Software & Apps File Types 31 31 people found this article helpful How Long Is Too Long Before a File Is Unrecoverable? Can I undelete files that were deleted a long time ago? by Tim Fisher General Manager, VP, Lifewire.com Tim Fisher has 30+ years' professional technology support experience. He writes troubleshooting content and is the General Manager of Lifewire. our editorial process Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Tim Fisher Updated on June 15, 2020 File Types Design Cryptocurrency MS Office Windows Linux Google Drive Apps File Types Backup & Utilities View More Tweet Share Email It it too late to recover a deleted file? If the file you want back was deleted recently, it's much more likely to be undeletable than a file that was removed days or weeks ago, and especially something deleted longer than that. The reason this works at all is because when you delete a file, you don't really remove the data, only the directions to it. The space occupied by that data is marked as free and will eventually be overwritten. The key, then, is to minimize the writing of data to the drive that contains the deleted file. Archive Holdings Inc. / Archive Photos / Getty Images In other words, the less writing activity (saving files, installing software, etc.) on the drive, the longer, in general, the deleted files on that drive will be able to be recovered. For example, if you delete a saved video and then promptly turn off your computer and leave it off for three years, you could theoretically turn the computer back on, run a file recovery program, and completely restore that file. This is because very little data has had a chance to have been written to the drive, potentially overwriting the video. Recovering Files in Real Life In a more realistic example, let's say you delete a saved video. For weeks, or even just days, you use your computer normally, downloading more videos, editing some photos, etc. Depending on things like how big the drive you're working from is, the amount of data you're writing to the drive, and the size of the deleted video, chances are it won't be recoverable. In general, the larger a file is, the shorter time frame you have to undelete it. This is because the parts of a larger file are spread over a larger swath of your physical drive, increasing the likelihood of part of the file being overwritten. See Should I Use a File Recovery Tool's Portable or Installable Option? for help avoiding the most devastating, and ironic, thing you can do when trying to recover deleted files.