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How to recover deleted files

How to recover deleted files

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Chances are you’ve deleted a file you shouldn’t have at some point. Getting it back isn’t always impossible, though, and with some foresight and smart use of software you might be able to recover it. 

Let’s go over the best ways to recover accidentally deleted files, without spending too much time, effort, or money. We’ll also show you an easy way to make sure you never lose a file again by backing up your data securely to the cloud.

Check your recycle bin
Using recovery software
Using cloud storage

Check your recycle bin

The first thing to do when you realize you accidentally deleted a file is to check your recycle bin if you’re using a Windows machine(new window) or your trash folder if you’re on Mac(new window). In most cases, any deleted files end up there. They’ll also stay there, unless you delete them. Recycle bins and trash usually don’t empty themselves, meaning you can recover your files at any time after you realize you did actually need them.

The only exception is when you’re running out of space on your hard drive, when your machine will prompt you to empty your recycle bin or trash. Generally, this is a good time to look through it to make sure everything you trashed is ready to be consigned to the void before cleaning it up and making space for new files and programs.

As for mobile, generally once you’ve deleted a file, it’s gone forever. However, if you have some kind of cloud backup enabled, they may still be recoverable. We will talk more about that later.

Restore files using recovery software

But what do you do when you’ve emptied your recycle bin or trash folder and only afterward realize you destroyed a file you need? In that case, you have one more option, though admittedly it’s more akin to a prayer than an actual strategy: recovery software.

Recovery software are programs that claim to retrieve deleted or destroyed files. However, their track record is spotty at best. Where some will do a fine job one day, the day after they’ll fail to recover anything. The only real indication on whether they’ll do their job is price, with the more expensive options generally being better.

Since this type of software doesn’t come cheap to begin with, with subscriptions starting at $50 per year and going up from there, this means you may end up paying a lot of money without any guarantee of it working.

Using cloud storage to protect and recover files

If you don’t feel like sifting through the trash — even if it is digital — and you don’t want to try your luck with recovery software, there is a third option that beats both easily: cloud storage. 

The idea is simple: you take a folder of important files, documents or photos being a common example, and you sync the folder that they’re in with your cloud storage provider. 

The Proton Drive app(new window) can do this for you with a single click, and it means that every file in that synced folder is now constantly updated in the cloud. If you install the app on another computer, any changes you make to the file on that second device will reflect on the file on the first device, making it a perfect solution if you have multiple computers. If you’re on mobile, you’ll have to move files manually, but it works on the same principle.

Versioning and backup

Cloud storage saves your files from being permanently lost, because if you do accidentally delete a file it still lives on in the cloud and you can easily restore it.

However, there is another benefit, namely something called versioning. Typically when you work on a file and save it, any changes you make erase the version that existed before. Proton Drive, however, will let you restore older versions of a file(new window).

Version history adds a lot of flexibility to your recovery strategy: Not only are you protecting yourself from accidentally deleting files, you’re also making sure you can easily roll back any less drastic changes, too. For example, if you erase a section of a document only to realize later you needed it, or if you edited a picture in a way that didn’t work out, you can just find the earlier version and restore it.

Proton Drive and privacy

Most of these functions can be handled by any decent cloud storage provider. However, Proton Drive has some unique advantages. Besides the user-friendly app and advanced versioning capabilities which we’ve mentioned, it also has a very different approach to privacy. 

While many other cloud storage providers — Google Drive being the worst example — can access your data and make money from renting your private information(new window) to advertisers, Proton was founded with people’s privacy in mind first and foremost. 

When you sign on to a free Proton Drive account, you’re entering an ecosystem of interconnected apps (storage, email, VPN, and a password manager) that exist to make your navigation of the web as secure and private as it can be.

If keeping your files safe from deletion while also protecting your data sounds interesting to you, create a free Proton Drive account today and join us as we create a better and more private internet.

Keep your files private, share them securely
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Fergus O'Sullivan(new window)

Fergus has been a writer, journalist, and privacy advocate for close to a decade. In that time he has run investigations of the privacy industry, written on policy, and reviewed more programs and apps than you can shake a stick at. Before starting work at Proton, he worked for publications such as How-to Geek and Cloudwards, as well as helping host events at conferences like RightsCon.

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