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recover deleted filesWe all know the importance of backups. If we’ve it heard once, we’ve heard it a million times. Always have backups, always save after every change, always use Dropbox (or something similar) to save previous versions – and everything will be alright. But accidents happen even to the most safety-conscious people. I, personally, saved things by mistake when I actually didn’t want to save changes. What then? What if you purposefully delete a file permanently only to realize it was actually not the file you meant to delete?

Fear not, Windows 7 has the answer. This guide will show you how to restore previous versions and recover deleted files using the Restore Previous Versions tool.

System Protection & Restore Points

In order for this method to work, you will have to enable System Protection. System Protection creates regular restore points every week, and also before major events such as driver  or program installations. If System Protection is disabled, restore points will not be created.

To check if it’s enabled, click Start, right-click My Computer and choose Properties. On the left side, click on System Protection. From here, you can choose your drive (you’ll have to enable it by drive) and click on Configure.

recover deleted files

Here you can enable System Protection for all system settings and files, only for files and folders, or disable it entirely. You can also set how much disk space will be used to create restore points. The  more space you allocate for this the more restore points you’ll have, but your disk space will be used up, so use it wisely.

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recover my files

As I mentioned earlier, restore points are created automatically, but if you want to create one manually, you can do so at any time. In the System Protection tab, click on “Create”, name your restore point and create it. It might take a few minutes, but actually not as long as you’d expect.

recover my files

Restoring Previous Versions

To restore a previous version of a file, right-click the file in question and go to the Previous Versions tab. Here you should find previous versions of your file. If you don’t see any, there might not have been a restore point since you created it, or your last modification was long ago and the restore point has already been deleted.

restore previous version

Before you restore a previous version, click open to see if this is truly the version you want. You can also copy the file to somewhere on your hard drive just in case. If you choose to restore, this will overwrite your existing version of the file.

restore previous version

If you also use Windows Backup, you will also be able to restore from backup at this point. You will have to have the media you used for backup available for that.

Restore Deleted Files

So this is the reason we all gathered here – let’s restore some deleted files.

To do this, you would have to access the previous versions of the folder in which your deleted file used to be. Go to that folder, right-click it and go to the Previous Versions tab.

restore previous version

From here, you can choose the version of the folder that you want and double click it. This will actually open a previous version of this folder, complete with all the files that were in it at the time.

2011-09-02 11h10_24

From this folder you can simply copy or drag files to wherever you want. Just grab your deleted files and copy them back to where they’re supposed to go, and you’re done!

When I tried to do this, I got this security message:

recover deleted files

But it’s OK, my own files weren’t really harmful and everything worked just fine!

Conclusion

The Windows 7 restore previous versions tool is actually extremely useful. I usually use Dropbox for this, but this is something I can use for every file and folder on my hard drive, and it only takes a few clicks to do so. The only downside is that you can’t really schedule restore points to happen whenever you want, so this is not really a solution that can replace backups. But for your everyday accidental deletion or change, it can be a real life saver.

What do you use to restore older versions and recover deleted files? Share in the comments!  Also don’t forget to read Tina’s Backup & Restore manual!

Image credit: Shutterstock

  1. Akshay
    April 8, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks this article has helped recover my mistake :-P
    Nicely presented !

  2. annalee851014
    November 24, 2015 at 6:27 am

    Hello, Don't worry. You can rely on uFlysoft recovery software (also recover audio and video files); it can help you recover your lost pictures from your Samsung Digital Camera (or SD card)

  3. Shirley Chi
    July 21, 2015 at 3:16 am

    H-Data Recovery Master is the Best data recovery I used for the power to recover photos and videos. One tip is to try a free trial version of it that will scan your device for deleted files and show you exactly what files can be recovered.

  4. Glen Lee
    January 9, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    i didn't backup my laptop...is it still possible to get my data back? URGENT!

  5. Vivektripathi97
    November 25, 2011 at 10:31 am

    i have no backups no previous versions how i get back my deleted files

    • Yaara
      November 26, 2011 at 5:17 pm

      Read my previous comment to Smart. There are some techniques to restore deleted files. Try the eHow link from the comment above or look for an answer on MakeUseOf Answers, I believe it's been asked there before. Good luck!

  6. Smart
    October 23, 2011 at 9:40 am

    I am wondering how to restore previous versions of files and folders when system restore points have been deleted? Please help, is there any program which could be used to restore them? Please send a response to an email address: smart@kbfi.ee Thanks a lot!

    • Yaara
      October 24, 2011 at 8:17 am

      I found this article on eHow, but for a more comprehensive answer, you should ask your question on MakeUseOf Answers. I'm sure you'll get tons of helpful answers.

  7. prett sons
    September 15, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery Software is a paid tool & recovers deleted as well as formatted files from windows system. You can check its demo version which is absolutely free. Demo version shows the preview of recoverable files.

  8. prett sons
    September 15, 2011 at 6:13 am

     You explained a fantastic solution to recover deleted files. You explained it very wisely, after reading this post, novice user can also use this solution. I used Third party data recovery software to recover deleted files called as Stellar Phoenix, it is also an alternative solution to recover deleted files.

    • Yaara
      September 15, 2011 at 7:40 am

      Thanks! I've never heard about this app.

  9. Flladi
    September 14, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Very helpful article Yaara. Thanks a lot!

    • Yaara
      September 15, 2011 at 7:40 am

      Awesome, glad you found it useful!

  10. Ohadts
    September 14, 2011 at 4:34 am

    Nice, Previous Versions is a great feature.
    About the downside mentioned - it's possible to create a vbs file that will create a restore point automatically, and then use "Schedule tasks" from "control panel" to run it whenever you want...

    • Yaara
      September 14, 2011 at 5:53 am

      Thanks for the tip! I was aware of that option when writing the article, but it pretty much warrants its own "how-to" article and therefore I couldn't mention it as a simple solution.

      What would have been nice is a scheduling system right there. Oh well, maybe in Windows 8!

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