Our lives – professional and personal – are becoming increasingly digital. As we communicate with one another through the internet, we often need to download information. Whether we download attachments, software, or updates, downloads are an essential part of our digital lives. However, the massive amount of files we download can get overwhelming to organize. Often, in an attempt to clean your download folder, you might accidentally delete important files.
But rest easy. Several simple solutions can help recover deleted downloads quickly.
This article helps you figure out what might have happened to your downloads, and then it equips you with surefire solutions that retrieve downloaded files.
The moment you notice files missing, restrict using your computer to a minimum. The more you use the computer, the higher the risk of your files getting overwritten, and thus, lost forever.
Based on our findings, the most frequent circumstance leading to lost files from the download folder is simple: unintentional deletion, followed swiftly by an emptied Recycle Bin. Sound like a familiar scenario? If so, you’ll want to pay close attention to method number 6. But don’t stop there. We recommend familiarizing yourself with all the recovery techniques we’ve outlined. Below, we’ve provided a detailed list of scenarios, each linked to the relevant sections of our article.
I recently deleted a file from my downloads folder
I can’t find a file I downloaded recently
I accidentally permanently deleted an important download
My browser crashed during a download, and now I can’t see the file
I accidentally deleted the downloads folder
I need to resume a canceled download in Chrome
Where does Windows keep Downloads?
By default, Windows stores your downloaded files in the Downloads folder. Furthermore, you can customize this download location to a folder of your choice.
To navigate to the default download folder, navigate to C:\Users\your_name\Downloads.
You can move downloads to other folders, but you can also change the default location for downloads through your browser.
8 Tried-and-Tested Solutions to Recover Lost Downloads
As you keep reading this article, we will guide you through recovering your lost or broken files. Try out all of the suggestions we have before you give up on your downloads forever. We have tested each solution extensively and will take you through a step-by-step process to get your downloaded files back.
Method 1: Find the Downloads folder and Locate your Deleted Downloads
Regardless of the browser you use, downloaded files are saved inside the “Downloads” folder by default. However, it might be possible that you selected a different folder to save your downloads to. If this happens, you might not find the file because you are looking in the wrong place.
Here’s what you can do:
- Open the sidebar in your browser, and navigate to “Settings” or “Options”.
- In the “General Settings” menu, find “Downloads” or “Download Options”.
- Verify the path for the folder where you store downloaded files.
- Try opening this folder and looking for your files.
This solution will work if your files are being saved to a different location by default. However, if it doesn’t restore downloads, try the next method.
Method 2: Check if your Deleted Downloads are in the Recycle Bin
Should you happen to delete your desired file by accident, it has quite likely been sent to the Recycle Bin. In this case, you can recover downloads very easily, unless you permanently deleted the file or emptied the recycle bin.
Make it a habit not to permanently delete a file directly. If you delete the file simply, it is moved to the recycle bin. This is an extra step that allows you to quickly recover files if you made an accident.
- Open the Recycle Bin, either from the Desktop or from File Explorer.
- Look for your desired file in the window that shows up. If the window is extremely cluttered, you can also use tools from the search bar to zero in on your file.
- Once you find your file, right-click on it and select “Restore”.
This will put your file back where it was before being deleted.
Check the Original Location of the file before you restore it. This will help you quickly navigate to it once restored.
Method 3: Re-download the Deleted Download Files
Web browsers are amazing little things. If you download a file once, it is quite likely that your browser has the path saved so that you can re-download the file later. Even if you permanently deleted the file, you can recover it this way.
We will guide you through re-downloading files on Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, two of the most common browsers out there.
- Open your browser of choice. Remember that if you use multiple browsers, only the browser you used to download the file will “remember” its path.
- Open Settings through the sidebar (three dots in Chrome and three horizontal bars in Firefox).
- Navigate to the “Downloads” option. Alternatively, you may press Ctrl + J in either Chrome or Firefox to directly jump to Downloads.
- Look for the file you lost.
- If you can see a “Show in folder” option under the file, it is still located on your computer. You can click on this button to navigate to the folder it is in and that should solve your problem.
- If the downloaded file says “Deleted”, then you might have lost it. But look right under the filename, for there is a URL. If you copy this path and paste it into your browser, you can quickly retrieve the deleted download!
This method is extremely handy if you are downloading files from a public source that allows redownloads. However, confidential information is often sent through expiring links that do not let you download the file again. In such a case, you might have to try some of the other alternatives we have.
Method 4: Search for your Deleted Downloads in Temporary Files
Windows creates a folder that stores temporary files on your computer. While this folder holds many kinds of files, it also stores and indexes downloads. This makes it possible for you to search for them for a short while after they have been deleted.
Here’s how you can find such a file on Windows:
- Press the Start button.
