How to Recover PDF Files from Formatted Hard Drives?

Seeking ways to recover pdf files from formatted hard drives? You can get useful solution to recover formatted files on this page.


By Penny / Updated on April 2, 2024

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Part 1. Possible reasons for formatted hard drives

Nowadays, many users are accustomed to saving data on hard disk drives (HDD), solid-state drives, or USB flash drives. However, if these drives are formatted, you’ll be exposed to data loss because formatting will erase all the existing data on your hard drives.

Let’s have a closer look at possible reasons for hard drive formatting.

▶Corrupted files

▶Hard disk crash

▶Unstable power supply

▶Human errors

Part 2. How to recover pdf files from formatted hard drives?

So how to recover pdf files from formatted hard drives? Windows File Recovery might be your answer. That’s the truth. Because it enables you to recover files from hard disk drives (HDD), USB flash drives, or memory cards, even these drives or disks were formatted or corrupted.

After that, an alternative 100% free tool is also for you. Maybe you can be attracted by the most recommended data recovery software. 

Recover pdf files from formatted hard drives with Windows File Recovery

Microsoft released Windows File Recovery in 2020. This free command-line application needs to work with Windows 10 and later versions from Microsoft Store. We have good reason to believe this available tool is for format recovery. Please scroll down.

There’re two basic modes (the Regular mode and the Extensive mode) for Windows File Recovery. It supports NTFS, ReFS, FAT, and exFAT. You can make good use of this feature to recover pdf files from formatted hard drives.

The only demerit is that you need to resemble and input specified command lines for different scenarios for data loss and varied file systems. Because there’s no available GUI (graphical interface user) for you using this utility.

Let’s check your file system before reading further. This step is essential to pdf recovery. Click “This PC” first and right-click on the drive containing your pdf files before formatting, then click “Properties”.


You are allowed to adjust the basic command line in a timely manner.

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

 The Regular mode only supports non-NTFS file systems.
 These recovered pdf files should be saved in a new location.
 The Windows File Recovery utility can offer you more details about Windows File Recovery.

Step 1. Click “Get” to download Windows File Recovery from the Microsoft Store, then install and launch it on your computer.


Step 2. Enter Windows File Recovery in the search bar. Then open it and click “Run as administrator”.


Step 3. After checking your file system, then select a comprehensive mode with the reference form below.

Scenarios for data loss

File system


Recommended mode


Deleted recently



Deleted a while ago



After formatting a disk



A corrupted disk


FAT and exFAT



Step 4. Resemble your command line with the common General and Advanced syntax.

General syntax:

Parameter / switch  


Supported mode(s)


Regular mode, the standard recovery option for non-corrupted NTFS drives



Extensive mode, a thorough recovery option suitable for all file systems



Scans for a specific file by using a file name, file path, file type, or wildcards. For example: 

File name: /n myfile.docx

File path: /n /users//Documents/


Advanced syntax:



Supported modes


NTFS mode, a fast recovery option for healthy NTFS drives using the master file table



Segment mode, recovery option for NTFS drives using file record segments



Signature mode, recovery option for all file system types using file headers


Step 5. Let’s take an example. If you’re going to recover pdf file from D drive to E drive, you can enter winfr D: E: /r /n *.pdf

Step 6. Press “y” to continue. Wait patiently and you can click your destination drive, then open the destination folder that includes your recovered pdf files.

Recover formatted files with 100% free WinfrGUI

WinfrGUI (Windows File Recovery GUI) was released in 2021 because Windows File Recovery lacked a graphical user interface. More importantly, it’s a reliable software invoking all the functions of Windows File Recovery.

So it’s accessible for newcomers to recover formatted files. These steps depict how to recover pdf files from formatted hard drives on Windows 10/11 via 100% free WinfrGUI.

Tips:  If there’s a stop during the scanning process, WinfrGUI will continue recovering data from the scanned files.
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Step 1. Download and install WinfrGUI on your PC. Select a partition to scan your data, then select a destination drive or folder to save your recovered pdf files.


Step 2. Select Quick Scan or Deep Scan according to your situation. Then select “Documents” after clicking “Advanced Settings”.


Step 3. Select “Custom extensions/file names” and input “pdf” in the search box.


Step 4. Click the “Start Recovery” to start the scanning process. Then you can open your destination place which will save your recovered pdf files.



Some users are unwilling to be subjected to the operating system of WinfrGUI. Others are eager to save the recovered pdf files with the original directory, file name, and format. 

At the moment, MyRecover is your second to none choice because it supports Windows 7 and later versions. More importantly, you can retain the deleted/lost files in the same format. 

Here comes other fascinating features of this powerful and user-friendly software. 

Recover the deleted/lost files from SSD/HDD at a high recovery rate. 

☁ Recover 200+ types of data such as Word, PPT, Excel, Photos, Videos, Audios, Emails, Webpages, Compressed files, and other lost files. 

☁ It supports NTFS, FAT32, exFAT, and ReFS in Windows. 

☁ The combined scanning method of Quick Scan & Deep Scan can help you recover data without omissions. 

Don't hesitate to download it.  Three easy-to-follow steps can help you out. 

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Step 1. Install and run it on your computer. Hover the mouse over the drive saved deleted PDF files before, and click Scan.


Step 2. The software will run Quick Scan and Deep Scan automatically. After searching, you will see all the deleted files and other lost files on the window. 


Step 3.  Check your needed files and click "Recover x files".  And locate a destination place to store your recovered pdf files. 


Related suggestions

Disk formatting may put you in a data loss mess. Hopefully, you can recover pdf files from formatted hard drives via convenient methods such as WinfrGUI or AOEMI Data Recovery for Windows.

There’s no denying that the latter is friendlier to computer novices. Meanwhile, the quality of this software is guaranteed, so why not give this WIndows data recovery software a chance?

If you’ve grown the habit of making regular backups, you can restore your pdf files from this valuable backup. The leading backup software, AOMEI Backupper offers you many exciting features such as making incremental or differential backups. Apart from that, it allows you to sync your local files and folders to your NAS device or cloud drive as your preference.

Penny · Editor
Penny works as an editor at AOMEI Technology, while she's a tester and editor for AOMEI Data Recovery Tools. She enjoys helping users with data recovery issues on Windows and iPhones using simple and practical solutions. Outside of work, she has a strong affection for pets, particularly giant pandas.