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How to Recover Data After a Faulty Windows Update

Windows 10 has mandatory updates to the operating system. Although it is possible to delay them, eventually you will have to update. The nice thing is that Windows will delay sending the update to your machine until it has been proven to be compatible. That said, while most of it goes off without a hitch, there are times when things go wrong. This can be especially true if you have manually forced an update before it’s ready for your machine.

We’re going to talk through how to recover your data after a Windows Update has made it disappear.

The first thing to check is to ensure you’re not signed in to a temporary user account. This can sometimes happen automatically after an update. To check, press Windows key + I to open Settings and go to Accounts > Sync your settings. If there’s a message at the top about being logged in to a temporary profile, restart your machine until you see your account on the sign-in page.

Depending on your method of update, a copy of your previous installation may be sitting within a Windows.old file. To find this, press Windows key + E to open File Explorer. On the left-hand pane, click This PC and go into your local disk drive. Here you should see the Windows.old folder. Double click it to open, then go into the Users folder. Any saved personal files will be here.

You may not even see the Windows.old file. This will be because you did a clean install, something went awry during the update process, or Windows has automatically deleted the folder if it’s been more than 10 days since the update.

Although your files might not be in this folder, they could be elsewhere on your computer. Again, press Windows key + E to open File Explorer and go to This PC. At the top right is a search box – use this to hunt down your files. It’s especially helpful if you can remember part of the file name, but you can also use an asterisk as a wildcard search. For example, searching for *.pdf will show you all PDF files.

Alternatively, your files might be where you expect them to be, but hidden. Click the View tab on File Explorer and, within the Show/hide section, tick Hidden items. This will then reveal any files that were previously hidden.

If you still can’t find your files, you should use data recovery software. Although your data might not be visible to you, it’s actually only overwritten when something else is allocated to its space. Data recovery software scans through this to bring back that hidden data.

For the future, you should always run regular system backups so that you can easily restore your data from a secondary copy. You can use the inbuilt Windows tools for this or get some specialised software. The main takeaway is that backup should be part of your regular PC schedule to prevent headaches when Windows Update disasters might strike.


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