How to Recover Deleted Photos from an SD Card

All those photos you took have disappeared from the SD card. But there's still a good chance of recovering them. Here's what to do.
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Quick Plan of Action to Recover Deleted Photos from 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 SD card or you’ve accidentally deleted them. The good news is that there’s a good chance you can recover your deleted photos from the SD card. You can find a much more detailed version below, but here’s the quick version:

  1. Stop using the memory card. This is important because overwriting the data will make it harder to recover deleted files from it. Take the card out of your camera or phone.
  2. Scan the memory card with the free trial versions of SD card recovery software. Either Stellar Photo Recovery or Disk Drill are good places to start. Both have free trials, versions for Windows and Mac, and are straightforward to use. The scan using the free trial will show you whether any files can be found and recovered.
  3. Recover the files. If the apps can find the deleted photos, you can then decide whether to buy a full license to actually recover lost photos. If you’d prefer not to buy a license, there are also free alternatives, although they’re less user-friendly (more on that below).
  4. Backup the recovered files. To be safe!

Help, My Photos Are Gone!

If your photos suddenly aren’t showing up, there are things you can try that might well be able to recover them.

First off, don’t panic. It happens to all of us at some point. Accidental deletion and the ever-present risk of data loss is an occupational hazard of working with digital photos. I can’t promise you’ll be able to recover your photos, but there are some things you can definitely try that often work. Troubleshooting this involves working methodically.

Second, stop shooting new photos or recording new videos. As in, right now. The more you continue writing to the memory card, the harder it’s going to be to recover what’s there. Depending on what has gone wrong, you run the risk of writing over the original photos, effectively burying them deeper (and potentially beyond recovery).

Whether you’ve accidentally formatted your memory card with photos or videos still on it, you removed the card while it was still writing, the card has become corrupted, or there’s been some problem that has made the photos disappear, here are some suggestions for trying to recover them.

Isolate the Problem

Before knowing how to tackle the problem, you’ll first need to isolate it. If you can’t read your memory card, 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 something else.

I’d recommend trying 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, go ahead and sigh with relief—you’ll almost certainly be able to recover your photos, and the problem is apparently somewhere else. But don’t take any more photos or record any more videos—you don’t want to make the problem worse.

If your camera can read the card normally, there are several things that could be going wrong. The issue might be with your card reader, the cable connecting your card reader to the computer, or even the computer’s USB or other connection port. With USB, a common culprit is an unpowered USB hub (or even a powered one, for that matter). If you’re using a hub, try plugging the reader into a USB slot that’s connected directly to the motherboard (i.e., one on the computer itself rather than one on a peripheral device). It’s also worth trying to plug it into a different USB slot.

It’s also possible that it’s a software issue. Most modern operating systems can read most memory cards without extra software. But it’s not impossible to have a setup that causes problems. If you have another computer handy, try that.

Nearly all modern cameras can be used as card readers by connecting the camera directly to the computer via a USB cable. Usually, you’ll need to have your camera powered on. With some, you’ll need to put the camera in connection mode. Your camera’s instruction manual will be able to help if you’re in doubt. So with the memory card in the camera, connect it to your computer to see if you can access the photos. If you can, go ahead and download the photos right away to your computer. Get the photos to a safe place first, then worry about finding out what went wrong.

If your camera can’t read the photos either, then the problem probably does lie with the card. So it’s time to move on to more serious data recovery efforts.

RELATED: Fastest SD Cards | Speed Tests

Software to Recover Deleted Photos from SD Card

When your photos are on the memory card, it’s a pretty weak link in the chain. In most cases, it means there’s only one copy (unless you have one of the newer, high-end cameras that can copy to two cards simultaneously). And while memory cards are pretty reliable, there is nevertheless still a small percentage failure rate. Once you download the photos off the memory card to your computer, one hopes you have a robust backup system in place involving multiple copies (and if you don’t, here are some ideas on where to start). Until then, you’re relying on the memory card.

There are a number of data recovery software options available. While they aim to do basically the same thing, they don’t all do it in the same way. Most of them look and feel as though they were designed by a committee of engineers rather than anyone concerned about pesky little things like user interfaces. However, to be fair, the leading apps have improved in this area quite a bit in recent versions.

Some of these photo recovery software options are free; some are quite expensive. Some work in some instances and not others. Some are limited to certain file formats, while others get the whole shebang. So you might be in for a little trial and error. The reputable ones shouldn’t do any further damage to the data on your card. For any that involve a paid license, I strongly recommend running a trial version first to get an indication of whether anything’s going to be recoverable. You don’t want to shell out money unless you have some confidence it’s going to get results.

How successful these will be in recovering your lost photos depends on what has gone wrong in the first place. If it’s a simple case of accidentally formatting a card, there’s an excellent chance of recovering the files. Things get trickier the more you’ve overwritten new data over the top of existing data or the card is damaged.

If you already have data recovery software installed, it’s worth trying that. But make sure it’s compatible with memory cards. Some software is designed for specific types of data recovery, such as memory cards or hard drives.

There are several options when it comes to data recovery software. Here are some options worth looking at. All of them work with SD, CompactFlash, and microSD cards, along with other types of flash memory devices. The scans are going to take a while, so don’t expect instant results. All of the software works by taking a virtual fine-tooth comb to the data on the card.

It’s also worth mentioning that even the apps that are branded by a specific memory card manufacturer aren’t limited to working with only cards made by that manufacturer. Any of this software will work on any memory card from any manufacturer.

SD Card Recovery Software to Find & Recover Deleted Files

Stellar Photo Recovery

The folks at Stellar have a full suite of data recovery apps, from email recovery to video repair to databases. Stellar Photo Recovery focuses on image files, but despite the name, it also recovers video and audio files, so you can use it for all the kinds of files you’ll be shooting with your camera. Or you can narrow your search to one or more specific file extensions or a particular region of the source disk or card. The option to select by thumbnails or carousel rather than by individual image is very handy and user-friendly, as is the ability to resume scans.

