[Free] How to Recover Unsaved, Deleted, or Corrupted PDF Files

You may urgently need to recover PDF file when it is lost, refer to this article which provides effective methods to help you recover recover unsaved, deleted, or corrupted DPF files easily and quickly.


By Lora / Updated on May 20, 2024

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PDF files are documents saved in Portable Document Format (PDF), developed by Adobe in the 1990s, a file format commonly used for work and academic purposes that simplifies information sharing, viewing, and collaboration.

However, losing or accidentally deleting important PDF documents can be quite distressing. Fortunately, in this article, we will introduce effective ways to recover lost PDF files.

Recover PDF Files

Can I recover PDF files?     

Yes, you can recover unsaved, deleted, or corrupted PDF files, but there are some important prerequisites here.

  • You don’t disable AutoSave feature in Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader. It helps to automatically save a copy of the editing PDF files.
  • You don’t save new files in the location of lost PDF files.
  • You don’t use a TRIM-enabled SSD to save PDF files. The TRIM command will zero out or erase all the deleted data immediately without incident.
  • The disk where you store PDF files isn’t physically damaged.

The deleted files do not disappear immediately but are moved to the Recycle Bin folder until you delete them permanently. Even then, the files logically remain on the disk.

Of course, if you have working System Restore Points or File Backups, you can even recover deleted PDF files with Backup.

What causes PDF files to be lost?

You can easily find the solutions to recover PDF files as long as you know the precise reasons for this problem. Here are some possible options:

✦ Human deletion or misuse. Users may accidentally delete PDF files, or misoperation occurs when performing file management, such as accidentally dragging files into the Recycle Bin or performing a delete operation.
✦ Formatting storage device. If users format the USB flash drive, hard disk, or other storage devices where PDF files are stored, the files will be erased.
✦ Hardware failure. Failure or corruption of storage devices (e.g. hard disk, USB flash drive, SSD, etc.) may result in file loss. This may include physical damage, bad sectors, logical board problems, etc.
✦ Virus infection. Computer viruses or malware may delete or hide PDF files, making it look like they are lost.
✦ File transfer issues. When transferring PDF files over the network (e.g., email, cloud storage services, etc.), incomplete file uploads, interrupted downloads, or corrupted files may occur, resulting in lost or unopenable files.

How to recover deleted PDF files

Except for unsaved PDF files, accidental deletion or file corruption may also cause data loss. Improper repair may make a corrupted PDF file go forever. To avoid this, please recover corrupted PDF files first. To repair corrupted PDF files, please go to the next part.

▶ 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 quickly.

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

Step 2. Right-click the PDF files and click Restore to recover deleted PDF files from Recycle Bin.



  • 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 the deleted PDF files not in Recycle Bin, please move to the following methods.

▶ Method 2. Recover deleted PDF using File History

If you cannot retrieve PDF files in the Recycle Bin, they might be permanently deleted or you have emptied the Recycle Bin. In this case, one of the best ways is to restore PDF files from backup images with File History. Please be sure it’s turned on beforehand.

Step 1. Go to Control Panel > System and Security and select File History.

Step 2. Click Restore personal files.


Step 3. Click the left or right arrow to find the deleted files and click the green Restore button to retrieve deleted PDF files not in Recycle Bin.


▶ Method 3. Recover deleted PDF files with MyRecover

MyRecover is a simple and easy-to-use data recovery software for Windows 7, 8, 10, 11. It has a clear interface and rich features.

  • Has a high success rate and fast recovery speed.
  • Recover deleted or corrupted PDF, Word, Excel, compressed files, images, videos, etc, and more than 200 + file types.
  • Find out all of your PDF files with advanced scanning methods and keep the original file name, format, quality, and path it
  • Locate lost PDF files quickly with its Filter feature.
  • Recover deleted PDF files from Recycle Bin or not in Recycle Bin, in case of formatting, virus infections system crashes, etc.  

Download data recovery software - MyRecover and recover deleted or corrupted PDF files. 

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

Step 1. Start this simple data recovery software - MyRecover. Hover the mouse over the drive saved deleted PDF files before, and click Scan.


