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How to Find and Restore Files That Disappeared from Your Desktop

How to Find and Restore Files That Disappeared from Your Desktop

Encountering the sudden disappearance of files from your desktop on a Windows PC can be a nightmare for anyone who relies heavily on their computer for work or personal matters. Fortunately, there are methods to retrieve these lost files and alleviate the panic you might be feeling. In this article, we’ll explore several methods to recover files that have seemingly vanished from your desktop, with a focus on using the renowned recovery software, Disk Drill. For an in-depth Disk Drill review, which covers various data loss scenarios, this page contains avery detailed review on Disk Drill.


Common Scenarios:

Accidental Deletion 🗑

  • Oftentimes, files may disappear due to accidental deletion, which can occur when you inadvertently press the delete key or perform a batch delete without realizing that important files are selected.
  • Files deleted in this manner typically end up in the Recycle Bin, from which they can usually be restored with ease.

System Errors 🔧

  • System-related issues such as corrupted system files, improper shutdowns, or software conflicts can lead to the disappearance of desktop files.
  • In such cases, recovery might involve repairing system files or using software like Disk Drill to reclaim the lost data.

Malware Attacks 🦠

  • Viruses and malware can cause files to disappear by either moving them to unknown locations or encrypting them, making them inaccessible.
  • While an anti-virus solution may remove the malware, recovering the files often requires specialized file recovery tools.

Step-by-Step Guide. Files Disappeared From Desktop Windows:

Method 1: Check Recycle Bin 🗑

  • Open the Recycle Bin by double-clicking on its icon on the desktop.
  • Look for your missing files in the list. If present, right-click on them and select ‘Restore’.
  • Files should reappear on your desktop after the restoration process.

Note: This method only works for files that have not been permanently deleted from the Recycle Bin.

Conclusion: Checking the Recycle Bin should be the first step in recovering files as it is simple and often successful.

Method 2: Use File History 🕒

  • Go to Settings > Update & Security > Backup and ensure ‘File History’ is turned on.
  • Select ‘More options’ > ‘Restore files from a current backup’.
  • Browse through the folders and select the files to recover, then click the ‘Restore’ button to retrieve them.

Note: File History must be enabled prior to the data loss for this method to work.

Conclusion: File History is an effective way to recover previous versions of files, provided it was set up before the files went missing.

Method 3: Recover Files with Disk Drill 💽

  • Download and install Disk Drill from its official website.
  • Run the software and select the drive where your desktop files were originally stored.
  • Click on the ‘Search for lost data’ button to initiate the scan.
  • Once the scan is complete, browse through the found files, select the ones you wish to recover, and hit the ‘Recover’ button.

Note: It’s recommended to recover files to a drive different from the one where they were lost to prevent overwriting.

Conclusion: Disk Drill is a robust tool for retrieving lost files, with advanced file recovery features that can save the day in dire situations.

Method 4: Restore Previous Version 👴

  • Right-click on the desktop folder or the area where your file was located and select ‘Restore Previous Versions’.
  • Choose a version of the folder from before the files disappeared and click on ‘Restore’.
  • Confirm the restoration to bring back your lost files.

Note: This method hinges on System Restore being active and having created restore points prior to the loss of files.

Conclusion: Restoring previous versions can help you quickly recover files without using third-party software.

Method 5: Unhide Hidden Files 🙈

  • In File Explorer, go to the ‘View’ tab and click on ‘Options’ to open Folder Options.
  • Select the ‘View’ tab and under Advanced settings, choose ‘Show hidden files, folders, and drives’.
  • Click ‘OK’ and check your desktop for the previously hidden files.

Note: Some files may be hidden by system settings or user actions, this method reveals them again.

Conclusion: Hidden files can often be the cause of ‘disappearance’, and adjusting view settings is a quick fix.

Method 6: Scan for Malware 🔍

  • Use a reliable anti-virus program to perform a thorough scan of your computer.
  • If malware is detected, let the anti-virus software proceed with the recommended actions to quarantine or remove it.
  • After the malware removal, use file recovery software, such as Disk Drill, to attempt the recovery of any affected files.

Note: Always ensure your anti-virus software is up-to-date for effective protection and recovery.

Conclusion: Attack of malware often leads to file disappearance, and removing it is the first step towards recovery.


Youtube video to watch


Precautions and Tips:

Stay Prepared 🛡

  • Regularly back up your files to external drives or cloud storage solutions.
  • Enable ‘File History’ in Windows to automatically back up your documents.

Immediate Actions 💡

  • Avoid writing new data to the drive where files have disappeared to prevent overwriting.
  • Stop using the affected PC until you have completed the file recovery process to minimize data loss.

Proactive Measures

One of the most effective ways to prevent the loss of important files is to take proactive measures. In addition to regularly scheduled backups, consider utilizing Windows Backup and Restore functionality. This feature allows you to create system images and file backups, which can be restored if necessary.

Another critical aspect of file safety comes from understanding the risk of physical hard drive damage. External drives are prone to failure due to mishandling, environmental factors, or simply because of their mechanical nature. Read up on the signs of failing drives on the Backblaze blog so you can replace or clone drives before catastrophic data loss occurs.

File organization can also play a role in data recovery. Clearly labeled folders and a structured file organization system help in quickly identifying lost files and assessing the extent of any loss. Developing a habit of categorizing and storing files properly not only reduces the risk of accidental deletion but also makes recovery efforts more straightforward in case of data loss.


As frustrating as it can be to have files disappear from your desktop, there are multiple recovery methods available that cater to different data loss scenarios. By using tools like Disk Drill and implementing the wisdom shared in the tips and proactive measures, your chances of retrieving your valuable data increase significantly. Remember, the key to successful data recovery often lies in the immediacy of your response and the effectiveness of your preparedness strategy.


Files can disappear due to accidental deletion, virus attacks, system updates, or user profile changes. Sometimes, they're simply moved or hidden, not truly gone.

To check for hidden files, open Windows Explorer, click ‘View’ at the top, then check the ‘Hidden items’ box to reveal any concealed files.

Yes, System Restore can revert your system to a previous state where the files were still present on the desktop, but it won't recover personal files.

Yes, malware can remove or hide files. Run a comprehensive anti-virus scan to check for and remove any threats. For example, use Malwarebytes.

Although rare, a faulty Windows update might result in user profile corruption, which can make files seem to disappear from the desktop.

Access the ‘C:Users’ directory and navigate to your old profile folder to find your files. Then, copy them back to your current desktop folder.

First look in the ‘Windows.old’ folder; updates sometimes archive older files there. Additionally, check the updated user account folders.

If you've previously set up File History, you can restore files by going to Settings > Update & Security > Backup > More options > Restore files from a current backup.

Check the Recycle Bin, as deleted files often reside there before they are permanently removed. Simply restore any found files to your desktop.

Many third-party data recovery tools can effectively recover lost or deleted files, such as EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard.