New Windows 10 tool: This free Microsoft app helps you recover deleted or corrupted data

Microsoft's new command-line app can help advanced Windows users recover deleted files and photos.

After Windows 10 upgrade, use this checklist to ensure safety and privacy

Microsoft has released a new Windows 10 utility called Windows File Recovery that helps users recover damaged or deleted files. 

The tool, spotted by Windows leaker Walking Cat, is for Windows 10 version 2004 and above and promises to help users recover from PC disasters involving lost memories and work. 

"Accidentally deleted an important file? Wiped clean your hard drive? Unsure of what to do with corrupted data? Windows File Recovery can help recover your personal data," Microsoft says on the Microsoft Store listing for the app

SEE: Windows 10 Start menu hacks (TechRepublic Premium) 

"For photos, documents, videos and more, Windows File Recovery supports many file types to help ensure that your data is not permanently lost." 

Microsoft recommends 'Signature' mode for recovering data from a camera or an SD card since it expands beyond Microsoft NT file system (NTFS) recovery.

"Let this app be your first choice for helping to find what you need from your hard drive, SSD (*limited by TRIM), USB drive, or memory cards," it says. 

The tool is for more advanced Windows users who are familiar with Microsoft's command-line interpreter, Command Prompt (cmd). 

Microsoft's support page describes Windows File Recovery as a command-line app that can be used to try to recover files that have been deleted from local storage and can't be restored from the Recycle Bin. It does not support recovery from cloud storage and network file shares. 

Microsoft warns that people who need to use the tool should minimize or avoid using the computer before recovering the files because of the way NTFS works. 

"In the Windows file system, the space used by a deleted file is marked as free space, which means the file data can still exist and be recovered. But any use of your computer can create files, which may overwrite this free space at any time." 

SEE: Microsoft Edge is stealing Chrome users' data? I asked Microsoft if it's true

The three modes available in Windows File Recovery include Default, Segment, and Signature. 

Only Signature mode can enable recovering files from non-NTFS file systems, such as FAT and exFAT for SD cards and USB drives, or ReFS for Windows Server and Windows Pro for Workstations. 

The recommended modes are as follows in the table below for different circumstances. 

File System

Circumstances

Recommended mode

NTFS

Deleted recently

Default

Deleted a while ago

First try Segment, then Signature

After formatting a disk

A corrupted disk

FAT, exFAT, ReFS

Recovery file type is supported (See following table)

Signature

Default mode uses the Master File Table (MFT) to locate lost files. "Default mode works well when the MFT and file segments, also called File Record Segments (FRS), are present," says Microsoft. 

Segment mode does not require the MFT but does require segments. "Segments are summaries of file information that NTFS stores in the MFT such as name, date, size, type and the cluster/allocation unit index," it says. 

Signature mode only requires that the data is present and searches for specific file types. "It doesn't work for small files. To recover a file on an external storage device, such as a USB drive, you can only use Signature mode," says the support note.