Step 2. The scanning process is automatic. It will run a quick scan first and then deep scan. Any file scanned will be displayed below. You can then directly recover deleted files or wait for the scanning result.​


You can also search for PDF file with Filter and it’s faster. Here are 3 options in the following:

  • Type: It will contain all the file types in the local drive, such as, images, videos, documents, mails, webpage, compressed files, etc.
  • Data Modified: It supports today, yesterday, last 7 days, last 30 days, and custom.
  • Size: It allows you to filter file size from less than 128KB to 128KB ~1MB to 1MB ~ 512MB and above, or custom.

To retrieve deleted PDF files, click Filter Type and select Documents. Then, input PDF in the Search for files or folders box.

Filter PDF Files

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

Recover PDF Files


  • MyRecover will display the number of files to be recovered and their entire size.
  • Select a new location to store the deleted files. Retrieving files to original location may overwrite the space of deleted data, resulting in data recovery failure.
  • It is also able to recover files from formatted hard drive, external hard drive, USB drive, SD card etc. 
  • Except for Windows 10, it still can recover deleted files from Windows Server 2016, 2019, 2022, etc.

▶ Method 4. Recover PDF files using Windows File Recovery

Windows File Recovery is also a data recovery software, but it’s based on command prompt window instead graphic user interface. Try this if you are professional and want more flexible options.

Before starting, in order to use it correctly, you need to learn and master its syntax, recovery mode, and switches. For details, please refer to "How to use Windows File Recovery".

Step 1. Download and install Windows File Recovery from the Microsoft Store.


Step 2. Press Win + E to open This PC. Right-click on the drive where the PDF files were deleted from and select Properties.

Step 3. Type the winfr command based on its syntax. Then, pressto confirm you want to recover deleted PDF files.

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


  • If your files are deleted recently on a NTFS drive, try Regular mode. Otherwise, try Extensive mode.
  • To narrow the scan range, you could use /n switches and specify full name or path. You can also use wildcard "*" to decide the file type or string in the file name.
  • The target drive cannot be the same as the source drive.

For example: to recover deleted PDF files for several days or longer from C: drive to D: drive.

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


When finished, it will automatically create a folder named “Recovery_date and time” on the D: drive. You can access and view all of the deleted files in this folder.

Recovery Folder

Besides, in the Extensive mode, the winfr wil ask you if you want to view recovered files. Type y.

View Recovered Files


  • This tool only supports Windows 10 2004 and above.
  • This tool does not support recovering files from Recycle Bin, cloud storage and network file shares.
  • You may get your PDF files back every time and receive error message like "Windows File Recovery failed to create destination folder", “Winfr.exe is not recognized as an internal or external command”, “WinFR requires admin privileges to run”, etc.

▶ Method 5. Recover PDF Files to Previous Version

If you just want to restore your PDF files to a previous version, try the Previous Version feature. It requires you to enable system restore or File History in advance.

Step 1. Start Windows Explorer. Locate the folder containing the deleted files. 

Step 2. Right-click the folder and select Properties > Previous Version.

Step 3. Select the folder version which is exactly the one before you delete it, and click Restore to restore deleted PDF files to previous version.


How to recover unsaved PDF files

PDF Readers like Adobe offer the userstheAutoSave featureto automatically save a copy of edited PDF files in a temporary file. Usually, it’s 5 minutes.

To check the AutoSave status and be sure it’s not disabled:

Step 1. Click Edit > Preferences>Documents, and head to Save settings. You can then change the save time with the option “Automatically save document changes to temporary file every X minutes”.

PDF AutoSave

Step 2. Once your computer or software crashes, has power connectionissue or you forget to save your data in a rush, it will open the auto-saved PDF file at the next start. Click Yes if Adobe asks.


Step 3. If not, you still can retrieve the PDF file in one of the following locations.

  • "C:\Users\%UserName%\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Acrobat\1X.0\AutoSave\"
  • C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Acrobat\DC
  • C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Temp\Adobe\Reader\11.0


  • Please replace the real username of your device with the "Username" in the path.
  • The temporary file will be removed when you close the PDF files you are editingor PDF Reader. You need to act fast.
  • You may see some files with a different extension. Just rename it with .pdf extension and see if the file opens in Adobe Reader.

Similarly, you could check the AutoSave file location of other files to get them back. For example,to recover unsaved PowerPoint files.

How to Repair Corrupted PDF Files

After recovering corrupted PDF files, you can then repair it with confidence without worrying about data loss. If you are not sure it’s corrupted, check the following conditions.

  • The PDF file cannot be read or opened.
  • The root object is invalid or missing.
  • The PDF files itself are corrupt.
  • The Adobe Acrobat or Reader is damaged.

