Windows File Recovery – recover deleted data

Microsoft has released the Windows File Recovery application, which runs on the Windows 10 operating system, designed to recover files deleted from a computer. The utility supports working with various types of files.

Many users found themselves in situations where, for various reasons, necessary and important data were deleted from their PC. Often this happens due to the mistake of the user himself or as a result of the operation of the software.

As a result, it will be unpleasant for the user to lose forever photos, documents, audio or video. In some situations, files become corrupted when they were not physically removed from the computer, and it became impossible to use this data.

In such cases, you need to use the help of applications to recover lost files.

Windows File Recovery is a free program developed by Microsoft that will help you recover lost information on your computer. Files can be recovered on a hard drive, an external hard drive, or on external media: a USB flash drive or memory card.

The WINFR utility (winfr.exe) does not have a graphical interface; the application uses the command line mode. For more efficient use, the program should be run as an administrator.

The official Windows File Recovery website redirects users who want to download this tool to their computer to the Microsoft Store. From there, you need to download the app and install it on your Windows 10 PC.

Download Windows File Recovery

Windows File Recovery system requirements

The application can be used on both 64-bit and 32-bit Windows 10 operating systems starting from version 2004 (build 19041.0). The program does not support cloud and network storage.

The Microsoft Windows file Recovery utility has the following system requirements:

  • Windows 10 19041.0 or later;
  • architecture support: x64, x86, ARM64, ARM.

The application works with several file systems, details can be found in the table:

File system Support
FAT and exFAT SD cards, USB flash drives (up to 4GB)
ReFS Windows Server and Windows Pro for Workstations
NTFS Computers (HDD, SSD), external hard drives, USB flash drives (no 4GB limit)

SSDs have limitations due to the use of TRIM.

To find out which file system is used on a particular drive, follow these steps:

  1. You need to open Explorer, then right-click on the disk (hard drive, hard drive partition, external hard drive, flash drive, memory card).
  2. In the context menu, select “Properties”.
  3. In the properties window of the disk, in the “General” tab, the type of file system will be displayed.

Using Windows File Recovery, you can return previously deleted files to your computer: music in MP3, video in MP4 and other video formats, photos in JPEG and PNG, PDF files, Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, ZIP archives.

To increase the chances of recovering lost information, you need to minimize the use of your computer. Due to the fact that the space occupied by a deleted file is marked as free in the Windows file system, other data can be written to this place. Therefore, for the purpose of recovering deleted files, a different disk partition or removable device is used than the one from which the lost data is being recovered. It is recommended to recover lost files as soon as possible to prevent them from being overwritten.

How to use Windows File Recovery

The Windows File Recovery application runs on the command line. The program uses three modes:

  • Default (Default) – the mode is used by default, works with the Master File Table (MFT) database.
  • Segment – The mode applies only to the NTFS file system, using the File Record Segment (FRS).
  • Signature (Signature) – a mode for external devices that uses the search for file signatures.

In the “Default” mode, the application works with the presence of the Master File Table, in turn, the presence of data on file segments in the MFT database increases the chances of a final positive result.

The “Segment” mode does not require the mandatory presence of a Master File Table, it requires file segments from the MFT on disks with the NTFS file system.

The “Signature” mode is used to restore information on external devices, only data on files and file type is required.

If the file was recently deleted, it is better to use the “Default” mode, and if the file was deleted a long time ago or the disk was formatted, use the “Segment” and “Signature” modes.

In general, Windows File Recovery uses a simple syntax to recover data:

winfr source drive: destination folder path: [/options]

This command selects the letter of the drive on which you want to restore data, enters the path to a folder on another drive where you want to restore files, and adds advanced options to narrow down the search for the information you need.

There are five main options available in Windows File Recovery:

  • / r – check file record segments (FRS), “Segment” mode is used.
  • /n – search with filters for a specific file in the “Default” and “Segment” modes.
  • /x – use the “Signature” mode.
  • /y – Scan certain types of files in “Signature” mode.
  • /# – display file extensions in “Signature” mode.

Parameters “/?” And “/!” show a description of the syntax and switches, as well as additional options.

An example of using modes in Windows File Recovery:

File system <Circumstances Recommended Mode
NTFS Deleted recently Default
NTFS Deleted some time ago Segment first, then Signature
NTFS After formatting the disk Segment first, then Signature
NTFS Damaged disk Segment first, then Signature
FAT, exFAT, ReFS Supported file types for recovery Signature

When using the “/y” option, the following extension types and file types are supported (table):

Expansion group File type
ASF WMA, WMV, ASF
JPEG JPG, JPEG, JPEG, JIF, JFIF, JFI
MP3 mp3
MPEG MPEG, MP4, MPG, M4A, M4V, M4B, M4R, MOV, 3GP, QT
PDF PDF
PNG PNG
ZIP zip, docx, xlsx, pptx, odt, ods, odp, odg, odi, odf, odc, odm, ott, otg, otp, ots, otc, oti, otf, oth

Run Windows File Recovery on your computer. The command prompt window will display information about using the application.

In this example, I need to recover text files from the “C:” drive to the “D:” drive. To store the recovered files, a destination folder named “Recovery” was created on the computer.

To start scanning and restoring files, you must enter the following command:

winfr C:D:Recovery n/*.TXT

After entering the command, the tool will prompt you to press one of the keys, select the “y” key.

The process of searching for deleted files will start. Once the scan is complete, the file recovery process will begin. The whole procedure takes a lot of time. It depends on the amount of data placed on the source disk.

During the recovery process, the program may offer to skip or overwrite individual files.

After the process is completed, press the “y” key to view the recovered files in Explorer, or open the folder with the recovered data yourself.

The official Microsoft website has detailed documentation in English on using the Windows File Recovery application: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4538642/windows-10-restore-lost-files .

Examples of some commands in Windows File Recovery (source drive – “C:”, destination drive – “D:”, the letters of these drives can be changed to others):

  • Restoring files in JPEG and PNG formats:
winfr C: D: /x /y:JPEG,PNG
  • Recovery of ZIP archives (files with extensions “.zip”, “.docx”, “ptpx”, etc.):
winfr C: D: /x /y:zip
  • Recovery of PDF and Word documents:
winfr C: D: /r /n *.pdf /n *.docx

If the result of the work does not satisfy you, use other data recovery tools: paid or free specialized programs. Keep in mind that some files cannot be recovered, for example, if other information appeared at their location.

Article Conclusions

The free Windows File Recovery program is designed to recover deleted files from your computer. The application runs on the command line without a graphical interface. The utility recovers lost data of various types of files from the hard drive and from external storage media.

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