Stellar Photo Recovery Graphical User Interface

I have a detailed post on how to recover photos with Stellar Photo Recovery here.

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.

If you decide to buy a license to run the recovery operation, you can get 10% off with the coupon code HCWT10 at checkout. There are versions for Mac and Windows.

Disk Drill

Disk Drill, by CleverFiles, 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’s a handy app to have available in other situations, not just this one.

It gives you a lot of control over specifically what kind of files you want to look for. There are also some related features: for example, it has built-in S.M.A.R.T. monitoring that can alert you to potential problems brewing with your storage devices, and it has a duplicate file finder to help you free up storage space taken up by redundant duplicate versions of the same file.

Disk Drill Photo Recovery Software

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–that adds the crucial tool you need to get your photos back.

If you decide to buy a license to run the recovery operation, you can get 10% off with the coupon code HAVECAMERA at checkout. There are versions for Mac and Windows.

An alternative way to get Disk Drill is as part of the Setapp subscription, where you get a large number of really great Mac apps for a monthly subscription fee. I’m a paying subscriber to Setapp myself and find it to be a really great way to get many of the apps I was already using but was paying and upgrading individual licenses.

I’ve also put together a step-by-step how-to guide for recovering photos and videos from a memory card with Disk Drill.

PhotoRec

PhotoRec is one of my go-to data recovery apps, but it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. On the plus side, it’s powerful, thorough, and reliable. It’s also free. It’s compatible with a very large number of operating systems. And you can restore just about any kind of file from just about any kind of storage media.

On the negative side, its interface isn’t very user-friendly if you’re not comfortable with text-only interfaces, and you don’t get features like being able to view the thumbnails of the files and select specific images to recover—you either save everything or all the files of the file types you specify. Which makes it slower most of the time rather than being able to be selective.

PhotoRec is available here. And I have put together a guide to using PhotoRec.

EaseUS

EaseUS offers much the same functionality with a slick and well-thought-out interface that walks you through the process. There are versions for Windows and Mac.

There’s also a free version that allows you to recover up to 2GB of data but is otherwise mostly fully functional.

SanDisk RescuePRO / RescuePRO Deluxe

SanDisk has its own data recovery software, RescuePRO and RescuePRO Deluxe, that’s designed especially for memory cards and flash drives. But it also works with cards from other brands, not just SanDisk.

There are two key areas of difference between the standard and deluxe versions: the deluxe version handles more RAW and video formats and will also work with cards larger than 64GB. It’s available for Windows and Mac.

Some of the higher-end SanDisk memory cards include a license key for the app that comes on a small piece of paper with the card. If you kept that number and have it handy, go here to download RescuePRO. If you didn’t keep the little piece of paper that came with the card, you’ll need to buy a new license.

There’s a trial version that allows you to save the first 25 image files and show other files that can be recovered. If you want to go ahead and recover more than that first 25 files, you’ll need to buy a license that works on an annual subscription basis.

PhotoRecovery / PhotoRecovery Professional

This is similar to the RescuePro line and is distributed by the same company that distributes RescuePro, but it’s not a branded SanDisk product. It’s a bit more expansive in the file formats it can recover, the interface is different, and it will let you work with a media image file if you’ve managed to clone the original media.

Aside from price, the differences between the standard and professional versions related to memory card tests and diagnostics, memory card benchmarks, and repairing memory cards. There’s a trial version available that will show you what files can be recovered but won’t let you save any of them.

ProGrade Digital Recovery Pro

ProGrade Digital Recovery Pro is another one branded for a card memory manufacturer (in this case, Prograde Digital), but its functionality isn’t limited just to their cards. In this case, it’s another rebranded version of LC Technology’s PhotoRecovery app.

DiskDigger

DiskDigger is available for Windows, Android, and Linux (there’s no native Mac version, but they have an experimental version here for pre-Catalina OSX) and can recover most kinds of files from most kinds of storage media.

There’s a free trial version, and at $14.99 (personal license), the cost of the fully licensed version is significantly lower than most of its competitors. You can find it here.

Recuva

Recuva is a no-nonsense app that offers much the same functionality. One thing in its favor is that it’s priced more competitively than some of the other options. It’s Windows only.

CardRecovery / CardRescue

This does basically the same thing as the others. In its favor is a refreshingly straightforward user interface that walks you through the process. There’s a version for Windows and Mac And there’s an evaluation version—try that first before buying a license.

Remo Recover

Remo Recover is designed to be more comprehensive than just recovering photos, and it works on hard drives as well as memory cards. There are versions for Mac and Windows. There are three editions—Basic, Media, and Pro—with corresponding increasing features and prices. The Basic edition doesn’t recover photos, so you’ll need the Media ($70) or Pro ($180) versions for that. The Pro version can also recover from deleted partitions and reformatted hard drives. There’s a free version for Windows that is limited by the amount of data you can recover.

I have a detailed review of Remo Recover here.

No Longer Available

These photo recovery apps are no longer available. I’m keeping them mentioned here in case anyone is wondering what happened to them.

  • Lexar Photo Recovery. This was a rebranded version of Stellar Photo Recovery. Some of Lexar’s higher-end cards included a license to it.

Calling in the Big Guns to Recover Deleted Photos from SD Card

Okay, so maybe things have just gone horribly, horribly wrong. If your memory card isn’t showing up on your computer at all and you’ve tried everything else to access the data on it without luck, it might be time to call in the big guns. But this option really only makes sense if the photos on there have a lot of personal or professional value and there’s no other option left. Because it’s not cheap. Nor is it quick.

It’s time to send the card or cards to a professional data recovery lab.

I’ve never had to use any of these services and can’t personally vouch for them. But here are some services that offer more advanced levels of data recovery from memory cards. In some cases, they can even recover data from cards that have some physical damage.

  • LC Technology. Based in Florida, LC Technology is the firm recommended by SanDisk for their media. They do other brands of media too, but there’s a flat-rate fee structure for recovery from SanDisk products based on the amount of data and whether any of the connectors are broken. You can find those rates here. If they can’t recover any data, you only get charged for return postage.
  • Drive Savers
  • Kroll Ontrack
  • Western Data Recovery

Tips for Keeping 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 camera. 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.

