How to Recover Unsaved or Deleted Photoshop Files

There’s nothing worse than losing a Photoshop file that you were working on, no matter if it was caused by an untimely computer/software crash or by accidentally deleting the wrong file. 

Whatever the reason, don’t panic! There’s a good chance that you can still recover your file. It doesn’t work in every situation, but there is still some hope. 

Take a deep, calming breath, and then let’s take a closer look at how to recover unsaved and deleted Photoshop files! 

Recover Unsaved Photoshop Files

If Photoshop closed unexpectedly due to a program error, OS error, or power outage, you might still be able to get your file back thanks to Photoshop’s automatic recovery features. The best part is that you don’t actually have to do anything to make it work! The file recovery feature is enabled by default.

Just open Photoshop again, and it should automatically load any files that you were working on when you had your unexpected exit. 

The file will be renamed to include the word ‘Recovered’ as shown above, and you can save a new copy with your desired file name. 

I recommend that you get in the habit of saving a backup copy in at least two locations for every important file that you work on! 

Adjust Recovery Settings in the Photoshop Preferences 

Photoshop doesn’t constantly save a recovery copy of your file every time you make a small change, because that would wind up taking up a lot of resources. 

Instead, it saves recovery information at a fixed time interval, and the contents of your recovered file will only be available from the last recovery point.

By default, Photoshop saves a copy of your working files every 10 minutes, but you can adjust this in the Photoshop preferences.

On a PC, open the Edit menu, select the Preferences submenu, and click File Handling.

On a Mac, open the Photoshop application menu, select the Preferences submenu, and click File Handling

Locate the entry labeled Automatically Save Recovery Information Every: (as highlighted above) and select your desired time interval from the dropdown menu. 

You can choose to automatically save a backup copy every 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or 1 hour, although for some reason there is no option to enter a custom time interval.

If you’re making a lot of changes to your document but you’re forced to use an unstable computer or you’re working with inconsistent power conditions, it’s probably a good idea to set your recovery save time to 5 minutes. 

Recover Deleted Files from the Creative Cloud

If your Photoshop file was stored in the Creative Cloud instead of just your local computer, then you’re in luck! The Creative Cloud system keeps track of your deleted files for just such a situation, and you can recover them easily. 

Open the Creative Cloud app, select the Files tab, and then select the Deleted section from the list in the left pane of the window, as shown below.

The right pane will update to display all the files that you deleted from the Creative Cloud. Select the file you want to recover, and click the Recover button from the actions panel at the right edge of the window, as shown below. You can also right-click on the file you want to recover and click Restore.

If the file you want to recover isn’t in the list, click the link in the upper right corner To view all deleted items, go to Creative Cloud on the web which will open your web browser and take you to the appropriate section of your Creative Cloud account. 

Locate the file you want to recover from the list, and click the More Actions button at the right side of the list entry. Select Restore from the popup menu that appears – just make sure you don’t click Permanently Delete by accident! 

Recover Deleted Photoshop Files from Your Computer

If you’ve accidentally deleted a Photoshop file from your own computer or a storage drive you have physical access to, then you might still be able to get it back, but this is the most difficult situation for recovering files. 

The most important thing to remember is that you should try not to save any new files to your computer until you have attempted recovery of your deleted file. When a file gets deleted, most storage devices don’t actually erase the section of the drive that stored your data, they just mark it as ‘free space’ so that new files can overwrite the old data. 

As long as nothing has overwritten the section of your storage drive that originally contained your deleted file, you can probably get the file back. 

This makes it a good idea to have some data rescue software tools already installed before you have a problem!  If you have to download new files before you can run the recovery app, you risk overwriting the section of the drive that contains your missing file – but sometimes that’s a risk you have to take. 

Of course, if your deleted file was located on an external storage drive, there’s nothing to worry about! 

Recovering Deleted Files using Stellar Data Recovery

As long as your deleted file is under 100 MB in size, you can use the free version of Stellar Data Recovery to recover your file. If the file is larger than 100 MB, you’ll have to pay to use the full version of the program. 

Stellar Data Recovery Free is available for Windows and macOS, so you can use the same instructions no matter what OS you use. The screenshots I’ve included here are from the macOS version, but the PC version looks almost identical. 

Run in the installer file, and follow the on-screen prompts. When the installation is complete, launch the program. 

Stellar Data Recovery considers Photoshop documents to be part of the Photos category, so you can speed up the scanning process by disabling the Recover Everything setting and just enabling Photos. 

Click the Next button, then select the storage drive that contained your deleted file. 

Click the Scan button to begin the scanning process. If your scan comes back with no results, try enabling the Deep Scan option in the bottom left corner of the previous window where you selected the storage device. 

If the scan is successful, Stellar will give you a quick notification telling you what it found. Click the OK button to see a list of all recoverable files. 

There’s my deleted Photoshop document, ready to be recovered! To recover your files, check the empty box next to each file you want to recover in the file list and click the Recover button. 

Stellar will prompt you for a new location to save the recovered files. Select a location, and click Save one last time. 

If everything goes smoothly, you should be able to access your deleted files from the location you specified. 

A Final Word

This probably isn’t what you want to hear when you’re frantically trying to recover a lost file, but hopefully, the instructions above helped you get your file back – and now it’s time to make sure that this never happens again! 

The best solution to accidentally deleted or destroyed files is to simply access a backup copy. You don’t have to roll the dice and hope that your data recovery software will be able to find it, and you’ll never have to worry about problems with corrupted drives, ransomware, malware, or any of the other issues that plague our data-driven world. 

Make sure that you store your important digital files in at least two separate locations, preferably in two separate physical locations!

About Thomas Boldt
Thomas started his Photoshop career way back in 2000. After exploring Photoshop 5.5 in a high school computer lab, he developed an enduring passion for photography, design, and technology that carried him through a Bachelor of Design degree and into the wild world of tech startups.

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