By Lora / Last update May 6, 2022

“How do I recover a deleted PDF from internal storage?”

Portable Document Format (PDF), a file format developed by Adobe, is pretty efficient in today’s life because PDF files can preserve the form of the texts and images. The work and life of a large number of people depend on PDF files a lot.


How can I recover permanently deleted pdf files from recycle bin, which was deleted 2 months ago? It was a scanned copy of my educational documents. Please show me the way I can get it back as my future depends on it most. Help me sir......


- Question from Microsoft Community


As with other file types, PDF files are prone to be deleted, unsaved, removed, or disappeared. But unfortunately, quite a lot of users don’t know how to recover PDF files. But don’t be upset, this article aims to help you solve this question.

Recommended methods to recover PDF files

To recover PDF files deleted/unsaved is not an impossible task. This section divides into two parts according to different scenarios: to recover deleted PDF files and to recover unsaved PDF files.

Scenario 1. Recover deleted PDF files

PDF files get deleted in different means. No matter you deleted them normally/accidentally/permanently, or so, there is a way to get them back.

Method 1. Head over to the Recycle Bin

If your PDF files were deleted in a normal way, which means you deleted them by dragging them to Recycle Bin, or by using the “DEL” key, you could just head over to Recycle Bin and restore them.

If the PDF file is larger than 8998 MB, it will bypass the Recycle Bin and get permanently deleted.
If you can’t recall the full exact file name, please use “Search Recycle Bin” to search for the file by contents of the file.

Step 1. Go to “Recycle Bin” > find the deleted PDF files.

Step 2. Right-click the PDF files> click “Restore”.


To restore deleted PDF files from Recycle Bin is straightforward and easy, but quite limited. If it fails, please move on to the next method.

Method 2. Restore PDF files using File History

If you cannot retrieve PDF files in Recycle Bin, then they might be permanently deleted. You may have emptied the Recycle Bin or you have deleted them again in Recycle Bin. Then, in this case, you have to recover items deleted from Recycle Bin.

File History, an in-built feature, could help you.

To use this tool, the File History must have been “On” in advance.

Step 1. Start “Control Panel” > “System and Security”.


Step 2. Click “File History”.


Step 3. Click “Restore personal files”.


Step 4. Select all the PDF files you need to recover > click the “Recycle” button.


Thus you could successfully recover deleted PDF files.

Method 3. Recover PDF files using Windows File Recovery

Using File History requires an available backup. If you cannot use the last method, an official tool might be useful. Windows File Recovery, a command-line application, can restore deleted or lost files in Windows 10 and above.

But as a command-line utility, it is pretty difficult for common users who are not familiar with commands.

This tool recovers deleted or missing files using recovery modes and switches. Please refer to “How to use Windows File Recovery” to get a more detailed explanation of recovery modes and switches of this tool.

Now please follow the steps below to perform PDF recovery.

The target drive cannot be the same as the source drive.
This tool only supports Windows 10 2004 and above.
Use the wildcard “*” with the switch “/n” when you can’t recall the exact filename.
If the error "Windows File Recovery failed to create destination folder" occurs, please get help.

Step 1. Go to “This PC” > right-click on the drive where the PDF files were deleted from> “Properties”.


Step 2. Choose a recovery mode according to your File System and file loss scenarios.

File system Scenarios mode
NTFS Deleted recently Regular
NTFS Deleted for a while Extensive
NTFS Formatted disk Extensive
NTFS corrupted disk Extensive
FAT and exFAT Any Extensive

Step 3. Choose switches according to your needs.

Switches Meaning Supported mode(s)
/n Filter the scan range: scans for a specific file with its file name/path/type, etc. All
/y: Recovers specific extension groups. Signature
/k Recovers system files. NTFS Segment​​​​​
/segment Segment mode; recovers files under NTFS drives using file record segments. Segment
/signature Signature mode; recovers files under all file system types using file headers. Signature

Step 4. Then install Windows File recovery in Microsoft Store.


Step 5. Input the command:

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

For example:

winfr C: D: /extensive /n *.pdf

It means you want to recover PDF files from C: Drive to D: drive; then because files were deleted for several days, you chose Extensive mode; and you cannot recall the exact filename, so you use wildcard “*”.


Then input “y” to confirm. When finished, go to the recovery folder created in the destination to check your recovered files.

Recover deleted/lost PDF files with a GUI

Find it so hard to use Windows File Recovery? Want to get rid of complex commands? Don’t panic, except for the method above, you still have chances to restore deleted PDF files without using commands.

WinfrGUI, a tool invoking the function of Windows File Recovery with a graphical user interface, can help users restore files from external/internal hard drives easier. Not only PDF files, but it can also recover more files like jpg/png/mov/mp3/mp4/zip, etc.

Download and install WinfrGUI to perform PDF recovery.

Download Freeware Win 10 2004 and above
Secure Download
This tool fully invokes the function of Windows File Recovery. No 100% success rate insurance.
Quick Scan supports all File Systems, while Deep Scan only applies to non-NTFS drives.
Source drive and target drive could not be the same.

Step 1. Run WinfrGUI select the drive where you have lost files > choose another drive as a destination.


Step 2. Choose a scanning method.


Step 3. Click “Advanced Settings” > input “.pdf” in “Custom extensions”.


Step 4 Click “Start Recovery” to recover PDF files.


Using this tool, you could also recover deleted word documents in Windows 10.

Method 4. Recover PDF files using a Windows data recovery tool

To ensure the success rate in PDF file recovery, using Windows File Recovery and a GUI is not enough. Compared to Windows File Recovery, which cannot keep the original file format/name/directory, AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows is a better choice.

This tool can scan hard disks for deleted and lost data with advanced and efficient scanning methods. Also, you could select whatever you want - up to 200+ types of data - to recover.

Now, let's take a look at its software highlights.

◆ Highlights: 

  • Recover deleted data with its filename/format/path kept.
  • Support select types of files to recover.
  • Scan and recover data at a high speed and recovery rate.
  • Compatible with Windows OS: Windows 11/10/8/7 SP1 & Server.
  • Support restoring files during the scanning process.

Download AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows to enjoy its awesome features.

Download SoftwareWin 11/10/8/7/Server
Secure Download

Step 1. Start AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows > select a location to start data recovery > Start Scan.


Step 2. During the process, you could directly recover the files it detected or wait for the complete scanning result.


Step 3. Select the PDF files you need to recover > click Recover x files to restore deleted or lost PDF files.


Thus, you could recover PDF files easily and completely with the directory, file name, and format intact. What's more, it can also help you recover data from an SD card.

Scenario 2. Recover unsaved PDF files via the AutoSave feature

PDF Readers apps are embedded with an AutoSave feature. When you are editing the PDF files using apps like Acrobat, the AutoSave feature will save a temporary file as a copy.

The editing contents therefore can be retrieved when software crash/power outage/errors occur. Here we take Acrobat as an example, all the temporary files will be saved in the file path:


Please replace the real username of your device with the “Username” in the path. However, a noteworthy point is that when you close the PDF files you are editing, the temporary file will be removed. So this method is quite limited to some degree.

Wrapping up

The suggested methods to recover PDF files unsaved or deleted are well-stated in this article. According to different file loss scenarios, please choose different methods.

If you need to recover deleted PDF files, you could utilize Recycle Bin, Previous Versions, and Windows File Recovery; if you find it difficult to use Windows File Recovery, you might as well use WinfrGUI for an easy PDF recovery.

If you want to recover unsaved PDF files, going to the AutoSave file path is a good choice.