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 to everyone. We lose access to important files and folders for all kinds of reasons and then we get complex question. How to get it back? 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?

Microsoft File Recovery Tool

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


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

How do you check the version of your Windows build?

Press Windows key + R to open the Run prompt and type winver (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 File Recovery Tool 2

Search parameters

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

The tool’s development team has grown to recover files even after erasing data from your drive. It’s awesome and disturbing at the same time. Although I am happy that I can now recover files and documents, I had no hope of recovering. I’m afraid wiping my hard drive before I sell my laptop is no use. Someone can still recover data.

Microsoft File Recovery Tool 3

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

Additionally, you can search for files and documents by name, file type, file path, and keywords.

Note: Windows File Recovery will work on SD Cards, Flash Drives or USB < 4GB storage in case of FAT and exFAT. In the case of NTFS, it will work on flash drives > 4 GB storage.

How does Windows delete data

Let me explain how data or files are handled quickly in Windows. Any file you delete on your Windows 10 computer is moved to the Trash. As long as they stay there, these files continue to occupy the storage space on your drive.

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 File Recovery Tool 4

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

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

How to Use Windows File Recovery Tool

Download and install it just like any other app. 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.

There are three modes for recovering deleted files:

  1. Default mode useful for recently deleted files in NTFS system.
  2. Segment mode takes longer but can help recover older deleted files even from corrupted or formatted drive.
  3. Signature mode works on NTFS, FAT, exFAT, ReFS file systems, allows searching by file type and is also useful for external drives.

Microsoft File Recovery Tool 5

Don’t know which mode to use? Start with default until you find what you are looking for.

Microsoft claims that its CMD tool works on SSDs, but the effect may be limited due to how SSDs work. Don’t have high hopes. Files are usually deleted immediately on SSD drives.

Here is the basic command:

winfr source-drive: destination-drive: /switches

The source and destination drive should be separate, 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 in 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 from the command below.

winfr C: D: /n usersusernamedocumentsarticlename.docx

Press “y” to continue when prompted. You can recover the whole folder like this. 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 all DOCX document files at the same time by using the wildcard character * instead of the file name.

winfr C: D: /r /n *.jpeg /n *.docx

Microsoft File Recovery Tool 6

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 for you to view.

Also on Guiding Tech

Recovery state

Microsoft’s recovery tool is like a blessing for many Windows users. It is easy to use if you know how to use the command
Prompt which isn’t difficult anyway. Many users could certainly use a graphical user interface. Also, it should come preinstalled on every copy of Windows 10 along with all bloatware provided by Microsoft. This one is a
utility tool and deserves a place. Otherwise, most users will never know unless they have some trouble.


Want to backup drivers on Windows 10 computer? Learn how you can do this so you don’t have to download and install them if something goes wrong.

Last updated on Jul 17, 2020

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