What If Your SD Card Won’t Mount?

Sometimes your memory card might not show up in your filesystem. There are all sorts of reasons that might happen. Obvious first troubleshooting tips include taking the card out and reinserting it or rebooting the computer.

Make sure your card reader is compatible with the kind of memory card you’re using. For instance, a card reader that is only compatible with SDHC won’t read SDXC cards, and a CompactFlash reader won’t read a CFAST 2.0 card. But they’re nearly always backward compatible within the same form factor, so an SDXC reader will read SDHC cards.

Here are some more ideas to try.

Mac Users:

  • Open Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.app) and see if it’s showing up there.
  • If you’re using a USB card reader, try a different USB slot on your computer and connect directly to the computer rather than through a USB hub.
  • Open a Terminal window (Applications > Utilities > Terminal.app), remove the memory card, enter Killall Finder in the Terminal window, and hit Return, reinsert the memory card, and check Finder again.
  • Try the SD Card Formatter app put out by the SD Association. You can find it here.

See if it shows up in a drop-down menu at the top of the app’s screen.

Windows Users:

  • Try the SD Card Formatter app put out by the SD Association. You can find it here.
  • See if it shows up in a drop-down menu at the top of the app’s screen.
  • You can also try this (YouTube).

How to Format SD Cards Safely

The best practice for formatting memory cards is to do it in the camera and do it regularly. That helps to keep the card’s filesystem healthy to avoid data corruption from happening and sets up any files or folders that the camera might need and expect. It’s not a perfect guarantee against data loss, nor does it ensure that you can recover deleted data, but it’s an easy precaution that helps.

It is, of course, also possible to format cards using a computer. If you’re using an SD or microSD card, a good, free, and pretty much foolproof option is to use the SD Card Formatter app that is put out by the SD Association. I have a guide to using SD Card Formatter here. You can also use your operating system’s built-in data formatting tools, although, with those, you’ll often have to make sure to pick the correct option among several.

FAQs

It is possible to recover files from other types of memory cards?

Yes. While I refer to SD cards in the title of this post, it also applies to other flash memory card types, including microSD, CompactFlash, XQD, CFast, and CFxpress cards. And, as a general rule, it also applies to other storage devices such as USB flash drives.

Does it matter what storage capacity the SD card is?

No. The same processes apply whether you’re using a 16GB card or a 512GB card (or any other storage capacity, for that matter).

Does it matter what file format my photos are saved in?

Maybe. It’s not so much about what deleted data can be recovered rather than the choice of which recovery software to use. Some of the data recovery apps are completely agnostic about what kind of files it works with and can recover any image or video files or document file formats.

In some cases, the available tools might be a bit more limited. For instance, the more user-friendly apps provide features like visual thumbnails to preview recoverable files; if you’re using an image file format the app can’t process, the thumbnail might be available, but it still might be able to recover data. Other apps might have versions that will filter out anything that’s not a photo or video file. The apps are pretty good about commonly used image and photo file formats, but you might run into issues with newer or more obscure file formats.

This comes up particularly with RAW files. There are many proprietary RAW file formats out there. Common ones should be a problem, but niche RAW file types with limited compatibility might be a problem (looking at you, GoPro).

So if you’re trying to recover deleted pictures in a less-common file format, it’s worth confirming with the apps’ spec sheets to confirm that it can find and recover the format.

What if I have a corrupted SD card?

That certainly makes things harder. It depends on the extent and type of data corruption. But a scan using one of the free trial versions might reveal that at least some (but perhaps not all) files can be recovered. It’s definitely worth a try.

What if the SD card recovery software can’t find my deleted images?

In that case, the odds are leaning against being able to recover deleted images from the SD card. But before giving up, it’s worth trying one of the other SD card recovery software options. I have run into some instances where one app can’t find deleted pictures, but another can.

Is there any free photo recovery software?

Yes. The catch is that it’s not as user-friendly and lacks a graphical user interface. But if you’re comfortable working with a text-only interface, I recommend PhotoRec, which you can download here. I have put together a guide to using PhotoRec.

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106 Responses

  1. Hi my camera fell and is not working anymore when I try to put it on or connect via USB. The the SD is working when I connect it to my laptop directly. I can only see a limited amount of photos I took before it fell. Should I format the SD first before I run the recovery?

    1. William says

      RE:
      January 12, 2021 at 5:56 am

      Hi my camera fell and is not working anymore when I try to put it on or connect via USB. The the SD is working when I connect it to my laptop directly. I can only see a limited amount of photos I took before it fell. Should I format the SD first before I run the recovery?

      once for all when you want recover your data dont do any steps like Formating Overwriting or Normaly using writing data on Cards it will just make Harder or imposible restore your data when stop working take it off device try open in card reader if still not work use some recovery software

  2. Great Information! I tried Stellar Photo Recovery Software and my deleted images from SanDisk SD card. Thanks!

  3. I’m just speculating, but it’s possible the phone’s operating system encrypted the data. If that’s the case, it won’t be recoverable. If the data recovery apps aren’t finding what you’re looking for, it’s possible to step up to one of the professional forensic labs, but that’s usually not worth the cost and still isn’t guaranteed to work.

    Did you have a cloud backup of your phone? That would be the easiest option.

  4. My daughter caused my phone to factory reset and everything on my SD card disappeared. I’ve tried several of the recovery tools and apps and only a few files are coming up, but they’re not my photos and videos. Can you help?

  5. Hi,
    I have a memory card where I have deleted some photos. I have used EaseUS data recovery and i found that the deep scan went close to the actual date of the photos I require but not quite enough. It went up to photos taken in Oct but i need it to go to September 2019. Do you think there are other softwares that may scan deeper to go further out perhaps? Would be great to hear your advice.
    Thank you.

    1. It can’t hurt to try, although if the files have been overwritten with other data, there’s a drastically lower chance of recovering them. But it’s worth trying the free trial version of something like Disk Drill to run a scan to find out if it can see the missing files. My hunch is that if EaseUS can’t see them, the other apps probably won’t be able to either, but it’s worth trying anyway.

