Files with a .lnk file extension represent shortcuts or “links” to the original folder, file, or application on Windows. You won’t struggle to recognize .lnk files by the curled arrow in the bottom left corner. Unfortunately, the file extension won’t appear even when hidden file and folder extensions are visible. That makes it harder to distinguish which files are genuine and it’s what malware and ransomware can use against you. Of course, there are other reasons such as storage corruption and failed Windows updates. Regardless of the source, let’s delve straight into how to recover .lnk files.
1. Recover .lnk files via System Restore
The fastest and way to revert any unwanted changes, regardless of how they came to be, is to restore your Windows to an earlier state. With that said, follow these steps to recover .lnk files using Windows System Restore:
- Open Start.
- Search for “restore point” and select Create a restore point.
- Click on the System Restore button.
- Note. If the button is greyed, there are no system restore points available.
- Click on Next, select the restore point from a date before the files were lost/transformed.
- After clicking on Next >, click the Scan for affected programs button to approve that apps added after the restore point creation will be removed.
- Click on Close > Next > Finish.
- Wait for the computer to restart and complete the restoration and check if .lnk files were restored.
2. Restore .lnk files by scanning storage with antivirus software
Do you suspect a malicious software or utility has added a .lnk extension to some or all your files? If so, performing a full scan of your storage using antivirus software can restore things to normal. The choice of software is yours, and you can even run more than one scan, whether a repeat or with another software. To improve the efficiency of infection clean-up, use programs that terminate malware processes beforehand. A well-known free software is RKill by Bleeping Computer.
3. Use Tweaking.com .lnk file repair tool
Tweaking.com tool is a popular choice for repairing .lnk file association problems. We’re not affiliated, nor can we guarantee its success. However, it’s user-friendly, acts quickly, and changes a whole host of registry settings listed in the tool’s description. It also eliminates the need for the manual methods below and does lots of extra work on top. Here’s how easy the procedure is:
- Visit the tool’s Tweaking.com page.
- Click on Download.
- After a redirect, click on Download Now.
- Run the tool and click on Start.
- Wait for it to make necessary changes, and exit the tool.
- Restart your PC.
- Verify that .lnk files are back to normal.
4. Recover .lnk files by editing registry
The tool above is drastically more comprehensive so it would take a lot of time to do the same manually. Therefore, we’d limit manual activity to these key changes to the Windows registry:
1. Fix file extensions changed to .lnk
Follow these instructions to recover .lnk files via Registry Editor:
- Launch Start.
- type “Regedit” and open Registry Editor.
- In the address bar at the top, paste this file path:
- Right-click on the User Choice folder (subkey) in the window on the left side, if it exists.
- Select Delete.
- Close Registry Editor, restart your computer and check whether .lnk files are back to normal.
2. Restoring the .lnk functionality to normal (Situational)
Malware is known to change the Shortcut functionality to create malicious .lnk files. This allows the creators to regain control even after you clean up the infections. To fix that, you can follow steps 1 and 2 above, then go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.lnk and delete the .lnk subkey by following steps 5 and 6 above. You now have 2 options:
- Recreate it manually, step-by-step, using online or offline resources for reference. The risk for error is too high, in our opinion.
- Recommended. Export the .lnk subkey (right-click > Export) from an uninfected Windows computer. Import it to yours by double-clicking the .reg file you receive.
5. Restore your browser to default (Optional)
If malicious software added a .lnk extension to your files and folders, it likely made changes to your browser, too. Therefore, you might experience problems even if you remove the malicious from your storage. If that’s the case, follow these steps to reset your browser to default settings:
Resetting Chrome to default settings works like this:
- Click on More (three-dot menu) in the top right corner.
- Go to Settings.
- Click on Show advanced settings.
- Find the “Reset settings” section, then click on Reset settings.
- Confirm changes by clicking on Reset.
Do this to restore Firefox to original settings:
- Click the hamburger menu in the top right corner.
- Click on Help.
- When it expands, select Troubleshooting Information.
- Tip. Enter “about:support” in the address bar to skip steps 1-3.
- Click the Refresh Firefox button in the top right corner, then Refresh Firefox again.
- When the process is done, click on Finish.
6. Restore .lnk files via data recovery software
Regardless of what the culprit for lost .lnk files is, a scan using data recovery software for Windows can find fragments of original files before they became .lnk, and vice versa. We demonstrated the process under the headline “How to recover deleted files from a Pendrive” in our “recover hidden files from Pendrive” article.
7. Restore from a Windows backup
If none of the methods above made a significant difference, you may retrieve .lnk files by restoring Windows from a Shadow Copy. We demonstrated this procedure when we taught you to recover deleted folders in Windows 10. More specifically, under the headline titled “How to restore folders from a Windows 10 backup”.