How To Recover Lost Files In Dropbox

Tina Sieber 26-05-2011

recover lost filesDropbox is an online file storing, sync, and backup solution with features that make its competition look pale in comparison. The most ingenious thing about Dropbox is that you don’t have to remember to sync your files or make a backup. As long as you ‘drop’ your files into the Dropbox folder, they are automatically synced and hence backed up to the Dropbox server, provided you have an active Internet connection.


But what happens if you accidentally delete a file? Will it be gone forever once the changes are synced to Dropbox? Yes, the file will disappear from your Dropbox folder. However, it won’t be entirely gone just yet. So is there a way to recover lost files from Dropbox after it was deleted? This being the super smart Dropbox, there certainly is!

What Dropbox does behind the scenes is to keep a record of every saved change in your Dropbox folder for 30 days. This means that not only can you restore files that were removed from your Dropbox folder during the past 30 days, you can also go back to previous versions of documents. This recover and restore feature makes Dropbox a life saver and in this article I will show you how to use it.

Recovering Files Online

The way it works is straightforward. When you are logged into Dropbox online, you will notice a ‘Show deleted files‘ button in every folder.

recover lost files

Clicking this button will reveal all files that were deleted during the past 30 days. When you hover over a file with the mouse cursor, you will see a little arrow in the far right. By clicking the arrow of a deleted file, you can choose to undelete, permanently delete, or view previous versions of the file.


dropbox recover deleted files

When you hover over any other file and click the arrow, you can also access a list of previous versions, through which you can preview and restore any of the backed up versions.

dropbox recover deleted files

Recovering Files From Dropbox Installation On Windows

Likewise, you can open the above list of previous file versions via the Dropbox folder on your computer. The respective application is available for Windows, Linux, Mac, and Mobile.


dropbox recover deleted files

Generally, the restore feature only works if the files you’re working on were uploaded to the Dropbox server. For example if you move a file to your Dropbox folder and work on it while you’re offline, you will neither be able to restore the file if you delete it, nor will you be able to go back to a previous version. The reason is that the original file and/or its intermediate versions were never uploaded to the Dropbox server. Once a file hits the server however, a second copy of this file version will be available for 30 days after the initial file was first changed.

This said, there is another way to restore files from your computer in case the above method fails. Dropbox also keeps a hidden cache of files in a backup storage within the Dropbox settings. In Windows Vista and Windows 7 open a new Windows Explorer window or folder. Copy and paste the following line to the location bar at the top of the folder and press Enter:



recover lost files

This will open your Dropbox cache within the Application Data folder. To restore a file, drag it out of this cache folder into another folder or onto your desktop.

If you think 30 days are not enough, you should consider upgrading to Dropbox Pro and get the Pack-Rat add-on, which will save a history of your files forever.

Dropbox is an insanely useful tool just the way it is. But it gets even better when applying some tricks. Did you become interested in learning more about Dropbox? Check out the following MakeUseOf articles:


The above is only a small selection. Click here to view a chronological list of all our articles on Dropbox.

How do you make sure you never lose a file? Did you know about the Dropbox restore feature?

Related topics: Cloud Storage, Data Recovery, Dropbox.

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  1. Anonymous
    November 9, 2015 at 4:38 am

    There is one way to retrieve documents/folders/photos which you have recently shifted into dropbox but which you accidentally deleted before dropbox uploaded them. To retrieve these items, go to the start menu of your computer and, in the search box, type: 'Recent places'. This will bring up any folders which you have used in the last 3-4 days. In this list, you will find the documents you accidentally deleted from dropbox before dropbox had the chance to upload them.

  2. Luke Matthews
    May 27, 2011 at 12:56 am

    Couldn't you just have their support do it for you? They can get access to your decrypted files anyways. lol