  6. Hi there! I am using Ultimaxx digital reader/writer. I plugged it in my HP laptop and all of my photos were there. I started editing the photos. I finished an edit and then went downstairs to change laundry and came back upstairs and all of my photos are gone! No one is in my house except me. How do I get them back??!!

  7. I had no memory in my phone and i took some photos which where automatically saved in my sd card. I was able to see them but after sd card encrypted they got disappeared from my phone. I opened my sd card in my pc but still cant find anything. Please help

    1. If they’re not visible because it’s been encrypted, that’s a different problem and it’ll have to be done through whatever encrypted the files. For more general troubleshooting, it’s worth trying one of the trial versions of the apps with a scan to see if they can at least see the missing files. If they can, you can decide which way to go to recover them.

  8. Hi, my SD card in my camera was nearly full and I took a video, i was able to watch the video back. Then when I switched the camera off & on it came up memory card error, memory card locked. I put the SD Card in my PC and it is not coming up, I used chkdsk & it said card not accessible. I connected the camera to the PC & the SD Card came up but as empty with 0 images. Is there anything I can do to recover the lost images?

    1. If I understand correctly, the card is mounting normally when you’re using the camera as a card reader? If so, it would be worth trying the trial version of one of the apps above to see whether it can find the missing images. If it can, then you can decide whether to buy a license to run the recovery.

  9. Hi David – I have a Fujifilm 128 Gb card and have been using it successfully in my two Fuji bodies (X-E2 and X-Pro2). However I recently noticed when reading the card in my computer, that in the DCIM folder two of the sub-folders seem to have vanished (104_FUJI and 105_FUJI), but those sub-folders before and after seem fine. The card is a little over half full. I have checked in the camera and the images are not viewable there either. I am thinking of giving PhotoRec a try – should I be safe to do so? Any suggestions as to how/why this may have happened?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. PhotoRec doesn’t write to the card, so it should be very safe to use for a scan. Not sure why some folders would have disappeared an others not. It’s possible to only have part of a card corrupted, obviously, but that seems like an odd way for it to manifest itself. I’d give PhotoRec or one of the other scanners a try to see if it can find them.

  10. I have a 18 mega pixels and my photos all got deleted. I try go back to my file and it say that no file exist. How do I get my photos back?

  11. I recently got a Nikon D5300, purchased a media card and started taking pics. My battery died in the middle of reviewing the pics. When I replaced it and went back to pics, a lot of them were just gone. What would cause that?

    1. Hi Susan. That’s not normal behavior, and it shouldn’t corrupt the memory card even if the camera powers off when viewing images from the memory card. It would be worth connecting the memory card to a computer and trying a scan using one of the apps above (use the free trial version to find out if it can find the missing files before considering whether to buy a license to actually recover them). It sometimes happens that images will show up on a camera but not a computer and vice versa (it shouldn’t, but it does).

  12. Sir please tell me how to solve my problem. I set the default storage location for camera as SD card. Without any caution my SD card was unmounted. I didnt that it had happened and I clicked many pictures. And not even a single picture is present in my mobile. The pictures are not even stored in the internal memory too. Please help me sir…

  13. New Cannon Power Shot 180. Put sd card on computer and it showed 200 out of 400. Thought reformatting sd card in camera would add rest. Accidentally deleted on sd card,show no images. Put 6 new pictures on card to see if others would show. No luck! Can I retrieve lost pictures?

    1. It’s certainly worth a try. I’d recommend trying one of the apps mentioned above in their free trial mode to see whether they can find the images. If they can, you can then decide whether to buy one of the licenses to recover them images or use one of the free options.

  14. Hi, I inserted my SD card into my GoPro Hero 6 and when I switched it from the GoPro to my camera I saw that all of my images had been deleted. What can I do?

    1. What are you viewing the images on the card with? If you’re playing them back on the second camera, it’s possible that camera just isn’t seeing the GoPro’s folders with images. Each type of camera has its own folder structure and will generally only look there. If you haven’t already, I’d check using a computer. If they’re not showing up using a computer, the next thing I’d do is run one of the trial versions of the apps above to see if that can find anything. If it can find the images you’re after, you can then choose to buy a license (or use one of the free alternatives) to recover the files.

  15. Hi David. I was using my Finepix camera today taking shots of bees in the garden. I have a newish 32 gb SanDisk card in it. I’ve taken photos and vid of various things over the past days. When I viewed today’s shots on the rear screen it occured to me that those were the only ones on the card. There was nothing else from previous days. Why would this happen please ?

    1. It would be worth checking using a computer. It may be possible that the camera is somehow just filtering “today’s photos” or something like that. Hopefully it’s something that simple. It could also be errors on the card or something else creating problems for the camera reading the card. So the first thing I’d try to is downloading the images from the memory card using a computer. With luck, that will reveal all of the images you’re after. At the very least, it’ll isolate whether there’s something about the way the camera is reading data from the memory card.

  16. I formatted my SD card thinking I’d protected photos I took today. Oops, all disappeared. The took 3 new pics and – stupidly – formatted again. I’ve used Recuva and it picked up the 3 new pics and then about 5000 old ones from before today, but not the rest of today’s photos. Seems odd that older ones show up. Any ideas? Thanks.

  17. I had photos and videos in my gallery and they all appeared to be on my SD card. I went to my cell phone provider’s store to make sure before trying to download them to my computer. As luck would have it a customer service representative deleted all the data in the gallery and on the SD card. I had 16GB ‘s of data on a 32GB card. I am not sure what she did. It appeared to possibly have something to do with the Google photos app. I told her I did not use the app but she sent a picture to the app anyway and shortly after doing so my pictures and videos no longer showed up in the gallery or on SD card. The picture she took was in the gallery along with one of my pictures. I took my phone to Geek Squad they attempted a level 1 data retrieval and after several days they returned it to me stating they were unable to recover my data. I am not sure what retrieval program they used . On July 4th I took approximately 2 GBs of videos of my family at a gathering. It is July 8 and I have just found your site. Do you think one of the apps you mentioned could possibly recover my data?

