By Lora / Last update December 15, 2022

How do I recover a lost PDF file?

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 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 two months ago? It was a scanned copy of my educational documents. Please show me how I can get it back as my future depends on it most. Help me, sir......

       

- Question from Microsoft Community

   

As with other file types, you might need to recover deleted Excel files after accidental deletion. Similarly, PDF files are prone to be deleted, unsaved, removed, or disappearing.

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.

recover-pdf-files

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How to recover PDF files that were deleted?

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

PDF files get deleted in different means. No matter whether 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 usual way, which means you deleted them by dragging them to Recycle Bin or by using the "DEL" key, you could head over to Recycle Bin and restore them.

Notes:✎...
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 the contents of the file. 
If you find deleted files not in Recycle Bin, please refer to the tutorial to fix this issue. 

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

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

recycle-bin-restore-pdf

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

Method 2. Recover deleted PDF using File History

If you cannot retrieve PDF files in Recycle Bin, 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 must recover items deleted from Recycle Bin.

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

Notes:✎...
To use this tool, the File History must have been "On" in advance.

Step 1. Start Control Panel > System and Security.

system-and-security

Step 2. Click File History.

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Step 3. Click Restore personal files.

restore-personal-files

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

restore-deleted-file

Thus you could successfully recover deleted PDF.

If you have enabled File History, then Previous Version will also be an option because it comes from the restore point and File History. You could restore preious versions of files to get them back.

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 helpful. 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 ordinary users unfamiliar 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 this tool's recovery modes and switches.

Now please follow the steps below to learn how to recover a deleted PDF.

Notes:✎...
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.

check-file-system

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 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.

microsoft-store-get

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 "*".

winfr-extensive-pdf

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

Method 4. Recover deleted PDF files easily and quickly

Find it so hard to use Windows File Recovery? Want to get rid of complex commands? All in all, Windows File Recovery is not designed for ordinary users without knowledge of commands.

Given that, you need a much easier Windows data recovery tool. Not to mention that to ensure the success rate in PDF file recovery, using Windows File Recovery and a GUI is also not enough.

Compared to Windows File Recovery, which cannot keep the original file format/name/directory, MyRecover 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.

What's more, it can impress you in more aspects.

  • Recover deleted data with its filename/format/path kept.
  • Support select types of files to recover.
  • Scan and recover data at high speed and recovery rate.
  • Compatible with Windows OS: Windows 11/10/8/7 SP1 & Server. Windows Server users can also use it to recover deleted files from Windows Server 2016/2019/2022, etc.
  • Support restoring files during the scanning process.

Download MyRecover to enjoy its excellent features.

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

Step 1. Start MyRecover > select a location to start data recovery > Start Scan.

select-a-partition-to-scan

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

scan-lost-data

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

select-pdf-files-click-recover

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.

How to recover unsaved PDF files?

PDF Readers apps are embedded with an AutoSave feature. The AutoSave feature will save a temporary file as a copy when editing PDF files using apps like Acrobat.

The editing contents therefore can be retrieved when software crashes/power outages/errors occur.

Go to its original location or temp file location is a good idea. Similarly, you could check the AutoSave file location of other files to get them back. E.g., to recover unsaved PowerPoint files.

Here we take Acrobat as an example; all the temporary files will be saved in the file path:

"C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Acrobat\1X.0\AutoSave\"

Please replace the real username of your device with the "Username" in the path.

However, the noteworthy point is that the temporary file will be removed when you close the PDF files you are editing. 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 other methods.

  • If you need to recover deleted PDF files, you could utilize Recycle Bin, Previous Versions, and Windows File Recovery;
  • When finding it difficult to use Windows File Recovery, you might as well use MyRecover for an easy PDF recovery;
  • Wanting to recover unsaved PDF files, go to the AutoSave file path.