If you are looking for the Windows 10 article on how to recover or rollback to an earlier version of Windows click here.
Windows 10 now supports a Recovery / Rollback feature that allows you to go back to the version of Windows installed on your PC prior to installing the latest build of Windows 10.
How to recover delete files using the Restore Previous Versions feature in Windows 7
You accidently or intentionally deleted a file and then emptied the Recycle Bin or you may have edited a Word, Excel or Power Point document. The next day or later in the week wish you hadn’t and frantically check the Recycle Bin and search your folders only to realize its no longer there. It would appear that all is lost which was the case in Windows XP and even some versions of Windows Vista.
However Windows 7 includes a rarely documented feature that just may stop you from screaming, pulling your hair out and save your day by recovering that all important file.
Behind the scenes Windows creates “Shadow copies” of your documents daily. The ‘Restore previous versions’ option is now part of ‘System Restore’, more specifically the volume shadow copy service. Typically restore points are used to help undo or “roll back” changes to your computer by applications or newly installed Windows Updates should a problem occur. In the past a restore point could not help you recover a deleted file, but now you may be able to.
By default, shadow copy will save a copy of your files once a day, or triggered into action such as when installing an update or new program. This is all managed by the Windows Task Scheduler. By making some changes to the ‘System Restore’ schedule you can create more frequent backups of documents as I’ll show you later in this article.
How do I access Previous Versions? It is simple to access previous versions of any of your document files or folders on your Windows 7 computer. Simply open Windows Explorer, right-click on a file or folder you wish to restore a file from, and select “Restore Previous Versions.” For instance, if you accidently deleted a file from a folder in your user account’s Documents folder, browse to that folder, then expand it thus showing the ‘My Documents’ and ‘Public Documents’ sub folders. Now right click on ‘My Documents’ and from the drop down list select ‘Restore previous versions’.
The ‘My Documents Properties’ window will show a listing of all folder versions by date that have been included as part of one or more restore points. You can also perform file comparisons by opening multiple Shadow Copy backups as I’ll show you later.
Double click on the date and time to view the contents or alternately highlight the folder and click the ‘Open’ button.
You can open some types of documents (.txt) and photos to view the contents as saved in a restore point / Shadow Copy backup by double clicking to open the file. This takes the uncertainty as to what the contents of a document or edited photo contained (before you restore it) when the shadow copy backup was created.
Note: If after selecting the ‘Date and Time’ for a specific folder and if you click on the ‘Restore’ button located in the lower right corner, the entire contents of the backup is restored, use this option carefully as newer version of a document or other data files can be overwritten by an older version which you may not want.
If you choose ‘Copy’ option, the entire contents of the folder as it was at that point in time can be copied to another local folder or to a location on an external USB drive.
You can also ‘Copy’ a single file from the Shadow Copy backup and ‘Paste’ it back to it original location.
File comparisons can be performed by opening multiple Shadow Copy backups. Each window will display the date and time of all files contained within the ‘Previous Version’ you are comparing.