    1. I can’t really say, but it’s certainly worth trying. I’d recommend trying one of the apps that has a free trial. With the free trial version, you can run a scan and it will show you whether it can find anything to recover. If it does find files it can recover, you can then decide whether to buy a license or explore one of the free versions that can do full recovery (in general, the paid versions are more user-friendly, while the free apps work well but can have a steeper learning curve).

  18. Hi!

    I have been searching the internet for quite some time for a solution. At the end of a wedding ceremony, our second shooter panicked when they ran out of room on a memory card, right before the bride and groom walked down the aisle. So they quickly deleted a clip and got the last little chunk of them leaving. Well, turns out the clip that was deleted was the bride coming down the aisle. Whoops. I have used a couple program, the only one that has given me hope is EaseUS, which shows the original file, the right file size/time code and all- but every time I download the clip, it stops prematurely and when I go to view the downloaded clip- its a much smaller file size/time, and it’s just the final clip of them leaving. I know there is more data to be downloaded, and my hope is that there is still a small piece of the original clip somehow in there. I’m not sure if it works like that, but I would love an honest answer so I can either get the clip, or give up and find a solution. It seems like the data is there, I just can’t get ahold of it. Is there another technique you’d recommend?

    Thank you!

    1. From what you’re describing, I’m wondering if part of the file was written over with subsequent data. If it was me, I’d be inclined to break out PhotoRec. It’s not especially user friendly, and it’s slower because it’s much more comprehensive and not selective in what it’s trying to recover–but it will give you all the data from the card. It’s free, and I have a walk-thru here. There’s an option to “keep corrupted files” which might help in this case.

      1. I really appreciate the speedy reply! So I tried PhotoRec, and I actually found a file that matches the time length- unfortunately it just is black the whole way through. Not sure what steps to take. I attempted to try restore.media because it worked for other clips, but this one didn’t seem to work. haha I have so much hope yet so little.

  19. I took some photos on a SanDisk and I viewed the photos on the camera playback. When I came to download the photos onto my external harddrive I got the message “No images”. When I inserted the disk into the camera it states “Disk is full” but again then states “No images”. How can I find the photos please?

    1. Hard to say exactly what’s gone wrong here, but the first thing I’d try is a scan with one of the recovery apps. That will tell you whether it can find anything to recover. If it can find them, you can then decide whether you want to buy a license or try one of the free options.

  20. My phone wouldn’t let me move pictures from my phone to my SD card. I unmounted the SD card, took it out, and tried putting it back in and remounting it. Upon it remounting to my phone, a message came up saying that the SD card was corrupted and that I should transfer all pictures to my phone in order to save them while the SD card was being repaired. When I went to transfer all pictures, my phone started fixing my SD card and now all pictures are gone.. I mean every single on. There are pictures that I’ve moved from SD card to SD card for over 6 years to hold onto them and now they’re all gone.. Please help me figure out how to get the pictures back. I’m desperate.

    1. I don’t know of a way to do it directly from a phone. All the approaches I’d take involve putting the SD card into a card reader and using software on a computer. If you have access to that, there’s a reasonable chance that one of the apps mentioned above in this post will be able to help.

  21. Hello please help! I believe what happened was I transferred the pics to my computer from SD card and then deleted them off my SD card. I accidentally “undid” the transfer and couldn’t recover them all from my SD card bc I had written over most of them by taking more pics. Any ideas??

    1. It might still be possible to recover them from your computer’s hard drive. Basically the same principles apply–and most of the same software can handle a hard drive as well–but it’s often messier and slower because hard drives hold a lot more data and there’s a lot of other non-photo stuff on there. There are also differences in the way that older spinning hard drives and newer sold memory drives store data, so it’s not a sure thing. But it might be at least worth trying a scan using the trial version of one of the apps to see if it can find anything. Try limiting the search to just image files to filter out the non-relevant files.

  22. Hello
    I just attempted to upload my pictures from AK to my laptop, and for once, checked off the option to delete photos after upload. When it came time to upload I checked off ALL photos to be on the safe side. Sadly, the laptop only uploaded old photos from the camera, and the camera of course deleted all the photos on it. To make matters worse, I accidentally took one photo after. It is a samsung with a sandisk memory card. Will I be able to recover them???

    1. While I can’t say for sure without having it in front of me, it does sound like there’s a good chance. It’s definitely worth trying. You can use one of the apps with a trial version to see what shows up.

  23. Hello,
    I have a 32gb San Disk sd card. I was about to download images into my Mac laptop when it suddenly ejected itself Then I rec’d an error message that the device hadn’t been properly ejected. After that, when I tried to read the card, everything was black. No photos appeared. I then put it in my camera. Same thing. No images. All black. A disk icon will mount when card is in card reader, but when I click on icon, the folder is blank. No files. Command I (Info) tells me that approx 25 GB have been used with approx 5GB remaining.
    I just don’t know how to get the images or run recovery software if the folder is blank. There’s nothing to click on or put into the software.
    Thanks!

  24. I use Windows 7 and was prompted to scan an SD card every time I plugged it into the USB. I finally caved and did it. At first I thought a lot of images had been wiped out. But I noticed a folder with a lot of CHK files.

    I found a utility (UnCHK) written in VB5 and it was able to recover the files. Had to first download VB5 runtime, as linked in the readme.

    I first moved all the CHK files to the hard drive. In the utility program, you first select one of four levels — I chose Floppy Disk. (Hard Disk might have worked too.) Then you select the folder where the CHK files are, then a destination for the fixed files. The utility program processed about 1200 CHK files in less than an hour and fixed them all.

