Recover deleted files in Windows with an easy free utility

If you have lost files on a Windows PC, there are many tools that can find and recover them, but none are cheaper or easier than WinfrGUI. It’s free and anyone can recover lost files.

Microsoft provides a free utility that can find and recover deleted files or lost files due to accidental deleted or a disk or software glitch that erases them. If you cannot find a file on the disk and somehow it has gone, use a file recovery utility.

Windows File Recovery is a free app in the Microsoft Store that can do the job and it can recover deleted files for you. However, before you head to the store and install the app on your PC, you should know that it is a command line utility. To use Microsoft’s Windows file Recovery utility, you must open a command prompt with administrator rights and then enter a complex command that is not obvious.

Using Windows File Recovery utility in a command prompt window
Microsoft Windows File Recovery help information

Basically, you enter:

winfr source-drive: destination-folder [/mode] [/switches]

Replace the place-holder text with the drive and destination, and add the selected mode and modifier switches. You have to know what modes and switches are available and then correctly enter them in the command without making any typing or syntax slips.

It is possible, and some people are quite familiar with command line tools and even like them, but most people should avoid using the command prompt. It is hard to use the tools and it is easy to make mistakes.

WinfrGUI simple and free file recovery

There is an alternative way to use Windows File Recovery, and that is with WinfrGUI. It turns the command line tool into a regular Windows program. There are clues to WinfrGUI in the name – a graphical user interface (GUI) to Windows File Recovery (Winfr).

Download WinfrGUI and install it, it is completely free. The website and app say little about the developer, but it seems that it is AOMEI, which is well known for its Backupper backup software. Run it and it displays the drives and partitions available.

WinfrGUI file recovery utility for Windows PC
WinfrGUI home screen

You can see the boot disk, which has a Windows logo on it, the other drives and partitions, and the free and used space on them.

It is tempting to click a drive and immediately click Start Recovery, but before that, click the folder icon under Saved path. Files that are recovered are saved to the drive and folder selected here. The drive should be a different one to the drive from which files are being recovered.

You cannot recover deleted files from C: and save the results back to C: for example. This is standard practice for file recovery tools, and you must always save files elsewhere.

File recovery options

Click the Advanced Settings button and there are some extra options available to you.

WinfrGUI deleted file recovery options
Choose the type of files to recover

For some reason, these options appeared when D:, a hard disk partition was selected, but not E:, a USB flash drive plugged into the PC. The options, when available, can reduce the files found to only the type you are interested in, like photos for example. You can also limit the scan to certain folders, which may speed up the recovery process.

There are two scanning modes, Quick Scan and Deep Scan. No file recovery tools are quick! The first is faster, but the second finds more files by being more thorough in the scanning process. I was offered only Deep Scan for the USB thumb drive, but Quick and Deep for the hard drive.

Maybe it’s the type of drive and only deep scans for everything is available on solid state drives. It seemed a bit odd but it wasn’t a problem.

Browse the recovered files

It is common for file recovery utilities to recover deleted files that range from completely corrupted and utterly useless, to absolutely perfect. WinfrGUI is no exception. You really don’t know what you are going to get. All you can do if you have lost files is to cross your fingers, run a utility like this, and see what it finds.

Deleted files recovered with WinfrGUI utility for Windows PC
Browse the files recovered by WinfrGUI

After scanning the drive for deleted files, anything that looks like a file is saved to the destination folder. It is organized by file type, and you just open the folders and see what is there. A good way to tell whether a file is OK is to look for those with icon previews, like these:

Files recovered by WinfrGUI utility for Windows

Switch to large icons view in Explorer and garbled no-hope recovered files don’t show previews of media files, but good files show previews. Here are a couple of good examples of deleted media files that were perfectly recovered.

Summing up

If you want to recover deleted files, WinfrGUI is a good utility that is free and works well. It is basically just an easy point and click front end to Microsoft’s Windows File Recovery tool. If you were put off by the complexity of Microsoft’s tool, this is straightforward to use.

Bear in mind that sometimes no recovery tool can recover a lost file. WinfrGUI worked as well as other free file recovery tools I have used.

There are many alternatives to WinfrGUI and Recuva is a well-known tool that enables you to recover deleted files. It is by Piraform, the developer of Ccleaner. There is a free version and it has a good range of features.

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