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EFS Data Recovery - How To Recover EFS Encrypted Files

Khalid Abdullahi
Khalid Abdullahi Originally published Mar 21, 24, updated Apr 15, 24

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, data security stands as a critical pillar, and Encrypting File System (EFS) is an integral part of maintaining that security for many Windows users. It serves as a safeguard against unauthorized access.

However, your disk partitions aren't immune to problems like disk corruption and partition loss. If any of these scenarios occur on your system, you could experience EFS data loss. Here's how to mitigate the situation and recover your EFS encrypted files.

Table of Content
    1. How To Encrypt and Decrypt Files
    2. How To Open EFS Encrypted Files
    1. You Will Need a Reliable EFS File Recovery Tool
    2. How To Recover EFS Encrypted Files With Wondershare Recoverit

What Is the Encrypting File System (EFS)?

Encrypting File System is an essential security feature that protects critical system data on NTFS file system volumes (hard drives) with an encryption key or certificate using the core file encryption technology. EFS prevents unauthorized users from accessing sensitive system files by restricting access to critical files and folders.

what is the encrypting file system

Third parties must have permission to access these files. If they fail to provide the required credentials, Windows will deny them access to the encrypted data. Once you protect the system drive with the EFS, you cannot move it to another PC. If you move it, you won't be able to access the data on the drive encrypted with EFS.

How Does EFS Work

how efs file encrypting system works

Windows provides multiple methods to encrypt sensitive data, with EFS being one of them. Let's discuss how EFS works and how to open EFS encrypted files.

How To Encrypt and Decrypt Files

EFS is a user-based security control requiring administrator interaction to work. It generates an EFS certificate and private encryption key at a user's request. The private key is stored in the user's profile.

EFS will also create the public key and store it with the encrypted files. Once EFS encrypts the selected files and folders, only the user requesting the encryption can decrypt the data using the private key. While users can assign others to encrypt data, only the private key user can decrypt it.

That's because the EFS system creates RSA-based encryption keys based on the default Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) cipher. That adds another layer of protection to the encrypted data and prevents unauthorized access to sensitive files.

When an administrator creates the encryption certificate, the RSA algorithm generates public and private keys and stores them in the admin certificate. The administrator can then assign other users' public keys to specific files, enabling them to also decrypt the files. If the administrative user loses the certificate, other users can still decrypt the data.

How To Open EFS Encrypted Files

Typically, two groups of users request EFS decryption. One has the password, while the other lost their certificate or can't access the encrypted files due to private key corruption. There are two ways to open EFS encrypted files - with and without the password.

If you have the password, log into your PC account using the password and unlock the encrypted files. If you forgot the password or your encryption key got corrupted due to a partition or hard drive error, decrypt your EFS files using the File Properties.

Here are the steps:

  1. Open File Explorer by pressing Windows + E;
  2. Right-click the encrypted file and select Properties;
  3. Click the Security tab and select Advanced;
  4. Clear the Encrypt Contents to Secure Data check box.

How To Recover EFS Encrypted Files

how to recover efs encrypted files

If you cannot access your EFS encrypted files due to a missing password, corrupted key, accidental deletion, virus infection, or unintentional disk formatting, don't worry; your data isn't lost forever. Keep reading to learn more.

You Will Need a Reliable EFS File Recovery Tool

The easiest way to recover EFS encrypted files is to use a reliable EFS file recovery tool. EFS file recovery tools are software solutions for retrieving lost or corrupted EFS files on Windows NTFS hard drives and other storage devices like SD and memory cards, USB flash drives, etc.

Here's a list of the best EFS file recovery tools to keep on your radar:

  • Wondershare Recoverit;
  • Advanced EFS Data Recovery
  • DiskInternals EFS Data Recovery for Windows.

Each tool will help you recover encrypted files without data loss, with Wondershare Recoverit being the most reliable and effective solution on the list. This EFS data recovery tool can help get your files back even if you have emptied the recycle bin, move the EFS-encrypted hard drive to another PC, or face issues like an unbootable operating system, corrupted file system, formatted system partition or damaged hard disk.

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How To Recover EFS Encrypted Files With Wondershare Recoverit

Ensure the drive containing EFS files is connected to your computer to use Wondershare Recoverit to get your files back.

Download and install this app on your PC and follow these steps to get your EFS files back.

  1. Launch Wondershare Recoverit and head to Hard Drives and Locations;
  2. Select the hard drive where you have lost your EFS files from the available options;
    choose a location where you have lost efs data
  3. The app will automatically scan the selected location for retrievable EFS files;
    scan for lost efs encryted files
  4. Pinpoint EFS files during the scanning using the available search filters to speed up the process;
    pinpoint the files you want to recover
  5. Once the scanning process is complete, preview the retrievable files before recovering;
  6. Select the files you wish to retrieve and click Recover;
    preview the scanning results
  7. Select a new location to save the recovered EFS files and click Save to get your data back.
save the recovered efs files
icon note
Note: Tools like Wondershare Recoverit can recover EFS-encrypted files, but the recovered data will remain encrypted.
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In the computer-driven world, every PC user values the data they store on their devices. They understand the importance of their data and may consider some files more sensitive, confidential, and private. That's the case with system files.

These files contain critical information for system boot operations. Without them, your Windows can't start, rendering sensitive data inaccessible. Therefore, you need advanced protection to keep these critical system files safe from unauthorized access.

EFS, or Encrypting File System, is a Windows-enabled encryption method of securing sensitive information behind a wall of encryption. EFS encrypts the files and folders you select and protects them with a unique passkey.

That way, only authorized logged-on administrative users can access the encrypted files using the encryption security key. If you lose this key, you can still get your files back using an EFS file recovery tool like Wondershare Recoverit.

Khalid Abdullahi
Khalid Abdullahi Apr 15, 24
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