- Start typing the name of the file you are trying to retrieve.
- Press Enter.
- If you have the temporary files feature working, then a window should open. This window will have a list of files matching your search. You can right-click the file and open it or drag and drop it to your desired location.
- Or, navigate to the following folder:
Method 5: Resume Canceled Downloads
Sometimes, you might not be able to find your downloads because they did not finish downloading completely. This can happen if you accidentally shut the browser, your connection broke down, or your computer shut down completely. Relax, as this is very easy to fix.
- Open your browser, and navigate to Downloads. (See Method 3 for more details).
- Navigate to the file that did not complete downloading.
- Click on the Retry button under the file description.
- Wait until the download is complete.
Your download should now appear in the Downloads folder of your computer. You can open this file or move it to a more suitable location.
If none of the above methods worked for you, don’t worry. It might be time to try something more powerful.
Method 6: Use Data Recovery Software and Retrieve Deleted Download Files & Folders
If you exhausted all of the alternatives we suggested, do not panic. Sometimes, it is difficult to retrieve downloads using these methods. However, using Data Recovery Tools, you can quickly recover and restore your deleted files. Especially if you have permanently deleted your files, you cannot get your files back without data recovery software.
There are so many creators of data recovery tools out there, and it gets difficult to choose between them. We are always on the lookout for newer, more powerful tools, and hence have tried all of them out.
- Download and Install the Windows version of Disk Drill. Disk Drill has a free version for Windows that you can download from here. Install it and give it the administrator’s credentials so that it can run properly.
- Select the disk that has your downloads. In Disk Drill’s interface, you will see a selection of disks. Locate the right disk and select it.
- Scan for lost downloads. Start scanning for lost files using the “Search for lost data” button. This will initiate the algorithms that help recover deleted files.
- Select the files to recover. Once Disk Drill finishes scanning your folder, it will generate a list of files it has found. Select the ones you wish to recover.✅
Use Disk Drill’s inbuilt search tools to narrow down to the file you are looking for. Use the file extension filters, or type in filenames into the search bar to quickly jump to the desired file.
- Select a destination to place recovered files in. You need to set a location where your recovered downloads can be saved to. We strongly suggest that you select a different folder than the one which contained the file. This will prevent the computer from overwriting your files; Click on “OK”.
Method 7: Restore Deleted Downloads from File History
File History is a great Windows feature that backs up your data at regular intervals. While you cannot use this method if you haven’t set it up, you should go right ahead and initialize File History now.
To start File History:
- Open Control Panel.
- Navigate to System and Security, and then File History.
- Select Turn On.
- Pick a drive to store it to.
- Select which folders to back up. Remember that File History only backs up libraries, so store personal files in there!
If you have already set up File History, you can quickly revert to older versions of your files. You can use it to restore your deleted downloads. Here’s how:
- Open File History.
- Click on Restore Personal Files.
- Browse through the files and folders.
- Restore your selected files.
Method 8: Recover Your Deleted Downloads Sent to Windows Quarantine
The internet is often a shady place, with a lot of malicious files and software doing the rounds. Windows has an inbuilt defense system that scans files and sends suspicious items to a “quarantine”.
While this is a great feature, it is not entirely foolproof. Sometimes, you might have internal files from your business or personal storage that are incorrectly configured. Windows Defender might think of it as a threat and quarantine such a file.
If you are absolutely sure that your files are not harmful, you can recover them from the quarantine.
Here’s how to restore downloads if they have been quarantined:
- Open Windows Security.
- Select Virus & threat protection and then click Protection history.
- In the list of all recent items, filter on Quarantined Items.
- Select an item you want to keep and take an action, such as restore.
Those are our top guaranteed solutions for recovering deleted downloads. We always begin by trying out the first five methods, as they are simple and fast. However, when we run into actual trouble, such as permanently deleting files or not being able to re-download attachments, we fall back upon Disk Drill. It has been easy to use, extremely intuitive, and the pricing is very attractive to us.
Accidental file deletion is not an apocalyptic moment, although it sure may seem to be so. Especially on Windows, there are many ways of recovering your deleted downloads, such as restoring them, redownloading them, and looking for them in the right folders.
When these methods fail, you can count on excellent data recovery applications which reliably recover your data in no time.
Joshua is a content curator for Handy Recovery. His expertise involves taking intricate IT concepts and breaking them down into super easy to understand chunks. He’s been wielding the writing sword for quite some time now - 3 years to be precise. Digital marketing, data recovery, and anything “techy” are Joshua’s niches.
Andrey Vasilyev is an Editorial Advisor for Handy Recovery. Andrey is a software engineer expert with extensive expertise in data recovery, computer forensics, and data litigation. Andrey brings over 12 years of experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair to the team.