It’s easy to accidentally make an unwanted change to a file or overwrite it with a different one and notice the mistake only after a long time has passed. Fortunately, it’s possible to restore a previous version of a file on Windows 10/11 using native features and third-party tools. This article details multiple methods to help you get back the original file so that you don’t have to recreate it.

How to Restore a File or Folder to a Previous Version

Both Windows 10 and Windows 11 come with a native backup and restore feature called File History. This feature saves incremental copies of files stored in the Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, and Desktop folders on your computer, as well as the OneDrive files available offline on your PC.

If File History had been enabled when you changed or overwrote your file, then you can use it to painlessly restore the original version. Here’s how to perform a previous file recovery with it:

  1. Launch File Explorer and navigate to the folder where the file whose previous version you want to restore is located.
  2. Right-click the file you want to restore and select the Restore previous versions option.restore previous versions context menu
  3. Choose the previous version you want to restore the file to.
  4. Click the Restore button to restore the file to a previous version. Click OK when done.sticky notes file version in Properties
  5. Verify if the file has been successfully restored.
  1. Launch File Explorer and navigate to the folder where the file whose previous version you want to restore is located.
  2. Right-click the file you want to restore, select Show more options, and then select the Restore previous versions option.show more options win11
  3. Choose the previous version you want to restore the file to.
  4. Click the Restore button to restore the file to a previous version. Click OK when done.sticky notes file version in Properties
  5. Verify if the file has been successfully restored.
Note: Alternatively, you can click the down-facing caret next to Restore and select the Restore to option to avoid overwriting the current file.

That’s how to restore a file to a previous version using the File History feature. Best of all, File History can also be used to restore a folder to a previous version.

How to Recover Files Without Previous Versions in a Few Easy Steps

If no previous versions are available in File History, then you need to follow the steps below to restore the previous versions of your files.

Step #1: Search Your Windows PC

Even when it’s not possible to restore previous versions of your files using File History, there could still be older copies of your files somewhere on your Windows PC—you just need to find them using the built-in search feature in File Explorer.

file explorer search feature

We recommend you search all folders across all connected storage devices. Pay special attention to the folder where the file you want to change back to an earlier version is currently located, and don’t forget to look inside the Downloads folder as well.

Step #2: Retrieve Your File from OneDrive

Many Windows 7/10/11 users back up important files, especially Excel, Word, and PowerPoint documents, to Microsoft’s cloud storage service, OneDrive. What’s great about OneDrive is that it keeps the version history of backed-up files, allowing you to revert a file to a previous version from anywhere and on any device. This is how:

  1. Go to: http://onedrive.com/
  2. Sign in to your OneDrive account.
  3. Right-click the file you want to restore and choose.
  4. Choose the Version history option.onedrive version history
  5. Select the version you want to restore, click the three vertical dots, and select the Restore option.onedrive restore older version

In addition to its ability to recover overwritten files to previous versions, OneDrive can also be used to recover cloud backups of permanently deleted files.

Step #3: Check the Windows Backup and Restore Feature

Since Windows Vista, all versions of Microsoft’s operating system have come with a backup component called Backup and Restore. This feature can back up files and folders, create system images, and recover data in the event of data corruption, storage device failure, or malware infection.

To check the Windows Backup and Restore feature:

  1. Open the Start menu.
  2. Type “control panel” and press Enter to launch the Control Panel app.
  3. Navigate to System and Maintenance > Backup and Restore.windows backup restore
Note: Backup and Restore won’t work unless it has already been set up on your Windows PC.

Step #4: Restore Permanently Deleted Files With a Recovery Tool

Have you exhausted all native ways to restore files to their previous versions and still no luck? Then it’s time to give data recovery apps a try. With their help, you can restore permanently deleted files, including older backup copies that have been deleted a while ago and are no longer present in the Recycle Bin.

There are many data recovery apps you can use as a Windows user, and we recommend Disk Drill for Windows (read its full review) because it offers:

  • 🖌️ Modern user interface designed with regular Windows users in mind.
  • 🧠 One-click smart data recovery process.
  • 🗃️ State-of-the art-data recovery algorithms with support for hundreds of file formats.
  • 🖼️ The ability to preview recoverable files.
  • 💿 Extra backup and data protection features.

Here’s how to restore permanently deleted files with Disk Drill for Windows:

  1. Download the data recovery software from its official website.
  2. Open the downloaded installer and follow the instructions.disk drill install win11
  3. Launch Disk Drill and select the storage device where the permanently deleted files you want to restore were last located.
  4. Click the Search for lost data button to initiate a scan.disk drill search for lost data
  5. Wait for the scan to finish and then go through the scan results.
  6. You can use Disk Drill’s search feature and filters to narrow down the scan results.
  7. Select the files you want to recover.
  8. Click the Recover button.disk drill windows 11 recover
  9. Specify a suitable recovery destination (you should never recover files to the drive from which you’re recovering them).disk drill windows 11 destination
  10. Confirm to complete the recovery process.
Tip: Disk Drill can also help you recover files lost during cut and paste.

FAQ

Conclusion

Windows 10 and 11 users can use multiple methods to restore previous versions of files. They can restore files with File History, retrieve them from OneCloud, or use the Backup and Restore feature. Should all native recovery options fail, they can call in reinforcements in the form of data recovery software like Disk Drill.