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Summary :

Sometimes, the deleted files will be put to the Recycle Bin; but in other cases, they will be removed directly (not being sent to Recycle Bin). So where do the deleted files go exactly? I’ll give the answer to this question in different cases and then tell you how to find back the accidentally deleted files.

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File deletion is a quite common action that helps us to clear unnecessary files. Every computer user must have adopted this way to release free space, I believe. However, there’re a lot of people around the world repeat this mistake every day – deleting useful files accidentally.

Part 1 – Where Do Deleted Files Go

It is precise because of that, “where do deleted files go” becomes a hot topic. For people who have deleted the files they need by mistake, the first thing they will think of is – where do files go when deleted. And then, they’ll ask questions like how can I recover deleted files and how do I undelete a file.

where do deleted files go

Here’s a specific case:

I have a hypothetical question: What if you've accidentally deleted important files, emptied them from the recycling bin, and then want to get them back? If you immediately realize what you did, is there anything that can be done to get the files back? Is there any software I can purchase to recover those files? Are there any available recovery services? What other steps should I take in event like this -- turning off the computer right away? Is there any hope to recover these files, or are they gone for good? I hope these questions don't sound silly to you, but I want to know just in case I ever make such an unthinkable mistake. Thanks!– asked by Lee Koo (ADMIN) on CNET forum

So what happens when you delete a file from your hard drive? How can you recover deleted files from hard disk? Those are what I’ll mainly talk about in the following content.

Part 2 – Find Your Deleted Files

Things will be different when the files are deleted from different types of storage devices, such as hard disk drive and flash drive. So I am going to show you where the deleted files go exactly and teach you how to recover them.

The following content will be very helpful if you’re now puzzled by where do deleted files go (pictures, photos, videos, word documents, excel documents, etc.). I’m going to talk about the location of deleted files in mainly two situations. Then, I’ll offer a good free data recovery tool – MiniTool Power Data Recovery – to help you restore deleted files.

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Tip: If you don’t want to know both cases, please read the one you’re interested in or that is similar to yours. Please note that the following operations are all tested in Windows 7, so you’re going to see where deleted files go in Windows 7.

Files Are Deleted from Hard Drive

Case 1: where do deleted files go from the hard drive?

When you plan to delete a file from the internal hard drive or external hard drive, you often choose one of the following ways:

  • Select the file and press “Delete” button on the keyboard;
  • Select the file, right click on it and choose “Delete” from the pop-up menu.

After that, you’ll see the “Delete File” window, which asks you whether you are sure to move the certain file to Recycle Bin or not.

move the certain file to Recycle Bin

Clearly, the file deleted from the internal/external hard drive will be sent to Recycle Bin if you only choose/press “Delete” to move it. At this time, the computer file recovery becomes an easy task. However, do you know where do things go when you delete them from the Recycle Bin? This is what I’m going to talk about in case 2.

How to perform recycle bin recovery:

  1. Open Windows Recycle Bin by using the way you prefer.
  2. Select the file (files)/folder (folders) you would like to recover.
  3. Right click on it/them.
  4. Choose “Restore” from the pop-up menu.

choose Restore from the pop-up menu

Then, the file or folder will be put back to the place where it was located before deletion. And now, you can go to the certain place to check the recovery result.

Case 2: where do permanently deleted files go?

When you want to delete file/folder permanently, you basically use the following ways:

  • Select the file/folder in Windows Explorer and then press “Shift” and “Delete” button on the keyboard at the same time;
  • Open Recycle Bin, right click on the target file/folder and then choose “Delete” from the pop-up menu;
  • Right click on Recycle Bin and then choose “Empty Recycle Bin”.

delete file/folder permanently

Empty Recycle Bin

After that, the certain file or folder will be removed completely; you can’t discover it anywhere on the computer/hard drive. Where do files go after they are deleted from the Recycle Bin?

Actually, the file content still remains in the same place (only the relevant information is marked as invisible). Thus, the deleted files can be recovered easily as long as you have a professional tool at hand.

How to undelete files after permanent deletion:

  1. Download and install MiniTool Power Data Recovery.
  2. Launch this famous file recovery software to see its main interface.
  3. Choose “This PC” and select the drive in which the deleted file (files) is included.
  4. Press the “Scan” button and look through the found files and folders during the scan.
  5. Add a check mark in front of the files you want to recover (you can press the “Preview” button to see currently selected file more clearly if it is a picture or txt file).
  6. Press the “Save” button to choose a storage path and press the “OK” button in the pop-up window to confirm.

look through the found files and folders

You’ll see a Notice window popping up in the software when the deleted file recovery is finished completely. At this time, you can close the software and go to check the file you have recovered.

Please note the following things:

  • The Trial Edition is only suitable for disk scan and file preview; if you really want to recover the files it has found, you ought to obtain a license to register the software and continue recovery.
  • If you need to finish deleted Mac file recovery, you should turn to MiniTool Mac Data Recovery, instead.

