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July 11, 2020

Command Line Windows File Recovery Tool Surfaces at MS Store

Here’s something a bit odd, but interesting. A new tool named Windows File Recovery made its debut at the Microsoft Store over the weekend. What makes it odd is that the tool runs only at the command line (the MS Store tends more to dispensing UWP apps). What makes it interesting is the the tool offers a free, Microsoft-built capability to restore deleted files, recover deleted partitions, and attempt to make sense of corrupted data on storage media. Nothing loath, I downloaded, installed, and ran the tool to see how it would work. To my surprise and delight, it is smart enough to launch an Administrator-level command window (cmd.exe). So the first thing I looked at was its help info:

Windows File Recovery online help

The help info the winfr command is pretty straightforward. Lots of options are provided to help limit the scope of repairs. I soon found out why.
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Winfr Is a THOROUGH Recovery Tool

I turned Winfr loose on my C: drive to see what it could see and recovery. Turned out, it was a HUGE amount of stuff: 3.32 GB of file size and 3.41 GB of on-disk storage. It created a folder named Recovery_20200629_102451 into which it poured 47,263 files. I had to use TreeSize to make sense of it, as shown in this text-base summary of what the utility turned up:

Once I took a closer look many of the files were cache items from various Web browsers. These get routinely deleted to clean out their various caches, and apparently litter my C: drive in enormous profusion.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

This pretty much proved to me that Winfr knows what it’s about and is pretty adept at recovering deleted files and reporting on damaged ones. I haven’t messed around with it at the partition level just yet, but if you need a low-cost/no-cost deleted file recovery tool, this could be extremely helpful. You’ll want to learn to steer the tool clear of the browser cache files on a boot/system drive though, or you’ll have to wade through mountains of stuff that nobody (except perhaps a forensics investigator) could possibly care about. Looks like that means if you exclude the primary user’s ...\AppData\Local folder hierarchy you can skip a lot of distractions. Best of all, however, is to use the extensions groups capability or to use a filter with the filter search tool to look for specific filename strings. Otherwise, you risk drowning in data, much of it extraneous. That’s not the tool’s fault, though: you just need to learn how to use it in a well-targeted way. I’m still figuring that out…

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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