What is Microsoft Windows File Recovery Tool and How to Use It

What is Microsoft Windows File Recovery Tool and How to Use It

When was the last time you accidentally deleted a file and instantly regretted it? It happens with everyone. We lose access to important files and folders for all kinds of reasons, and then we ask ourselves the question with a complex question. How to recover it? Microsoft has released the Windows File Recovery Tool to answer this specific question. Now, you might be asking yourself – What is Windows File Recovery Tool? How it works?

The tool was recently released and can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store. It is a command line tool, which means that you will have to use the command prompt. No graphical interface (GUI) means that there are no menus or buttons to click on. It works on internal and external storage drives, which means that you can also recover deleted files and documents on your flash and external hard drives or SSDs.

We will discuss everything there is to know about Windows File Recovery Tool, including some examples.

Let’s start.


This only works on Windows 10 computers. There is no support for older versions like Windows 8 or 7. Even in Windows 10, your computer must be updated to create version 2004 or higher in order for the tool works.

How do you check your Windows build version?

Press Windows key + R to open the execution prompt and type winner (short for Windows version) before pressing Enter.

Microsoft File Recovery Tool 1

This will open a dialog where you can check your version of Windows.

Microsoft 2 File Recovery Tool

Search settings

Microsoft says the Windows file recovery tool will work on all devices, including external USB flash drives, hard drives, and memory cards.

The development team of the tool has developed to recover files even after erasing data from your drive. It’s great and disturbing at the same time. Although I was happy to be able to recover files and documents now, I had no hope of recovering. I am worried about wiping my hard drive before selling my laptop is not good. Someone can still recover data.

Microsoft 3 file recovery tool

The command line tool will work on NTFS, FAT, exFAT and ReFS file systems. This covers all of the most popular and should be enough for most of us.

In addition, you can also search for files and documents by name, file type, file path, and keywords.

Note: Windows file recovery works on SD cards, Flash or USB drives 4 GB of storage.

How Windows deletes data

Let me explain how data or files are managed quickly in Windows. Any file you delete on your Windows 10 computer is moved to the trash. While they remain there, these files continue to occupy the storage space on your disk.

When you delete a file from the Recycle Bin, it is still not deleted, but Windows marks the space (sectors) as empty and ready to store new data.

Microsoft 4 file recovery tool

When you store or save new data in the same place (sector) as the files are overwritten. This makes it more difficult or almost impossible to recover deleted files as they are no longer available in the sector.

Point: Try to use the hard drive as little as possible and do not store new data before recovering the old one. You do not want to accidentally overwrite the deleted data.

How to use Windows file recovery tool

Download and install it, like any other application. Launch it from the Start menu with administrator rights. You should see the Command Prompt (CMD) open with a black background. You can also use PowerShell if you know how to do it.

There are three ways to recover deleted files:

  1. Default mode which is useful for recently deleted files in the NTFS system.
  2. Segment mode takes longer but can help recover older deleted files, even from a corrupt or formatted drive.
  3. Signature mode works on NTFS, FAT, exFAT, ReFS file systems, allows search by file type and is also useful for external disks.
Microsoft 5 file recovery tool

Not sure which mode to use? Start by default until you find what you are looking for.

Microsoft says their CMD tool works on SSDs, but the effect may be limited due to the way SSDs work. Don’t let your hopes grow. Files are usually deleted immediately on SSDs.

Here is the basic command:

winfr source-drive: destination-drive: /switches

The source drive and the destination drive must be separated as is the case with all file recovery applications. The source is where the file was deleted and the destination is where you want to save it. All recovered files will be saved to a new “recovery_date and time” folder.

Run the command below if you know the location and name of the file. Of course, you will need to replace the username and exact file name for the command below.

winfr C: D: /n usersusernamedocumentsarticlename.docx

Press ‘y’ to continue when prompted. You can recover the whole folder like that. Note the backslash at the end of the folder name.

winfr C: D: /n usersusernamedocuments

Here are some commands for Segment mode which includes the / r command before / n as seen above in default mode. You can recover all JPEG images and DOCX document files at the same time using wildcards * instead of the file name.

winfr C: D: /r /n *.jpeg /n *.docx
Microsoft 6 file recovery tool

Here is an example of using keywords in Segment mode.

winfr C: D: /r /n *inventory*

The signature mode is indicated by the / x / y command.

Let’s try to recover PDF and PNG files.

winfr C: D: /x /y:pdf,png

Not sure what types of files are supported? Run the command below to find out.

winfr /#

Microsoft has shared even more commands in the official support document that you can view.

Recovery status

Microsoft’s recovery tool is like a blessing for many Windows users. It’s easy to use if you know how to use the command
Prompt that is not difficult anyway. Many users could certainly do this with a graphical user interface. In addition, it should be preinstalled on every copy of Windows 10 with all of the on-board software provided by Microsoft. This is a
utility tool and deserves a place. Otherwise, most users will never know unless they have problems.


Want to save drivers to a Windows 10 computer? Find out how you can do this so that you don’t have to download and install them if something goes wrong.

Last updated Jul 17, 2020

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