How to Recover Deleted Folders on Windows 10

Updated on 10 min read


Reading Time: 10 minutesOrganizing files into folders is an essential part of using a Windows PC, as it allows you to manage your data more efficiently and adds a welcome layer of customizability to your experience.

The problem is, whether on purpose or by accident, once you delete a folder, you’ll also erase all the files within it.

Before you start panicking, there are actually a few things you can try in order to remedy such a situation. This guide will discuss the best methods for effectively recovering deleted folders on Windows 10.

Where Do Deleted Folders Go in Windows 10

One of two scenarios will occur if you delete a folder in Windows 10. The first scenario is that the folder ends up in the Recycle Bin tool, which is usually the case if you erase the folder by right-clicking it and selecting the “Delete” option or if you use the “Delete” key on your keyboard.

The other scenario occurs when you get rid of the folder by using the “Shift + Delete” command. This renders the folder inaccessible on Windows, giving the impression that it was totally wiped from your hard drive.

On the plus side, the folder hasn’t been completely erased just yet. In these cases, the folder data remains on the storage device until new data overwrites it.

That being said, no matter which method you use to delete a folder in Windows, there’s still a good chance for you to successfully get it and its contents back.

4 Methods to Recover Deleted Folders

There are several ways you can go about potentially retrieving deleted files or folders, but for the purposes of this guide, we’ve listed four of the most tried and tested methods to give you the best chance at recovery.

Most of them attempt to leverage features or tools that are built into Windows to get your data back, but we’ve also included a third-party solution in case those don’t pan out.

Method #1: Restore a Previous Version of the Folder

The CTRL+Z command is so popular while editing on Microsoft Office. You can seamlessly undo mistakes and correct them.

However, it isn’t the same when it comes to folder recovery. This is where restoration to previous folder versions can do wonders. This technique works if Windows has conducted a recent backup on your system. Also, you must know the location of the folder before it got deleted.
Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Search for “This PC” on the search bar and open it up.
  2. Navigate to the folder that had the now-deleted folder. For the sake of simplicity, let’s refer to this folder as the root folder.
  3. Right-click on this folder and click on “Restore Previous Versions.”
  4. Double-click on one of the previous versions of the root folder containing the deleted folder. (For instance, if the folder got deleted today, choose a folder version from yesterday)
  5. Now, drag the folder to another location like another folder or your desktop.option of restore previous versions in file explorer

The “Restore previous versions” option on Windows relies on the following two factors:

  • You’ve enabled the “File History” feature on your OS, and the file/folder you’re trying to recover is included in it.
  • You’ve created a recent restore point that encompasses the data that you’re trying to retrieve.

If neither situation applies to you, then the “Restore previous versions” window will be empty.

Method #2: Backup and Restore

The ol’ Backup and Restore is a classical approach to retrieving deleted folders and even individual files. Here’s how you can get started:

Backup and Restore isn’t a maintained feature anymore – on Windows 10. However, the feature is still available for use. Moreover, Microsoft may decide to scrape on this tool in future releases.

  1. Search for “Backup and Restore” in the Control Panel.control panel home screen
  2. Click on Restore my files, and follow the subsequent steps.
    backup and restore screen
  3. Click on the “Browse for Files” button.
    browse for files button in the restore my files screen
  4. Now, select the files that you would like to restore.
    selecting files for backup
  5. Click on the “Add Files” option.
  6. Click the “Browse for folders” option.
  7. Now, select the folders that you would like to restore.
    selecting folders for recovery
  8. Click on the “next” button.
    restore files folders
  9. Check the “in the following location” option (highly recommended).
  10. Now, select the browse button and choose a destination for saving the restored files and folders.
    choosing the destination for saving the recovered files
  11. Keep progressing through the wizard by pressing on the OK << Restore << Finish buttons.

There you go! Now you’ll be able to access those deleted files and folders.
If you haven’t set up a Windows Backup routine, the Backup & Restore technique is futile. Read further to learn how you can set up an automatic Backup instance in a matter of minutes.
Here’s how you can configure automatic backups on your Windows 10 PC:

  1. Head over to Settings <<  Update & Security << Backup
  2. As marked in the screenshot, click on the “Go to Backup and Restore” option.
    backup and restore option in settings
  3. Now, click on the “Set up Backup” option.
    backup and restore screen in control panel
  4. Select the destination for storing the automatic backups. In this case, we have selected the F: drive. Then, click on the Next button.
    selecting destination drive for saving the recovered items
  5. Now, select the “Let me choose” option.setup backup option screen

    Our Recommendation: You can go ahead with the “Let Windows choose” option as well. However, if you want to ensure that all your target files and folders do get backed up, the “Let me Choose” is the ideal choice.

  6. Check the items you would like Windows to Backup. Also, check the “Include a system of drives: System Reserved, (C:)” option. Now, click on Next.
    selecting the backup items
  7. Click on the “Change Schedule” option.
    change schedule option in set up backup screen
  8. Select the “Run backup on a schedule” option: Determine the date, frequency, and time when you would Windows 10 to backup your PC.
    setting the backup schedule

Now, an initial backup of your PC gets created, following which incremental backups get generated based on the specified schedule.

Method #3: Recycle Bin

Microsoft introduced the Recycle Bin feature way back in 1995, and it has been a staple part of every Windows iteration since. It functions by reserving a specific portion of storage drive space, which it then dedicates to housing deleted files and folders. These files and folders can then be restored or purged permanently at the user’s leisure.

