Quick Plan of Action for Recovering Deleted GoPro Videos & Photos from an SD Card
To cut to the chase, here’s a quick plan of action to try if your photos or videos have gone missing from your GoPro’s SD card, or you’ve accidentally deleted them. You can find a more detailed version below.
- Stop using the SD card. This is important because overwriting the data will make it harder to recover deleted files from it. Take it out of your GoPro.
- Scan the memory card with the free trial versions of either Stellar Photo Recovery or Disk Drill. Both have Windows and Mac versions. The scan will show you whether any files can be found and recovered.
- Recover the files. If the apps can find the files, you can then decide whether to buy a full license to run the actual recovery process.
Help, My GoPro Photos & Videos Are Missing!
It happens. Not just with GoPros, but with any camera or phone. There are a number of different causes, ranging from a damaged or corrupted SD card to accidentally formatting the card. But the good news is that there’s a reasonable chance they can be recovered. It doesn’t work every time, but it works often enough that it’s definitely worth a try.
The first thing to do is to stop using the SD card. Preferably, take it out of your GoPro. If you continue using the card, there’s a high risk of overwriting the data you’re trying to recover, which will make it much more difficult to recover (or practically impossible).
The next thing to do is to isolate the problem. If you put the SD card in your GoPro and try to see the images or videos and can’t see them, it’s natural to assume it’s a problem with the card. Sometimes it is. But sometimes it can be something else. So what you want to do is confirm that it’s the card misbehaving and not a problem with some other piece of the puzzle.
Can You See the Files Using Your GoPro or the GoPro Mobile App?
If you’re using one of the newer models of GoPro with a built-in back screen (e.g., many of the models since the HERO4 Silver), an initial step I’d recommend is to put the card back in the camera and see if you can view the photos using the camera’s own playback. If you can, you’ll almost certainly be able to recover your photos, and the problem is apparently somewhere else. Ditto if you connect your GoPro to the GoPro mobile app and can see the files in the app’s viewer. Either way, it’s good news if the files are showing up. But still don’t take any more photos or record any more videos—you don’t want to make the problem worse.
You’ll want to try to back up the photos and videos as quickly as possible. There’s a couple of approaches to doing that. One is to use the GoPro mobile app to back up to GoPro’s cloud service (using the Plus subscription), to your phone’s camera roll, or another cloud service such as Dropbox. Another is to take the SD card out of the GoPro and use a computer with a card reader to download the files using the old-school manual method. Whichever method you usually use to get your GoPro files backed up, try that first.
If Your GoPro Can’t See the Files
If the files aren’t showing up in the camera or through the GoPro mobile app, it still doesn’t mean that you can’t recover them. It just means you’ll need to take extra steps and try some more traditional photo recovery steps.
For these, you’re going to need a computer and, preferably, a memory card reader. Take the memory card out of the camera, put it in the memory card reader, and see if the files are showing up normally in your computer’s native file browser (e.g., Finder on Mac or Explorer on Windows). If they are, copy them to somewhere safe on your hard drive.
GoPro SD Card Photo & Video Recovery Apps
If they’re not showing up in the file browser, you’re going to need to use some specialized photo recovery software. There are plenty of options out there. I cover them in detail in my more general post on how to recover deleted photos from a memory card. For here, I’m just going to focus on a few of the best and simplest options. For the most part, these aren’t specific to GoPros and microSD cards but will work on any image or video files created with any camera. And some of these can be used to work with most kinds of files on most kinds of storage media—not just GoPro files on microSD cards.
And while there are free alternatives, the catch is that they’re not nearly as user-friendly as the paid versions (as in, they’re command-line tools). So they’re not a good fit for many users.
But don’t dive right in and buy a license just yet. All of these have free trial versions that will scan the SD card. Those detailed scan results will show you whether any of the files, and which ones, are recoverable. If they are, then you can decide whether you want to buy a license to actually recover the files.
If you’re using any of these software apps to recover GoPro video files, the safest option is to restore everything rather than try to pick and choose specific files. That’s because when GoPros write video files, they actually write several types of files at once (a metadata file and a low-resolution version) as well as breaking long segments into chapters. So the safest option is to restore everything to your hard drive, preserving the original folder structure, and then remove unwanted files only after you’ve edited the files in the GoPro app (or Quik).
Disk Drill is a full-featured data recovery app that can recover photos and videos along with just about any other kind of file format. So it comfortably handles GoPro photo and video files (including .gpr RAW files, which are included in Disk Drill’s image type filter).
There’s a free trial version that will run the scan and show you what it can find—i.e., a preview of what’s possible to recover. If you’d like to go ahead with the actual recovery, you can upgrade to the Pro version.
I’ve also put together a step-by-step how-to guide for recovering photos and videos from a memory card with Disk Drill.
Stellar Photo Recovery
Stellar Photo Recovery is one of the most user-friendly of the photo recovery apps available, and I’ve put together a detailed guide on how to recover photos with Stellar Photo Recovery separately.
There are versions for Mac and Windows. There’s also a free trial version that lets you scan to see what’s recoverable, with thumbnails, but to actually recover any files you’ll need to buy a license.
I’m including PhotoRec as a free option, and it’s one I’ve relied on for years in my own photography workflow, but it’s not my top recommendation for most users. While it’s free, powerful, thorough, and reliable, it’s not very user-friendly. There’s no user interface; it’s all controlled through the command line. But if you’re comfortable with using command-line tools, then it’s a very good option.
There are quite a few other options for photo and video recovery software, and you can find more of them in my guide to recovering deleted photos from memory cards.
If None of These Work
If none of these methods are able to recover your GoPro photos and videos from your microSD card, it still might be possible for a data recovery lab service do get them. But that last-resort option only makes sense if you’re shooting for commercial clients, because they’re expensive and time-consuming.
If you’re looking to inquire after some of these services, I have some listed here.
Tips for Keeping GoPro SD Cards Healthy
Memory cards are pretty resilient, but there are some precautions you can take that can save a lot of headaches.
- Always format the card in the GoPro. Format the card regularly.
- Never remove the card while data is being transferred.
- Turn the camera off before removing the card.
- Have a backup card handy, just in case.
- Download and backup your photos and videos from the microSD card ASAP.