    Here is the utility zip for UnCHK…
    https://www.raymond.cc/blog/download/did/932/

  25. I have a compact flash card in my camera. I have 4 months worth of pictures on it. I plugged it into my card reader and the USB icon didn’t show in the taskbar to safely remove the card. I tried a few times and when it showed the card, it comes up as DCII directory. I did a recover and it shows jpegs were recovered but none will show preview or open with a photo viewer. I looked in control panel and it indicated a problem with the reader. In the meantime, I placed it back in my camera and it shows no images on the card. Is all hope lost or is there still a chance and what would you recommend?

    1. While it’s impossible to say for sure from here, I wouldn’t give up just yet. From your description there might be a couple of different things going on. The not mounting part is not necessarily the same issue as the photos not being visible (though it might be if there’s damage to the card). When you say you did a recover but the JPGs won’t open, what did you do the recovery with? Many (but not all) of the recovery apps will give a visual preview of what’s recoverable. If those can generate a visual preview, I’m surprised you’re not able to open them once they’re recovered. Not sure what software you used, but it might be worth trying something like Stellar in trial mode just to see what it shows is recoverable.

      That, of course, assumes you can get it mounting. For that, the first steps would be troubleshooting through elimination. So things like rebooting, trying a different card reader, trying a different USB port, connecting the camera directly to the computer via USB, etc.

  26. Hi, I’m looking for help. I have a Sony Cyber shot DSC-HX50V and while on my 40th Anniversary on a River Cruise my Memory Card (a SanDisk 64gb, have 5 grandchildren I take allot of pictures). Well, all of a sudden couldn’t take anymore pictures, so I thought the card was finally full, I had other stuff from birthday parties on the card.
    I brought 3 new cards with me. We were on vacation for 2 weeks so I was prepared.
    Anyway, I put all 3 in and said. Reinsert Memory card, I asked someone on the boat to help me and he tried the cards in his camera and they worked so it was my camera. I sent it to get fixed. Anyway, I have a fairly new computer 3 yrs old and my camera was 3 yrs old. I have a card slot and it showed empty. I have a separate memory card reader, it is showing empty. Which recovery program should I try. I do have pictures on our cell phones, allot. But took also allot with the camera, plus the kids birthday party in September was on there. All my summer pictures were on there.
    I’ve never had this happen before. I always format my cards on my camera.
    Thank you

    1. I’d recommend trying either the Stellar Phoenix or Remo Recover in their trial modes to see whether they can see anything on the card first. But don’t pay for a license just yet–in their trial modes you can run a scan and see whether the app can find the photos. That will tell you whether it can recover anything. If the photos show up in a scan, then they should be recoverable. To actually recover them, you can then buy a license to one of those apps or use one of the other apps mentioned above–there are paid and free apps that can do the recovery.

  27. THANK YOU! I plugged in my SD card and windows prompted a back up on dropbox/onedrive. I clicked no and all of my photos from the memory card was wiped out. Plugged my SD card back into my camera and it detected no images. I downloaded CardRecovery and EaseUS, both were able to scan for the photos that I have lost but I managed to use the free version from EaseUS as my photos were within the limit of 2 Gb. Thank you so much for the introduction!

  28. Last week, I photographed my nephew’s wedding. When I downloaded the images into my computer to edit, I saw that only half of the images appear and the other half are totally black. I put the card back into the camera and tried to view the images. The images are the same as on the computer (some are perfect and others are black). There is no error message. I’ve also tried downloading the CF card using another computer. I get the same results. When I try to “open” the image on the computer it says that the file has been renamed or moved. I am desperate to recover these photos! Any ideas?

    1. Hard to diagnose without seeing it, but it would be worth trying one of the recover apps listed above to see if it’s able to recover the missing images. Use one that has a free trial version. That way you’re not out of pocket if it comes up empty. If you’re shooting RAW, it’s conceivable that it might be an issue with the embedded JPG preview rather than the underlying RAW file, but the odds probably aren’t particularly strong on that. The moved or renamed error suggests that something about the files is corrupted rather than a mechanical issue with the camera (eg. faulty sensor or shutter), and the cause might a faulty card or problems in the camera. But if they are corrupted, one of the apps that can recover and repair is a good first step.

  29. Hi,

    i took some photos in my camera, then transferred it to my computer, but accidentaly deleted in my computer. So i tried to recover it on the SD card. I’m using Recuva by the way. But the set of pictures that i need are not appearing. any idea why

    1. Did you continue using the SD card afterwards and overwrite the old photos? Before giving up, I’d try the trial version of one of the other apps listed here to see if it shows up anything differently. They should get much the same results, but it’s worth trying just in case.

  30. Hi, I deleted photos from my sd card while transferring to my laptop. They were store in my laptop in the picture file and I accidentally deleted them. I bought a recovery software, it seem like it worked ( i was happy) but when I started to look through them I got only half of them back the others seem to be there but once I click on them it says “Windows Photo Viewer can’y open this picture because either Photo viewer doesn’t support this file format, or you don’t have the latest updates to Photo viewer.” But the first 100 photos come up and i can see them with no problem, is the other last half that I can’t see and also looks like the size of the pictures that I can’t see get getting smaller and smaller

    1. Are you trying to recover from the SD card or the hard drive? If you’re trying from the hard drive, you might have better luck from the SD card. The reason is that the chances are higher with the hard drive that the data has already been overwritten. The smaller versions and versions that won’t open sound like they might be the embedded previews rather than the original master files.

      1. I think I was getting them from the SD card, I will try again both ways. Do you think that I still have hope for the ones that I can’t see?

        1. Impossible to say for sure, but definitely worth a try. If it doesn’t work, it’s also worth trying a different app from the list above before giving up–use a free trial version to do a scan.

  31. I had taken pictures of my daughter’s baby shower (1st baby – only pics). We reviewed the pictures on my camera & they were all there. I took pictures of a 2nd shower. We looked at the pictures again & all the pictures of both showers were there. I traveled to her house & did baby pictures. When we looked at the pictures, all the ones I had just done were there & the ones from the 2nd shower were there. Only 2 from the 1st shower were there. (I hadn’t had a chance to transfer the photos to my computer or a hard drive, the card hadn’t been out of my camera.) It’s a 32gb card & still shows that there is plenty of room, but is showing the room is taken up for the pictures from the 1st shower. The pictures from the 1st shower all show ERROR though. Help!! Suggestions for which program to use. I used a Sandisk 32gb 10speed. My camera is a Canon T1i. I’m desparate to restore these photos.