It’s worth noting, however, that data that is deleted using the “Shift + Delete” command bypasses the Recycle Bin entirely. The same applies to files and folders that exceed the allotted storage capacity of your Recycle Bin.

Here’s how you can recover deleted folders from the renowned Recycle Bin:

  1. Click on Start (the Windows logo in the bottom left corner) and search for “Recycle Bin.”
    clicking on recycle bin from the start menu
  2. Open the Recycle Bin.
  3. Select the folders you would like to restore. You can multi-select items almost anywhere on Windows by control-clicking the items. Hold the Ctrl key pressed while clicking on random files.
  4. Click on the “Restore the Selected Items” button.
    scrolling through recycle binThe restoration function of Recycle Bin undeletes a folder in Windows to the same location where you deleted them.

Method #4: Data Recovery Software

In case none of the Windows-related solutions apply to your situation, you can always rely on a capable third-party data recovery program to get the job done.

Disk Drill is a particularly effective option that boasts extraordinary recovery rates, quick scans, and an inviting interface that’s geared toward both tech newbies and veterans alike.

It supports pretty much all file types and is compatible with the majority of storage devices and file systems, making it an excellent choice for retrieving deleted folders that house various kinds of data. Another cool thing is that you can try out all of Disk Drill’s features for free through its trial version, which allows you to rescue up to 500 MB of data.

Here’s a quick and easy guide on how you can use Disk Drill to recover deleted folders:

  1. Download the latest version of Disk Drill and install it on your Windows PC.
  2. Launch Disk Drill and select the storage device on which your deleted folder was last located. After that, click the “Search for lost data” button to proceed.
    select storage
  3. Next, Disk Drill will start scanning the selected storage device for any recoverable files and folders. This might take a while, depending on the size of your drive. To proceed to the results screen, click the “Review found items” button situated near the top-right corner.
    scanning drive
  4. Once you get to the results section, you should be able to locate your deleted folder under the “Deleted or Lost” category. Alternatively, you can search for individual files using the categories on the left and the search bar on the top right. Either way, select the file or folder you want to retrieve by ticking the checkbox right next to it. From there, click the “Recover” button at the bottom-right corner of the window.
    select files
  5. Upon clicking, a small window will pop up where you’ll need to decide on a storage location for your recovered files. This has to be on a different device than the one you’re recovering from. When you’ve decided, click the “Next” button.
    choose recovery location
  6. Finally, Disk Drill will now attempt to recover the deleted folder you selected. When it’s done, you’ll see a completion message and a button that you can click to access your recovered files/folder.
    recovery complete

Well, those are the four methods of restoring deleted folders on your Windows 10 PC. In some cases, users may seek some exclusive techniques for recovering particular folders. We have addressed such recovery scenarios in the following sections.

How to Restore the Downloads and My Documents Folders

Browsers like Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer saved downloaded content by default to your computer’s Downloads folder. In the File Explorer, under “This PC,” there’s a subsection called “Downloads.”

downloads folder in windows explorerThe My Documents folder is the default storage location for all saved documents. Be it Microsoft Powerpoint presentations or PDF files, the My Documents folder is the first suggested save location.

documents folder in windows explorer

Users often complain about the missing “downloads” and “My Documents” folder icons or the folders altogether. Here are a couple of ways on how you can restore the deleted Downloads folder on your PC:

Using Data Recovery Software

  • Use a tool like Disk Drill to restore deleted folders.
  • Use the search feature to manually search for the “Downloads” or “My Documents” folders.
  • Now, follow the usual procedure of restoring a file (as mentioned earlier).

Use the desktop.ini file to restore the default icons

  • Type “downloads” or “documents,” depending on which icon you’re trying to restore, and hit Enter to open the respective folder.
  • Depending on which folder you’re trying to restore the default icons for, replace the “desktop.ini” file in “C:\Users\%USERNAME%\Downloads” or “C:\Users\%USERNAME%\Documents” with your newly extracted file, and then exit the folder.  %USERNAME% is your username on your computer.

This method is applicable for all user folders in the  “C:\Users\%USERNAME%” folder, except for the %USERNAME% folder. As a result, you can restore the My Documents icon as well using the same technique.

  • In the folder options, click on the “view” tab.
  • Under the “Advanced settings” section, check “Show hidden files, folders, or drives” and uncheck “Hide protected operating system files.”
    file explorer options
  • Now, download this file “desktop.zip,” which contains the “desktop.ini” file. A desktop.ini file determines how a folder gets displayed on Windows. While being usually hidden, such files are discoverable in any folder. They contain critical settings and information about that root folder, like the display icon or its localized name.
  • Extract the desktop.zip file to reveal the “desktop.ini” file.
  • Now, right-click on the desktop.ini file and select “Properties.” Under the “General” tab, select the “Unblock” button and click “OK.”
    If there’s no “Unblock” button, skip ahead to the next step.
  • Replace the “desktop.ini” file in “C:\Users\%USERNAME%\Downloads” with your newly extracted file, and then exit the folder. %USERNAME% is your username.
  • Open an elevated CMD window, and key in the following command:
    attrib +r -s -h %USERPROFILE%\Downloads /S /D
  • Close Command Prompt and restart your PC.

Key Takeaways

A deleted folder isn’t the end of the world. Windows offers some nifty native data recovery methods like rolling back to previous versions, restoring a backup point, and the Recycle Bin.

Moreover, several reliable third-party applications can help you recover deleted folders. On the other hand, even specialized folders like Downloads and My Documents are retrievable using data recovery software.