▶ Method 1. Use PDF Repair Tools Online

If the problem is related to PDF files inself, try PDF repair tools online. There are many options online, to repair PDF files easily, we recommend you using Sejda Repair PDF, iLovePDF, or PDF2GO if you don’t want to download and install any software on your computer. If the file contains sensitive data or you don’t want to upload your PDF files online, try Sejda PDF Desktop or PDF Repair Toolbox.

Here take the iLovePDF as an example to show you the steps.

Step 1. Browse to the iLovePDF website and click the red Select PDF file button.

Select PDF File

Step 2. Select the corrupt PDF file from your PC.

Step 3. Click Repair PDF. Once repaired, download and save it to your computer.

Add Repair PDF Files

If the corrupted PDF files are software problems, try Method 2 or Method 3 in the following.

▶ Method 2. Download the Latest Adobe App

If your Adobe app is an old version, please uninstall the current version. Then, download and install the latest version of Adobe Acrobat or Reader on your computer. Finally, check if you can open PDF files as normal.

▶ Method 3. Check for Updates

To check for Adobe Acrobat updates, you need to launch the Adobe application, click Help, and choose Check for Update.

Check for Update

Best Practice to Prevent Deleted or Corrupted PDF Files

If you don’t want to lose any PDF files due to accidental deletion or file corruption, you need to protect it in daily life. Here are some useful suggestions you can follow:

  • Use the “Eject” option to safely remove your device.
  • If the PDF file is an email attachment, make sure you download the PDF file before opening it.
  • Stop using your drive if you realize any data loss.
  • Run chkdsk regularly to check disk or file system issues. It also helps to avoid file corruption due to bad sectors.
  • Defragment your disk once a month. If you don’t use this device often, just do it quarterly.
  • Create periodic backups or always keep 3 backup copies, with at least one offsite. You can save your PDF files to external hard drive, USB drive, network drive, or cloud drive, etc.
  • Install antivirus software and ensure it’s always on.

Among them, the best practice is to backup PDF files on your disk automatically with free backup software like AOMEI Backupper Standard. It gives you a chance to recover data from hard drive quickly.

Step 1. Download and install Windows backup software - AOMEI Backupper Standard. Then, click Backup and File Backup to backup your PDF files.

File Backup

Step 2. Set the Task Name to distinguish this backup task from others. Click Add File or Add Folder to choose PDF files you want to backup.

Add Folders Files

Step 3. Select a location to store your data. It can be internal or external disk, USB flash drive, network drive, NAS device, Cloud Drive, etc.

Select Destination

Step 4 (Optionally). Click Schedule Backup and enable Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Event triggers or USB plug in to backup PDF files automatically.

Schedule Settings General

Step 5. Confirm the operation and click Start Backup. By default, it will enable incremental backup to backup only new or changed PDF files.

FAQs about PDF files recovery

✍ Where do deleted PDF files go?

If you delete a PDF file on the computer, it will go to the Recycle Bin until you permanently delete it or empty the Recycle Bin. On an external or USB drive, the deleted files are permanently deleted. Anyway, these files are lying in the space where it’s deleted.

✍ How to recover deleted PDF files from pendrive

The deleted files on the pendrive are permanently deleted because it’s external storage device. So it will not be in the Recycle Bin. To recover files from pendrive, check if your have previous versions of PDF files or backup image. If not, try data recovery software like MyRecover.

✍ How to recover PDF files from formatted hard drive

There are many ways to recover PDF files from formatted hard drive, but first? Please stop using the drive to avoid data recovery failure. Then, you can restore from previous version, Backup and Restore, File History, chkdsk, or seek help from data recovery software.

Wrapping up

You can easily recover PDF files unsaved, deleted, or corrupted from Windows as long as you don’t overwrite the lost PDF files.

If you just unsave your PDF files, check the temporary file location. To recover deleted files, the most effective method is to use data recovery software if you don’t have a backup. For corrupted files, you need to recover files first and then repair them with PDF repair tools. Hope it helps you.

Lora · Editor
Lora is an editor of AOMEI Technology. She is also a tester and editor of AOMEI Data Recovery Tools. -- "Keep testing, write the most useful tutorials for helping people recover the lost data for Windows and phones" is the most meaningful thing for her. Dedicated to creating helpful tutorials, she hopes her tutorial can assist users to effortlessly solve data loss problems on their personal computers and mobile phones.