Till now, I’m pretty sure that you won’t ask questions like how do I recover permanently deleted files from my PC. The steps to retrieve deleted files in Windows 7 with the help of MiniTool Power Data Recovery are quite easy to master, even for inexperienced users, right?

You can also get a paid edition directly in the beginning to experience the wonderful data recovery service (which is unlimited in the size of files to be recovered).

Files Are Deleted from Flash Drive

When you don’t need a file on the flash drive, deleting it is definitely the proper thing to do. Yet, you’ll surprisingly find that the same prompt window shows up no matter which method you use to delete the file:

  • Choose “Delete” from the pop-up
  • Press “Delete” on the keyboard.
  • Press “Delete” + “Shift” simultaneously.

delete a file from flash drive

What does this mean? Simply, it means that the file deleted from USB flash drive will bypass Recycle Bin and be cleared permanently.

As for how do you recover deleted files from a USB flash drive, the method is basically the same as how to recover permanently deleted files from hard drive. There are only 2 differences:

One: you need to connect the flash drive to the computer before launching the recovery software.

Two: you should choose “Removable Disk Drive” in step 3.

choose Removable Disk Drive

Note: If there are many files waiting to be recovered in the USB flash drive, you may as well click on “Upgrade Now” at the bottom of the interface to acquire a license for upgrading and then continue USB data recovery.

What if the USB flash drive can’t be recognized by the computer? Please click to read the following article to fix the problem:

Fix USB Flash Drive Not Recognized & Recover Data – How To Do

Various solutions are provided for you to fix USB flash drive not recognized error and recover data from the not showing up/not working USB device.

Read More

In both cases, if the deleted files are multimedia data like photos, pictures, and videos, you can make use of the “Settings” function to show certain file types only in the scan result. Here are the steps:

  1. Click on the “Settings” button in the lower left corner.
  2. Open the file type categories and select the specific file types you need by adding a checkmark in front of them.
  3. Press the “OK” button to confirm your selection.

select the specific file types

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Part 3 – What Is Permanent Deletion

You hear the word “permanent deletion” or the phrase “delete permanently” a lot, but do you know what will this action do exactly to your deleted file? If you give a negative answer, you also don’t need to be anxious.

Permanent Deletion in Common Sense

First of all, I think it’s necessary to talk about data/file storage (how a file is stored in hard disk). Actually, the data in files or folders are stored in a hierarchical structure.

Large files will be broken into data segment before the storage, then, they’ll be stored in multiple memory locations when you save them on computer hard drive, flash drive or any other storage devices.

how a file stored on the disk

After that, parameters will be generated for indicating the location, size, and other information about that file. When you open a file in the computer, the system will follow the parameters to pull up the data.

That is to say, a file is divided into two parts – content and parameters – when it is stored. Both general deletion and permanent deletion will only delete the relevant parameters, so the system will not recognize the content after deletion.

This helps you understand the reason why deleted files can be recovered.

How to Erase Files Completely When Necessary

When you really need to destroy some confidential data, you have to use tools to go to the place where the files’ content is and overwrites it for a few times by using random data. Then, the files will be gone forever; no one can recover them anymore.

How to erase files completely by using Partition Wizard:

  • Download and install MiniTool Partition Wizard Free.
  • Run the software and click on “Launch Application” to see its main interface.
  • Select the target disk/partition that includes data you want to clean
  • Choose “Wipe Disk” or “Wipe Partition” function from the left action panel.
  • Check a wiping method and click on the “OK” button to start.

wipe disk

wipe partition

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Part 4 – Closing Words

In general, when you delete a file from the hard disk (both internal and external), it will be sent to Windows Recycle Bin, which gives a second chance to regain accidentally deleted files. However, there are also times when you can’t find deleted file in Recycle Bin:

  • You delete a file by pressing “Shift” + “Delete”;
  • You emptied the Recycle Bin manually;
  • The total size of files in Recycle Bin exceeds its maximum size;
  • You change the properties to be “Don’t move files to the Recycle Bin. Remove files immediately when deleted”.

don’t move files to the Recycle Bin

Well then, where do deleted files go? As I said in the above content, they've not cleared completely from your storage device actually. It is only the relevant parameters (like file size and file location) that have been deleted; the real content of the certain files still exists. You just lose access to the deleted files; they remain invisible until you use a special tool to recover them or store new data to overwrite them.

Where do deleted files from USB go? It turns out that files deleted from the USB device (USB flash drive, USB memory card, etc.) will not be put into the Recycle Bin. Instead, all the relevant parameters of files will be cleared immediately when they’re deleted from USB. So you also need a professional data recovery tool to locate them and then get them back.

Taking those factors into consideration, I recommend you choose MiniTool Power Data Recovery to undelete files easily and quickly in both cases. With this data recovery software, you can restore deleted files all by yourself; it doesn’t require much experience or data recovery knowledge. Most important of all, it will not do any damage to your disk/partition or data inside!

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