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Chromebooks are the perfect device for many people due to their simple user interface and relatively low cost. If you're willing to spend a little more money, you'll find many of the top Chromebooks include premium features like fingerprint scanners, and 4K screens. ChromeOS, Google's custom operating system that's based on the Chrome browser, is more capable than many people think.

Much like Microsoft Windows and Mac devices, ChromeOS has Files app for all your documents. What sets the OS apart is that it didn't have a dedicated Trash folder enabled by default until 2022. If you're using an older version of the OS, you may not see a trash folder until you update. Even if you do have a Trash folder, it's a good idea to back up your Chromebook.

Deleted files eventually disappear

It may sound obvious, but before you delete files from your hard drive, it's a good idea to make sure you won't need them again. Once files are deleted, they are stored in your Chromebook's recycle bin called the Trash folder. Even though they are stored in the trash, they are only there for 30 days before they are permanently deleted. This policy makes sure recently deleted files stick around in case you change your mind. However, they don't stick around too long and eat up your device's storage. The moral of the story is to decide if you need a file before you delete it.

A trash bin without a lid and filled with colorful balls with a smiley face on it on a blurred colorful background

This tutorial deals specifically with locating and restoring individual files on your Chromebook. If all of your files are missing or corrupted, you'll want to check our guide to recovering lost data on your Chromebook.

How to find files you accidentally deleted on ChromeOS

To access your deleted files, you'll first need to find them.

  1. Open the Files app on your Chromebook.
  2. On the left side, tap the Trash option.
  3. You'll see all of your deleted files.
    The Trash section of the Files app on a Chromebook

Restore a deleted file on your Chromebook

If there's a file you deleted and you want it back, you can restore it. It must be restored within 30 days of deleting it, or it will be gone. To restore a file:

  1. Launch the Files app on your Chromebook.
  2. Tap the Trash folder on the left side.
  3. Right-click on the file name of the file you'd like to restore.
  4. Tap the Restore from trash option in the drop-down menu. Alternatively, tap the Alt + Backspace buttons simultaneously when a file is selected to restore it.
    The Restore from Trash option highlighted on a file in the Trash in the Files app on a Chromebook

You have now restored your file. The file goes back to the original location that it was in before it was deleted. For instance, if you deleted a file in your Downloads folder, it goes back to the Downloads folder when you restore it.

How to restore Chromebook files stored in Google Drive

Many people use Google Drive on their Chromebooks as it allows users to access files from any device. You'll see a Google Drive section in the Files app if the feature is enabled. If you're concerned you may not have an internet connection, you can easily set up your Chromebook to use offline

Using Google Drive on your Chromebook allows you to delete files from your Google Drive using the Files app. However, these files do not end up in the trash like files from your local storage. To find and recover files deleted from Google Drive:

  1. Open a browser such as Google Chrome.
  2. Navigate to the Google Drive website.
  3. Tap Trash on the left. Here you'll find your deleted files.
  4. Find the file you'd like to restore and tap the three dots in the upper-right corner.
  5. Select Restore from the list of options.
    Restoring a deleted file from the Trash section of Google Drive

Your file should now be back in your Google Drive and found in the folder you deleted it from.

How to restore Linux files on a Chromebook

Chromebooks can use Linux alongside ChromeOS, which increases its capability. However, since it adds a layer of complexity, restoring files for Linux is a bit more complicated.

  1. Go to the Settings app on your Chromebook.
  2. Tap Advanced, then select Developers on the left.
  3. Select Linux.
  4. Select Backup and Restore.
  5. To restore from a previous backup, tap Restore and tap Restore again.
    • Restoring data from a previous backup leads to data loss since all current Linux data is deleted. Make sure you have all the files you need before you do this.
  6. Select the backup you'd like to restore within the My Files section and tap Open.

After you do this, you'll see a progress bar in the lower-right corner showing you the progress of your backup restoration.

The Linux penguin is the wallpaper on a Chromebook

Do more with ChromeOS and your laptop

Although ChromeOS is intuitive and easy to use, Google's OS is much different than MacOS and Windows. Whether you're a proud new Chromebook owner or are thinking about purchasing one, take a moment to check out our in-depth Chromebook explainer as well our favorite Android apps for ChromeOS.