How to recover lost and deleted files

You can normally recover files you've accidentally deleted from network storage areas (which includes both the M: and N: drives) yourself.

You can also revert to previous versions of files. You may also be able to recover files from clusters or personal machines. Here is how to do it.

Computers on Campus

The most common way documents can lost is working on attachments from emails and not saving them first (to your M Drive or a USB stick). However, email attachments are saved to a hidden temporary folder.

The link on the right (under 'Related Downloads' at the top of this page) is to a tool which will search known locations where these files may “hide” and copy them to a new folder on your desktop.

  • Download the file (find_lost_docs.exe) and run it 
  • Close all open other open programmes and windows you have open.
  • Any files recovered will be placed in a new folder on the Desktop.
  • Sometimes your file may have a different title, such as letters and numbers. You can sort your recovered files by 'Date Modified' to help you find it.
Find Lost Docs

This process  may take around 20 mins to complete. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that your file can be recovered.

From your M: or N: drive

Windows stores previous version of documents and deleted ones for between 2 to 3 weeks (sometimes longer).

To recover a file:

  1. Open Windows Explorer or My Computer
  2. Go to the folder the file was in
  3. Right-click on the folder icon
  4. Select ‘Properties’ from the drop down list
  5. A new dialog box will open. Click on ‘Previous Versions' from the tabs across the top
  6. You should see a list of previous versions sorted by date.
  7. Double click on the appropriate folder to open it (in a new window)
  8. Find your deleted file, then right-click  on it and click Copy.
  9. Right-click the location where you want to place the file and click Paste. (Or you can drag the file to the right place)

You can recover previous versions of a file in a similar way, by right-clicking on the file rather than the folder.

This method works for files on supported network drives, e.g. your Home Directory (M: drive) and the Shared Directory (N: drive).  Departmentally administered drives may have a different policy in place.

The file needs to have been saved to the M or N drive for 24 hours for this facility to work.

Related pages

Related downloads