    1. A good all-purpose one to start with is Stellar Photo Recovery. I have a walk-thru with it here. I’d recommend starting with the free trial version, which you can use to scan the card to get a detailed listing of exactly which photos are recoverable from the card. If the ones from the first shower show up in that scan, to actually recover them you’ll either need to buy a license or try one of the other apps listed on this page.

  32. Hi!
    When I looked through my pictures on my camera today,the pictures from the last four days were vanished. Yesterday they were still there. I tried different devices but they all can’t show them. The camera says that i can take 5000 more pictures ,but from the 9999 open spots I had in the beginning ,the storage only displays 2 thousand. Is that a good sign? I mean there seams to be more data occupying the card than shown? Some pictures are displayed as a question mark. Can I recover those with the apps and is it possible without a PC? I am traveling right now and it is a little bit difficult to find one.
    And thank you so much for giving me a little hope (already backed up all the other pictures)

    1. There’s a reasonably good chance that you can recover them, but I’d recommend stop using the card asap so as not to overwrite any data that is there. There’s really no practical way to do it without a computer. There are technically devices that can do it, but they’re very specialized and will be much harder to find (and more expensive) than a PC.

  33. Hi! I went for a trip to Hong Kong / Singapore last November 2016, but I accidentally formatted the card cause there wasn’t anymore space for me to picture for a couple of events. And now I wish to recover those pictures </3 But when you mentioned not to use the camera first, I’m afraid I did! I used it for Christmas and reunions. I hope I’m not too late. T_T

  34. Photos gets lost from memory cards often happens when you mistakenly deleted pictures from the cards; The cards occasionally crash, corrupted or stop working due to virus attack or user error; Accidentally formatted the memory cards without any backup of data.
    Another Freeware, RePicvid Free Photo Recovery, would be the lifesaver for you SD cards to recover all your photos/videos from memory cards.

  35. I like one of the feature of Stellar Phoenix. It is that facility to add new file formats. Those file formats which the software is not able to recognize, are added resulting in listing out those files during preview.

  36. inserted my memory card into a computer to see photos after awhile i returned it to my phone and all things on it become trashes contain music photos contacts plz help me how to restore them

  37. hi i had my wedding pics taken in my memory but it got deleted when i tried to recover it brought back the pics that were not ours but since my friend gave me the memory after formatting it was her images i tired everything but it kept bring the old pics rather then the once i took after formatting is there any way any chances to recover it? it was the only copy of my wedding plz help.

    1. Sorry to hear about the trouble you’re having. What did you use to try to recover? If you haven’t already, I’d do a scan with the trial version of Stellar Photos. It’s unusual to be able to recover older photos and not newer ones, and my guess is that your initial scan wasn’t scanning the entire card.

      1. actully i did everything i got on the net different types of recovery but same results. but havnt tried this one yet i will give try thank you.

  38. my pics were not opening in mobile but they were showing,so I restarted my mobile and now they are disappeared (not showing themselves). so what can I do ? please help me.

  39. I accidentally deleted all my photos and videos today from my SD card on my phone, I tried some apps to get the pictures back but I only got a few, is there another way that I could get them all back? I have not taken or put any new photos or videos on my phone. Could a card reader be of help?

    1. A card reader probably isn’t going to make much difference if the card is properly accessible already with whatever method you’re already using. What apps have you tried? If you haven’t already, perhaps give Stella Phoenix Photo Recovery a try (link above) in its free trial mode. That will give you a good sense of whether there are more images that can be recovered, and if they can you can either pay for the license to do the recovery or try one of the other apps listed above. Beyond that, the next step is to send it to a data recovery service, but that’s often expensive.

  40. I have an off-brand SD card…it appears in my drive, all photos are accessible, but when I download them to my PC, about half of the images are corrupt. The thumbnail images completely load, then half the image (usually the bottom) disappears and when I open the full file. Then, only some of the image is there in the thumbnail. I’ve searched and searched and I can find so much info on recovering images, but not recovering PARTS of images. Lol. I’m hoping that since I can get a glimpse of the full image, I can maybe somehow miraculously get all the images back. HELP! Thank you!

    1. What you’re describing sounds suspiciously like the original image file is corrupted. I assume you’re using RAW files, and in that case there’s also typically a lower-quality preview thumbnail included, which is actually what you see when you open it in many apps and cameras. Sometimes the preview can be intact and show normally while the underlying original file can be corrupted. While some more advanced apps let you regenerate the thumbnail previews (and some do it automatically, which might explain the behavior you’re seeing), that’s not going to help you if the underlying file is damaged. It is possible to extract the preview JPG from the RAW file. Some of the methods are very technical, but here’s a very simple app that has worked well for me.

  41. I’m in the middle of using EaseUS to recover some files that showed up on playback in my computer, then disappeared when I inserted the SD into my laptop. Not sure why?? I put the SD back in the camera and the pics from today’s session are GONE. Laptop… Gone. Any idea if these are even recoverable??? :(
    Btw, this article was EXTREMELY HELPUL!!! A+++

    1. Perhaps, but impossible to say without running one of the data recovery apps. It all depends on the individual circumstances of why the files aren’t showing up anymore. But there’s often a reasonable chance of at least recovering some, and although I’ve never used it, EaseUS looks like it should do a reasonable job of recovering what there is to recover.

  42. I took a couple photo’s today and when I put the card into my laptop I can see all of the groups of pictures from previous times except for two or three of the most recent, and when I put the card back into my camera it says no image, but I can still see my old photos on my laptop still. I’m very concerned please help.

    1. First thing: don’t take any more photos on that card. Second thing: back them up to your computer asap. Then, if all of the images successfully download, great. If there are still some recent ones missing, it’s time to try one of the apps listed above to see if you can recover them. Start with a trial version–that should show you whether it’s possible to download the images before you fork out for a license that allows you to actually download them (or use one of the free options, of course).

