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Undo Your PC Mistakes

If you close, delete or change something by accident, don't panic. Let's explains 10 easy ways to recover from web and Windows blunders.

Undo the previous action in programs

Probably the most useful keyboard shortcut of all, Ctrl+Z lets you instantly undo mistakes you make in almost any Windows program. These range from deleting a chunk of text in Microsoft Word to messing up a photo in an image editor or pasting the wrong web address into your browser. Pressing the key combination reverses only the most recent action, but in some software, if you keep hitting Z while holding down Ctrl, you can undo the actions previous to that. Alternatively, you can click the Edit menu and choose Undo from there, although certain programs, including Chrome, don't provide that option. 

Reopen closed browser tabs

If you accidentally close a tab in virtually any web browser, you can easily reopen it by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+T. Alternatively, you can right-click another tab and choose 'Reopen closed tab' ( in Chrome and IE) or Undo Close Tab (in Firefox).

Cancel an email you've just sent 

One of our favorite extra tools for Gmail is Undo Send, which gives you 10 seconds to cancel an email after you click the Send button. To turn on the feature, click the Opt ions (cog) icon in the top-right corner, choose 'Mail settings' and click Labs. Scroll down to Undo Send, select Enable and click Save Changes. Now, when you've fired off a message in haste or anger, you can click the Undo button to stop it being delivered. It could prove a life-saver if you've just told your boss where to stick their job!

Retrieve a deleted Recycle Bin 

Vista has made it all-too-easy to remove the Recycle Bin accidentally by placing a Delete option in its right-click menu, just below Empty Recycle Bin. Fortunately, it's also simple to restore the Bin to your Desktop. Go to Control Panel, Personalization and click the 'Change desktop icons' link on the left. When the Desktop Icon Settings box opens, select Recycle Bin and click OK. This trick will also work if the icon disappears in Windows 7.

For Windows XP, you may need to delve into the Registry to get your Bin back. Go to Start, Run, type regedit and click OK. Find and right-click the key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Desktop\NameSpace

Choose New, Key and type: {645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}, then click the new key and double-click Default in the right-hand pane. Type Recycle Bin in the 'Value data' box and click OK.

Restore other missing Desktop items 

If you delete your My Documents folder or My Computer icon from the Desktop in Windows XP, there's a quick way to get it back. Right-click anywhere on the Desktop and when the Display Properties box opens, click the Desktop tab and then the Customize Desktop button. Select the missing item in the 'Desktop icons' section and click OK.

For Windows 7 and Vista, you can use the same method we've outlined for restoring the Recycle Bin.

Recover deleted photos and videos for free 

Most files you delete from your hard disk can be easily retrieved from the Recycle Bin, but those you erase from your camera or phone seem to vanish forever. Fortunately, there are several free tools that can recover deleted photos and videos from your device's memory card, provided you don't overwrite them.

The best of these is the brilliant Recuva, which recently improved its deep scanning for JPEG and PNG files. When the program opens, click the Options button, choose Run Wizard and select Pictures. On the next screen, choose 'On my media card or iPod' and let Recuva do the rest.

Also worth trying is PhotoRec, which isn't as easy to use as Recuva, but can salvage a wide variety of image and video formats from most types of memory card. The download includes another free tool called TestDisk, which can recover damaged and lost partitions.

Restore older versions of files 

If you accidentally save unwanted changes to a document or photo, you may be able to undo t hem by restoring the previous version of the file. In Windows 7, simply right-click the saved file and choose 'Restore previous versions'; in Vista (Ultimate and Business versions only), choose Properties and click the Previous Versions tab. Select a vers1on from the list and click Open, Copy or Restore. Note that this feature will only work if System Restore is turned on.

Change your default browser 

Most web browsers ask you to make them your default choice during installation, but it's not always clear how to cancel this once you've clicked Yes. The easiest way is to choose a different default browser, although this setting is often tucked away. In Chrome, click the spanner icon, choose Options and select 'Make Chrome my default browser' at the bottom of the Basics page. In Firefox, click the Firefox button or the Tools menu, choose Options and click Advanced. On the General tab, in the System Defaults section, click the Check Now button. When asked if you want to make Firefox your default browser, click Yes.

Finally, if you want to switch back to Internet Explorer, go to Tools. Options, Programs and in the 'Default web browser' section, click 'Make default'.

Rescue windows from off-screen 

If one of your program windows moves off the edge of the screen, so that you can't move or close it, try the following: press Alt+Space or right-click the window's title in your Taskbar to open the window-options menu. Choose Move and then either use your arrow keys to guide the window back into view or drag it on-screen using your mouse.

Restore your PC to an earlier time

Last but not least, if you make a mistake that really mucks up your PC, turn to System Restore. To access this invaluable feature in Windows XP, go to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore and choose 'Restore my computer to an earlier time'. In Windows 7 and Vista, just click Start and type rstrui to launch System Restore, and then choose a restore point. For best results, run the tool from Safe Mode, which you can access by pressing F8 as your computer is booting.