How to recover deleted documents

Whether it’s a critical work file, a cherished personal project, or a tax document you need to file, losing essential documents on your computer can be a major cause for concern. But before you resign yourself to starting from scratch, there are steps you can take to try and recover deleted documents on your Windows or Mac computer.

This guide will walk you through several methods you can try, depending on your operating system and how you deleted the document. The success rate of recovery depends on various factors, but hopefully, these methods will equip you for your data retrieval mission!

Also Read: How to Retrieve Lost Data on Android/iOS

Step 1: Check the Recycle Bin (Windows) or Trash (Mac):

The first and easiest place to look for your deleted documents is the Recycle Bin (Windows) or Trash (Mac). These folders act as a temporary holding area for deleted files before they are permanently erased.


    1. Locate the Recycle Bin icon on your desktop. It might also be found in File Explorer.
    2. Double-click the Recycle Bin icon to open it.
    3. Browse through the contents of the Recycle Bin. Deleted documents will be listed here.
    4. If you find the document you’re looking for, right-click on it and select “Restore.” This will move the document back to its original location.


      1. Locate the Trash icon on your Dock. It typically looks like a small trash can.
      2. Click on the Trash icon to open it.
      3. Browse through the contents of the Trash. Deleted documents will be listed here.
      4. If you find the document you’re looking for, right-click on it and select “Put Back.” This will move the document back to its original location.

Step 2: Utilize File History (Windows) or Time Machine (Mac):

Both Windows and Mac offer built-in backup features that can potentially help you recover deleted documents.


  • File History: This feature allows you to create backups of your files and folders at regular intervals. If you had File History enabled before you deleted the document, you might be able to recover it from a previous backup.
    1. Search for “File History” in the Windows Start menu.
    2. Click on “Restore your files with File History.”
    3. Browse through the available backups and locate the date before you deleted the document.
    4. Find the document you want to recover and click “Restore” to bring it back to its original location.


  • Time Machine: This feature allows you to create automatic backups of your entire Mac system, including documents. If you had Time Machine enabled before you deleted the document, you can potentially recover it from a previous backup.
    1. Connect your Time Machine backup drive to your Mac.
    2. Click on the Apple icon in the top left corner of your screen and select “System Preferences.”
    3. Go to “Time Machine” and click “Enter Time Machine.”
    4. Use the timeline or the on-screen arrows to navigate to a date before you deleted the document.
    5. Find the document you want to recover and click “Restore” to bring it back to its original location.

Step 3: Explore Data Recovery Software (For Advanced Users):

If you haven’t found your document in the Recycle Bin/Trash or haven’t enabled File History/Time Machine, data recovery software might be an option. However, it’s important to consider a few things to recover deleted documents:

  • Success is not guaranteed: Data recovery software isn’t always successful, especially if the document has been overwritten by new data.
  • Technical knowledge might be required: Some data recovery software programs can be complex to use and require some technical knowledge.
  • Beware of unreliable software: There are many data recovery software options available, but some might be unreliable or even contain malware. Make sure you choose a reputable program from a trusted source.

If you decide to try data recovery software, be sure to do your research and choose a reputable program. There are also data recovery services available from professional companies, but these can be expensive.

Step 4: Check Cloud Storage Services:

If you use cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive to store your documents, you might be able to retrieve deleted documents from their version history. These services often keep track of changes made to documents, allowing you to restore a previous version.

  • The specific steps for recovering deleted documents from a cloud storage service will vary depending on the service you use. Consult the service’s help
  • Consult the service’s help documentation for specific instructions on how to access version history and recover deleted files.

Step 5: Contact Document Author/Source (If Applicable):

If the document you deleted was created by someone else or obtained from a specific source, you could try contacting the author or source directly. They might have a copy of the document they can share with you.

Step 6: Prevent Future Data Loss

The best way to deal with data loss is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are some tips:

  • Enable Automatic Backups: As mentioned earlier, having a reliable backup system in place, like File History or Time Machine, is crucial for data recovery.
  • Use Cloud Storage: Consider storing important documents in cloud storage services like Google Drive or Dropbox. This ensures you can access your documents from any device and provides an additional layer of protection in case of data loss on your computer.
  • Enable the “Confirm Delete” Option: Many programs allow you to enable a “confirm delete” option. This will prompt you for confirmation before permanently deleting a file, helping to avoid accidental deletions.
  • Organize Your Files: Having a well-organized file system makes it easier to keep track of your documents and reduces the risk of accidentally deleting something important.
  • Consider Upgrading Storage: If your computer’s storage space is constantly running low, you might be more prone to deleting files to free up space. Upgrading to a computer with more storage capacity can help alleviate this issue.


Losing an important document can be stressful, but hopefully, this guide has equipped you with the knowledge and steps you can take to try and recover deleted documents.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and does not guarantee the recovery of deleted documents. The success rate depends on various factors, and data recovery software results may vary.

How to Retrieve Lost Data on Android/iOS

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