  43. Do you think there is any hope for recovering photos that show up in the viewer as the same 3 photos over and over again? The first half of the card is fine and the photos download but after that I just get the last three photos about 100 times under different file names. I’ve tried the SanDisc above but to no avail.
    Thanks

    1. That is odd, but it also might be something about the embedded preview thumbnails being messed up but not the underlying master image (if you’re using a RAW format). It might also be worth trying something like PhotoRec–the results that gives are what I usually take as the last word on whether something can be recovered or not.

  44. Guys, I’m desperate. Is there ANY chance to recover photos that were deleted when the card was formatted, but if two pics was shot after the formatting. Please, help me!

    1. Yes, it’s often possible. But it depends on the individual circumstances. Many cameras don’t do a real format, even if they call it that. More often it’s actually just a “delete all” function. And that often means good news for trying to recover files. I’d recommend trying with one of the free or trial versions above. The trial versions will usually show you what’s recoverable before you fork out for a license to actually do the recovering. Free options like PhotoRec also work well but their UI is less user-friendly.

      1. Thank you. I tried with the Rescue Pro and it showed me only that two pictures that have been shot earlier. I don’t know what else to try. I guess that after all, it was a real formatting :'(

        1. It would be worth trying PhotoRec if you can. It’s less intuitive to use but scans the memory sector by sector. Here’s a guide.

  45. I am a photographer. Last month I had a huge project, I have taken pictures of my clients, a married couple. I don’t know, what has happened to my 64 Gb card, but it’s single failure could cause a particular smash-up with that much data being vanished. I started to search the information how to recover my memory card and I have found the solution there: By the way, before I used some tools to reopen 32 GB cards. But they were completely helpless, because they couldn’t recover my recent 64 Gb card. This tool, called Hetman recovery, could get my data back.

  46. Hello,
    I was attempting to recovery files from my camera’s SD card that were deleted. However when I use the software(s) recommended above I cannot see the external device (the camera). Do I need a SD reader to facilitate?
    Thank you!

    1. Using a reader will be a safer bet, in part because it simplifies where things can go wrong. And some cameras might not enable full file-system control via USB.

  47. Helllo….
    I put my memory card in camera and it says -memory card damaged…. How can i recover my pics???pls help

    1. First thing is not to write any more photos to it or try to reformat it. A good next step is one of the apps listed above.

  48. I did a shoot and looked at my images as I shot. Then I went to download and only got the images from the previous shoot that were still on the card but none of the new shoot. I tried running a trash undo program and it only recovered the previous shoot. The photo counter is at the number it would be as if the new images had been taken. And the camera says there is date on the card. But no images show in camera nor on my computer. Is this a card failure? The only other thing I can think of is when it was downloading for a few seconds maybe 20 – 30, my computer screen went blank. Could that have messed with my card?

    Thank you for helping me solve this frustrating problem

    1. Hard to say. Best bet is to try one of the recovery programs to see if they can pick up the new ones. Several of them have a trial version that will show you what it’s possible to recover but won’t actually recover them until you buy a license. But that at least will give you an idea whether you can save the photos before forking out for the license.

  49. Hi I just had a wedding shoot previously . today I forgot I had the same SD card in my cannon camera. I turned my camera on as usual and play back realized thosrs photos were on there and decided it was ok I’ll take this small shoot on there as well.( never again don’t judge please)anyway I took 2 photos of my client and then my camera proceeds to tell me card reading error. I turned my camera off took the SD card out replaced the SD card in turned camera on and proceed just fine . however getting home download all photos to my PC I push play back on camera and nothing but the photos from today shoot. I put the SD in my phone same thing. I don’t know what happened I’ve cried my eyes out please help

    1. Sorry to hear it! Obviously, I can’t say for certain that you can recover your previous photos, but if you only took 2 photos on that card before removing there’s a pretty good chance that one of the apps listed above can help. First thing, though, is absolutely do not write anything else to that card–so don’t take any new photos on it or try to reformat it. Then, I’d try one or two of the apps above, depending on which sounds like it best fits with your level of comfort with apps. Very often they can recover photos directly from the card that won’t show up when trying to play on your camera or phone. No need to go into the technical specifics here, but these apps go directly to the data on the card whereas the camera and phone are relying on something a bit different. So the fact that the photos are not playing back on your camera doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not still on the card and recoverable. If none of those apps can help, and since this is for a paying client presumably, one of the third-party vendors listed at the bottom might be able to help. Good luck!

  50. For GoPro SD camera memory clips that have been deleted, I think the only application to recover the fragmented is (my) http://www.recovergopro.com

    I wrote it just for the GoPro and handles files with sometimes over 100 separate file fragments. Free demo will indicate which files will be recovered.

  51. Ugh. I removed the card while it was still writing by complete accident, 1/4 the images from the day’s session are no bigger than 150kb!!!!!

    Will replacing the card allow it to finish writing the data?

    1. Probably not, unfortunately. But that would be a very odd symptom, and I’m not sure that’s the reason for the small files for previously written photos. The camera should write one photo to the card at a time and then move onto the next one. So unless the whole card gets corrupted by the interruption–which is possible–it should only affect the file that’s currently being written. Have you check the other camera settings to make sure it wasn’t accidentally set to low quality setting or something?

  52. Hello,

    Please pardon the lack of knowledge I am about to portray as I am a novice in all things STORAGE for TECH. I have a USB STICK that I need to recover information from. It is 32 GB. Will these programs listed above, deal with a USB Stick problem or is this strictly for Memory Cards.

    Thank you for NOT laughing….(*you did NOT laugh, did you?)

    Karen R.

    1. That’s not a silly question at all. Yes, they should all work with a USB thumbdrive. If you’re using Windows, then Recuva is probably a good one to look at for being user-friendly, but any of these should work.

  53. some great stuff here, and man, you weren’t kidding about unfriendly user interfaces. it’s worth noting that on a Mac, PhotoRec appears not to recover items on external drives/cards.

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