How to recover permanently deleted files

We've all accidentally deleted files but doing so doesn’t mean they’re lost forever. There’ll be no means of accessing the data, but it will still exist until it’s been overwritten. Here’s why:

Why permanently deleted data isn’t permanently deleted

When files are removed from a Recycle Bin or similar facility, the space within which it is stored is simply marked as available. As a result, the data remains present within the media until it is written over by new data.

Think of your storage media as a library. There’s only so much space and only so many books can be stored there as a result. Imagine if library policy dictated that unpopular books are to be replaced by alternative texts but, rather than remove the books from their inventory and their shelves, they immediately removed any reference to the relevant book from their inventory but kept it on the shelf until its replacement was available. The book would still exist, but any reference to its existence and location would no longer be available. This is not dissimilar to what happens when a file is deleted – the data still exists but the media’s controller removes any reference to the file’s location thereby earmarking the space where it is located as free and available for new data. The file therefore remains stored on the drive until it’s been replaced.

How to recover permanently deleted files

The first and most important thing that you should do after accidentally deleting a file you wanted to keep is prioritise the task of getting it back. As storing new data to a device risks overwriting the data and making it unrecoverable, it is vital that any activity that may result in you needing to store data ceases until the file has been recovered.

Following this, there are a few things you can try to recover your file, specifically:

A system restore

Restoring your system to a previous point in time could provide a solution to your problem.

Whilst this is only a feasible option on a PC or Mac, using System Restore in order to return your device to a point in time where the data you’ve accidentally deleted still exists is entirely possible. You can do this by using Window’s System Restore tool or, if you’re using a Mac, the Recovery Tool programme.

Recovery software

Whilst data recovery software could be used to restore your data there are two things we think everyone needs to know before trying it: recovery software can be difficult to use and, more importantly, installing it could result in your deleted data being lost forever.

Remember, deleted data is only present until it’s overwritten with new data. By installing data recovery software, you’re running the risk of writing over the data you actually want to recover. The fuller your storage media is, the more likely it is that this will happen.

A data recovery company

Whilst more expensive than the options above, a data recovery company is undeniably your best bet for, well… recovering your data!

You can even find out exactly how much it’ll cost to have your data recovered without spending a penny – all thanks to Fields Data Recovery’s free diagnostic.


If you’ve accidentally deleted an important file, it’s still going to be present in your storage media until it’s replaced by new data. As a result, you may be able to recover it by restoring your device to a previous point in time, with data recovery software or by enlisting the services of a data recovery provider. Just be sure to avoid saving new data to your storage media wherever possible until it’s been recovered.