It supports all devices: mechanical hard drives, SSD, microSD, smartphones, tablets, MP3 players, USB sticks and so on and all file systems.

Note that in this specific case, however, the recovery is done in a different way than seen together in the previous lines. It is not based on backup copies but on hard drive analysis and extrapolation from the hard drive of the files of interest that are detectable and recoverable only if the areas of the hard drive where the files you forgot to copy were saved have not been overwritten by other data.

For further details about the above mentioned software and to know new ones, I invite you to consult my review specifically dedicated to the programs to recover deleted files.

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