Tech

Microsoft adds WINFR file undeletion tool to the Microsoft Store

28Views
Enlarge / Although an undeletion utility may occasionally save your bacon, it's never been a good idea to rely on one.AFP via Getty Images / Benjamin Esham / Jim Salter

Although it isn't yet built into Windows, Microsoft has finally released its own file undelete tool—it's called Windows File Recovery, and it works with the newest builds of Windows (variously known as 20H1, 2004, and 19041). We were pretty excited to see this tool has become available—even though proper system administration means frequent backups, which render this tool unnecessary. In the real world, proper system administration and frequent backups are a lot less common than we might wish.

The lack of a proper file undeletion tool in Windows means that many of us have been hoarding one of a handful of old shareware or freemium third-party utilities capable of scanning disks and looking for remnants of deleted files. The "hoarding" part is unfortunately necessary because finding one of those utilities means sorting through stacks of scam apps targeting desperate users—and frequently, you can't be certain whether you've found one of the good ones or one of the scams until after you've installed it (hopefully, inside a sandbox or isolated VM).

Installation

  • Microsoft has an advertising problem—searching Bing (the default search provider in Edge, on a brand new 2004 install) for Windows File Recovery gets you buried in pages of ads for other things. Jim Salter
  • Searching the Microsoft Store isn't any better. Where's Windows File Recovery? Jim Salter
  • We can filter the Microsoft Store search results down to "apps only"—but still no sign yet of Windows File Recovery, in a search for Windows File Recovery. Jim Salter
  • Windows File Recovery only shows up in a search for Windows File Recovery when you narrow the results to apps only, utilities, and tools only. Jim Salter
  • It shouldn't have been this difficult to find it—but finally, we're ready to install Windows File Recovery. Jim Salter
  • Windows File Recovery requires build 19041.0 or later (yet another version of Windows build numbers—this installation is referred to as all three of 20H1, 2004, and 19041.264). We qualify. Jim Salter

It's great news that Microsoft is finally bringing that capability in-house—but the tool certainly could be easier to find. When we looked for Windows File Recovery by name on Bing, in a freshly installed Windows 10 2004 VM, we got buried under pages of ads for other things.

Moving onto the Microsoft Store, the experience was no better—when searching for its exact name, we couldn't find the Windows File Recovery tool until we'd filtered our results first to Apps only, then to Tools & Utilities only.

Once we'd finally found the tool and verified that we met the system requirements, installation was a click away.

On todays episode of “Ars Deletes a File”

  • What kind of monster would delete a beautiful JPG like this one? Jim Salter
  • After deleting the image, we use winfr to attempt to recovery it—filtering recovery attempts to JPGs in my Pictures folder. Jim Salter
  • Even though winfr was the first thing we did after deleting the file, nothing was recovered. Jim Salter
  • In case our filter was somehow overly restrictive, we tried again without it. Still no luck.
  • Maybe, for some reason, winfr doesn't like files DEL'd from the CMD prompt. Let's try shift-delete instead… Jim Salter
  • The shift-deleted file isn't recoverable either—winfr can't help us with anything deleted from our C: drive at all. Jim Salter

Unlike most of the third-party "undelete" utilities winfr supersedes, it's a command-line utility only—users won't get a graphical interface to help them wade through their drive. It's also incredibly picky about where it recovers files to—you'll need a separate storage volume, such as a USB thumb drive, to restore any files to. Attempting to just undelete a file in place earns you a stern rebuke from winfr, and there doesn't appear to be any way to override this behavior.

More importantly, we were unable to get winfr to restore a just-deleted file from our VM's C drive at all. In our first attempt, we created and deleted an empty text file, but winfr couldn't find it. Thinking that perhaps the tool "helpfully" ignored empty files, we tried again, and this time, we put a bit of actual data in our sacrificial text file. There was no change in the results.

To make certain we weren't missing something, we tried again—this time with a large NASA image saved to the PiRead More – Source