Recuva Tutorial 2016: Step by Step Guide to Recover Deleted Files for Free

Last update: August 2, 2016 -- revised outdated content about Recuva and added a few new resources.

Everything seems fine when you are working on a computer dealing with business papers or organizing precious photos like I usually do. All of a sudden, you trashed a few files by accident. Later you need those files deadly.

Thanks to Recuva – a completely freeware capable of recovering those deleted files. You don't have to panic any more (hopefully). The program is totally free and very powerful and easy-to-use.

Recuva is free Windows file recovery tool designed by Piriform (the developer of another awesome app called CCleaner) to recover files deleted from storage devices (PC, digital cameras, memory cards, external hard drive, USB flash drive etc.), no matter your files are removed or lost due to human error or technical issues such as virus attack, drive crash or corruption. 

Note: the utility works under Windows operating system only, hence there is no Recuva for Mac. However, you can see this post for a list of completely free Mac recovery tools. Also, if Recuva fails to help, you can also try other freeware such as Pandora Recovery, PhotoRec, or these free data recovery software.

Recuva and CCleaner have been part of my desktop icons ever since I had my PC. To be honest, I love the apps, although I met several issues while using them. They are really amazing.

Okay, now time to show you the tutorial.

First things always first – in order to maximize the chances of data recovery, better put the storage device in safe place and NEVER attempt to put more files into it. This is to make sure your files are not overwritten or destroyed by physical damage.

STEP 1  Install the program on your computer (download from Piriform). Make sure the storage device where your deleted files located can be detected by your PC. If your deleted files are stored on an external device, connect it to your PC via USB cable or card reader first. Open the software. Select the file types (Pictures, Music, Video, Compressed, Emails) or "Other" to show all files.

STEP 2  Select file location. There are four situations available for your choice. Or you can directly go to the destination by browsing from "In a specific location".

Click "Next" and you should see the following scene. Here you have two options: Enable Deep Scan or not. My suggestion is DO NOT enable it right now as Deep Scan is quite time-intensive. Only when your deleted files are not found after quick scan, then go to this mode.

STEP 3  Scanning Process. Once you click "start" button. The scanning process will start. Don't worry if you didn’t select Deep Scan, the scanning will be quite fast (within few minutes).

After the scanning is over, take a breathe! You'll see lots of files found and most cases not all are what you want. Follow the instruction "Switch to advanced mode".

Then you see more options to filter the found files. It will be much easier to get what you want (if you are lucky :).

STEP 4  Save the Recovered Files. Once you find your deleted files, highlight them and click "Recover". Your selected files will be exported. Done!

After testing Recuva for several times. There are some setbacks that may not be ignored (see my detailed review here). Firstly, too many junk files (even system cache or temporary files) are found, if you scan the whole disk. It makes us hard to find the real ones we want. Secondly, the application doesn't support preview of certain file types such as documents, videos and several photo formats. Also, per readers' questions, Recuva can't retrieve data from iPhones. You can visit MyiOSData to find iOS recovery tools.

However, the advantages far surpass its setbacks. In general, it is an awesome file recovery utility. Plus, it's free. What do you think? Have you ever tried this program? Let me know!


  1. I deleted a folder (full of files) and very wired the folder didn't go to Recycle Bin. How can I find those files back? Will Recuva help? Thanks - Alice

  2. Maybe your files are too sizable to go to the Recycle Bin. It's just like you have cleaned them from the Recycle Bin. And definitely you can try Recuva to recover if possible. Do it ASAP.

  3. Recuva is good to recover deleted files. It also gives a context menu option as well which is very comfirtable.

    1. Yes, comfortable and easy to understand. However real results are DISAPPOINTING.

      I deleted everything of my SD while it was in my computer. I immediately looked for a recovery program, and this was recommended.

      It 'found' and 'restored' 1075 files. Of those, ONLY 15 were viewable. Of those, ONLY 10 were 'whole.' The rest had gray blocks, even though it said there was nothing wrong with the file.

      I'm scanning with Stellar Phoenix now, and it is thorough. I already see 40 photos it can recover fully. That's worth the $40.

  4. i deleted sum graphic files from my phones's phone memory , now I try to get back them using this program...I select " in a specific location" but cant select my phone's memory..cuz "ok" button becomes hide.....I connect my nokia to PC using Nokia pc what can I do now? pls help..there r very important files for me ....thanx for help in-advance

  5. Sorry, if the files you deleted were stored on the phone memory, then it is almost impossible to recover. Data recovery software can only handle those lost data which are stored on external memory (such as memory card, stick etc) of your phone.

  6. What do I do if I can't even select the drive?
    It showed the message "the drive has not been formatted would you like to reformat it now?"

    Please help!!

  7. Hi John just wanted to see if Recuva could help me get pics/vids from the sd card from my cell phone or is it just for pcs/cameras?

  8. It also gives a context menu option as well which is very comfortable. Data recovery software can only handle those lost data which are stored on external memory (such as memory card, stick etc) of your phone.

  9. In my case, I tried to delete unwanted photos from my phone. So I selected the photos and then clicked 'delete'. Unfortunately, it deleted ALL of my photos/videos from my SD card. I tried a software called 'CardRecovery' and it found my lost files but it asked me to buy it before it would allow me to save the files (even I downloaded a free trial). Then I found Recuva, and it's easy to use, but it only found the selected photos that I wanted to delete in the first place. I even did a deep scan but had no luck. I know the files are lost in SD card, but they aren't showing up on Recuva. Please help!

  10. D.Sol

    Don't give up, there are some more good free photo recovery software from this post written in CR's Blog. Regards.

  11. Recuva was very helpful. I could recover the files from my hard drive having the error "drive is not formatted".

  12. I'm having a real problem. I have a geneaology program that I've been using on my computers for years. I started having (Vista) windows problems...mostly start errors, and lock ups. I had a tech at Staples fix it, but in the meanwhile he deleted my 50,000 name database. I took it back and asked if he could recover them and he tried but was unsuccessful in doing so. My question is...this geneaology program is running on my computer - it's not on another drive, is it possible this program could help me undelete them? This database has years and years of input, I'm at a great loss. Or any suggestions on what might work? Thanks for the help!

  13. To my blog reader who left this message on Dec 13th, Sorry to this bit late reply. I read your case. You might need some database data recovery software to help. It's a pity that Recuva is unable to help undelete database files. BTW, what kind of database are you using, SQLServer, Access?

  14. I have a question, I can't view any of my photos on my PNY sd card because its saying to Format it. Will I loose all my pics if I do that? and will Recuva get them back for me?

  15. I have a bunch of karaoke files on a 1TB western digital external, I never deleted the files but they aren't there. Do you believe that recurva can find them and do I need to search zipped files, for music files or for the format cdg?????

  16. Real quick I have ran recuvue several times and find alot of old pictures that was thought to be lost but there alot of pictures that are still not able to see i did the deep scan and alot came back but say it cant be previewed or even recovered how do i go about opening all the pictures found or is it possible .i put a sd card in and it said it found 16 pictures but only 5 icon pulled up what about the other 11 how do i look at those?

  17. hi...
    i can view the pics on my camera but when i connect my camera to my pc i could not access them...?can recuva help me???

  18. Can it retrieve video files as well?
    Moreover, if I still took photos after deletion, will it possible to retrieve those deleted previously?! :( Urgent!

  19. Borre todas las fotos de mi blackberry sin querer y ahora como las puedo recuperar?? Se puede utilizar este programa?

    I deleted My photos of my blackberry... I can use this program too for my cell phone?

  20. Great software! It's as easy as described above. I was able to recover my family's pictures of the holidays in NY
    Thanks from a very satisfied user in El Paso, TX

  21. Hi Everyone,

    Please help me out. I tried downloading recuva but it was not successful. The seem to be corrupted SD card was on but upon scanning, recuva could not scan the SD from the card reader. I thought my card reader is the one malfunctioning giving me this headache but it actually worked on our SD and memory cards. The pictures and videos are very precious to me so please advice me on what to do. I appreciate it.

  22. I have got c partition corrupted and found unreadable through available bootCD. Will this software recover my outlook pst file in addition to other words/excel documents?

  23. Hello,
    I used the program for the first time and am pleased zeeing lots of files that i was affraid to be lost.
    But, i would like to do a search more specified for files.
    Only looking eg for video is taking to long, i would like to see the option where to select mpeg when i only want to find mpeg files.
    Now, i want to find back mpeg, but have to make the sellection looking for "video" files.
    And this gives me a long time to wait because the program is looking for all video files on the harddisk i sellected to be checed.

    Somebody who gives me the ultimat tip?



  24. Hi,
    GREAT software... I mean not every picture could be recovered but over 800 were and it's free, can't get any better than that! I recommend this to anyone looking to recover some pictures!

  25. 100% recommend this to anyone! Absolutly brilliant, i have just recovered all of my photos from my prom that i thought i had lost! Could not have asked for a better result! Thankyou so so much!

  26. Can anyone help me I need a free program, to retrive them. I dnt know how all my pictures deleted bt I really want them back :(

  27. It also gives a context menu option as well which is very comfortable. Data recovery software can only handle those lost data which are stored on external memory (such as memory card, stick etc) of your phone.