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Recover Deleted Files in OneDrive

The safety net you might not be aware of.

If you're using OneDrive for your regular work, its recycle bin provides an extra layer of backup and protection.
OneDrive's Recycle Bin
OneDrive’s recycle bin. (Screenshot:

You’ve deleted some files on your computer and you’ve emptied the recycle bin on your hard disk.

Now you wish you hadn’t deleted that one important file. Whoops.

On top of that, you did all this a few days ago, so data recovery tools are unlikely to work.

If you’ve been doing your work within your OneDrive folder, however, there is hope.

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Recovering files from OneDrive's Recycle Bin

If you delete a file stored in OneDrive, you can recover it from OneDrive’s recycle bin online for up to 30 days. This feature acts as an extra layer of backup. However, don’t rely solely on recycle bins — either on your computer or OneDrive — as permanent storage.

OneDrive’s Recycle Bin

Did you know OneDrive has a recycle bin of its own? For the longest time, I didn’t. It wasn’t until the scenario I outlined above actually happened to me1 that I found it out of desperation.

OneDrive’s recycle bin works just like the recycle bin on your PC: when you delete a file in your OneDrive folder, it’s not really deleted but is instead moved to your OneDrive recycle bin.

OneDrive’s recycle bin is completely separate from the recycle bin on your computer and has different rules about how long it keeps things. Your computer’s recycle bin permanently deletes older files to make room when it fills up. The OneDrive recycle bin permanently deletes files after 30 days.

How to use the OneDrive Recycle Bin

For this example, I’ll start with three files in the OneDrive folder on my computer.

Three photos in a OneDrive folder.
Three photos in a OneDrive folder. Click for larger image. (Screenshot:

Those files are on my computer, in a subfolder of my OneDrive folder called “C:\Users\askle\OneDrive\MyPictures”. Since they’re in my OneDrive folder, they’ve also automatically been uploaded to my online OneDrive account.

Three photos at
The same three photos at Click for larger image. (Screenshot:

For clarity, my OneDrive recycle bin is empty. You can view the contents of your own OneDrive recycle bin by clicking on the Recycle bin item on the left-hand menu in OneDrive online.

OneDrive's Recycle Bin
OneDrive’s recycle bin. Click for larger image. (Screenshot:

On my computer, I delete one of the files.

Two files left on my computer.
Two files left on my computer. (Screenshot:

Within a few seconds (or minutes, depending on your internet connection), that deletion is mirrored to OneDrive online, and I’m left with the same two files in both locations.

Two files left in OneDrive online.
Two files left in OneDrive online. (Screenshot:

Restoring a recycled file

In OneDrive online, click on that Recycle Bin link in the left-hand menu to view a list of files deleted in the last 30 days. In my case, that’s the file I just deleted. You can right-click on the file you want to restore and click on Restore, or, as I do below, click the selection box in front of the file and then click on Restore near the top (this technique allows you to select multiple files to restore at once).

Restoring a file in OneDrive online.
Restoring a file in OneDrive online. Click for larger image. (Screenshot:

The file will be restored to its previous location in your OneDrive folder online. As soon as your computer’s OneDrive app synchronizes (typically in a few seconds or minutes), the file will reappear on your computer as well.

Do this

As a matter of safety and general philosophy, you should never count on the recycle bin.

I say that because I hear from people who purposely place things in their recycle bin and are surprised when those things disappear — either through the mechanisms I described earlier or through explicit recycle-bin cleaning. The recycle bin is not meant as a place to keep things; it’s a safety net and nothing more. If you want to keep files but want them out of your way, create and manage your own folders. Then you remain in control.

That being said, OneDrive’s recycle bin is a pretty nifty safety net. You hope you never need it, but it’s great to know that OneDrive has your back.

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Footnotes & References

1: Fortunately, given my propensity to back up early and often, my use of OneDrive was merely a convenience — but depending on your own backup strategy, it can be downright life-saving.

9 comments on “Recover Deleted Files in OneDrive”

  1. Thanks for teaching us about ‘this recycle bin that separately exists’ on one drive online in a non-synchronized manner. I was completely unaware of this feature. The ask leo articles have become a part of my life and I get a smile of happiness on my face when I see an email from ASK LEO in my mailbox. Personally, I do not use recycle bin and always use shift+del command. I just think deeply more than once before erasing anything or formatting any hard drive or CD. Since this prolonged practice has made me so perfect, the phrase “you’ve deleted some files on your computer, and you’ve emptied the Recycle Bin. Now you wish you hadn’t deleted that one important file. Whoops.” makes me laugh and remember my childhood days when I, while having never learned the shift+del command, used to work on windows 95 and used the recycle bin.

    • I rarely use the SHIFT+Delete method, but one time I accidentally SHIFT+Deleted a file I wished I hadn’t. I went to the Recycle Bin on the OneDrive website and it was at the top of the list. The files are displayed in descending date order so it’s easy to find the recent deletions.

  2. Hello.. I deleted 6000 photos from my one drive not knowing it would delete it from windows computer storage as well. It appears my recycle bin could only store 1600 because that’s all I could restore. How do I get the other 4500 photos? Thanx, Bryan

  3. I had my Excel spreadsheets set on AutoSave, and one of the files said it was corrupted when I tried to open it on my computer. No problem, I thought. I’ll just get it from OneDrive. That didn’t work, as it AutoSaved the corrupted file as soon as it tried to open it. So everything was lost as far as OneDrive was concerned. Fortunately, I had saved the file on an external hard drive several days before so I had the majority of the file. I no longer use AutoSave, or maybe I was expecting OneDrive to act as a backup, not just a synchronized file. What am I missing here?

    • I turned of Autosave in Excel and Word. Another problem is that you may make a bunch of changes and not want to save them, but with Autosave, it gets saved when you exit without giving you a chance to say don’t save.
      One problem is that I’ve had Autosave enabled with some Office updates. Why can’t you get it together Microsoft and leave our settings alone?

  4. Hello, I very much appreciate the lessons on OneDrive. Is it possible to transfer or copy files from my out-of-space and frozen Onedrive to my External Hard Drive? If so, how do I do that? Thanks!

    • Move them from the OneDrive folder to the external drive the same way you would move from any other folder. Moving it will remove it from Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud and free up space on it.

      Be sure to keep a backup of those moved files.


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