Useful Tips

How to recover photos from a memory card?


In this article we will tell you how to recover lost photos from a memory card, where they can be restored and under what conditions. Have you ever accidentally formatted a memory card with important photos? Or, maybe your hard drive crashed and you did not have a backup copy of it, and you already deleted the photos from the memory card? Unfortunately, such a failure can happen to everyone, and if such a situation befalls you, then it is better to be prepared for it.

Possible reasons for data loss

If you are using a Compact Flash or SD / SDHC memory card, the following can happen to them:

  1. Formatting the memory card (probability of recovery: High) - if for some reason you formatted the memory card using a camera or computer. The likelihood of recovering photos in this case is very high if, after formatting, it was not continued to be used. The reason for this is that the formatting process does not actually delete information from the memory card - it simply marks its cells as free and ready for recording.
  2. Image deletion (chance of recovery: High). If the images are deleted from the memory card manually using a camera or computer, then the chances of their recovery are very high. But only until the moment they started saving photos or images to it again. As with formatting, a certain part of the storage medium is marked as free for recording. In fact, the data is not deleted.
  3. Not physical damage, software error, or failure (probability of recovery: medium to low, depending on the type of error). There may be different options, but most often the memory card crashes while recording images onto it, resulting in corrupted data. This is when the camera gives an error saying that the data cannot be written to the memory card. The likelihood of recovering files is medium to low, depending on how severe the damage is to the media, the number of bad sectors, etc. The work of some unreadable memory cards can be restored, it all depends on the severity of the damage.

Physical damage (probability of recovery: from low to inability to recover). If the memory card is physically damaged and has become unreadable, then the chances of its recovery are very low. Data recovery programs will no longer help you. If the memory card is not recognized by the computer, and he does not see it, then you can only send it to a specialized service for the restoration of such devices, which will try to recover your data in the laboratory.

The chances of recovering files after formatting or simple deletion are very high compared to any type of damage that resulted in partial or complete loss of data. Let's talk about how to prevent everything that is written above.

Data Loss Prevention Tips

There is no guarantee that the memory card you use today will always work flawlessly. Let's look at a few tips on what to do to prevent data loss.

  1. Use high-quality memory cards. Do not buy cheap cards from an unknown manufacturer. Before buying a memory card, do a little research and stop at the brands of well-known manufacturers. It is better to give preference to professional series than regular ones. If the question of price is critical, then it is better to take the older and slower version, but this is no less reliable.
  2. Back up data from memory cards - if you are shooting important events, get a card reader or a portable hard drive. With which you can copy data from a memory card directly during operation. Portable USB card readers are not expensive and you can easily connect them to a laptop and copy files from a memory card to your hard drive. Or, with the click of a button, copy all the photos from the memory card to the portable hard drive.
  3. Copy all photos to another drive while importing photos into Lightroom. It is very simple. Select the function of creating a copy of data in the program menu and save it to another hard drive. This will create a copy of the data on another drive, in case of failure of the main one.
  4. Tag memory cards. Use colored stickers or a marker to sign or mark memory cards. So you cannot accidentally overwrite or erase the wrong memory card.
  5. Dual slot for memory cards. If your camera is equipped with two memory card slots, insert two memory cards of the same capacity into them and use them in data copy mode, especially if you are shooting something very important.
  6. Format the memory card only after you have already created several copies of your files. Do not format the memory card using a computer, use your camera for this. Often the camera cannot save data to a memory card that has been formatted on another device.
  7. Memory card capacity. Some photographers do not like to buy large memory cards for the reason that they do not want to lose a lot of images in the event of a memory card failure. We think this is wrong. Using a large number of small capacity memory cards has its drawbacks. For example, a lack of space for storing information or even the potential for physical damage to the camera or memory card as a result of the need for its frequent replacement. Imagine a situation if you shoot in RAW format and you have a 4 GB memory card ...

Important to remember

If you have an incident with a memory card and you need to restore data from it - it is not recommended to continue using it until the data is restored. You can’t record anything on it using a computer or save it using a camera.

Often, for example, people are interested in: is it possible to restore photos from a memory card from which they were first deleted, then the memory card was completely shot again with new photos? Of course not. You can also try to recover some of the data if the memory card was overwritten at least partially (for example, in a 32 GB memory card, a new 10 GB was shot), but definitely, it will not be possible to return all the data. New images simply overwrite the information on the memory card about already deleted photos, overwriting it, thereby reducing the chance of their recovery.

How to recover deleted images or photos from a memory card

Much depends on whether you use some kind of tools for backing up data, or if you still store photos somewhere other than a memory card. More information about restoring photos in such cases can be found in other articles from our Blog: “Backup and Restore Tools” and “How to Restore or Delete Files from the Cloud”.

If you do not use any of the tools to protect your photos from loss or simply did not manage to use it as a result of a malfunction or failure of the memory card during shooting, then you will not succeed with a tool other than a program for recovering deleted photos.

Memo: How to prevent the loss of photos

Reasons for deleting photosWays to Prevent Loss
Accidentally deleting photos or formatting the memory card of a camera or phone without first copying the photos to a computer.Timely back up valuable data (or simply copy it) and do not take rash actions.
The presence of bad sectors on the media.Periodically scan the flash drive for bad sectors.
Deleting photos accidentally or formatting an SD memory card without first copying the photos to a computer.Timely back up valuable data (or simply copy it) and do not take rash actions.
Damage to the file system of the drive in the event of its wear, improper removal or malfunction of the device.Use the option to remove the flash card before removing it from the phone or disconnecting from the PC.

Why do not worry if the photos are deleted

In operating systems using NTFS file systems, such as Android and Windows, all information about files (path to them, attributes) is in a special table. When the user erases the file from the disk, physically it remains on the media, and changes are made to the partition table - the mark that the object is deleted, but its structure and metadata are saved until they are overwritten. And until this happens, the data can be restored in its entirety. If part of the file was overwritten with a new one, restoration of its fragment is possible.

In case of minor damage to the file system structure, the data recovery program will have to scan each sector of the drive space in search of signatures of deleted files.

A signature is a hex code located at the beginning of any file. It is the identifier of each data type (jpeg, avi).

If the file system is damaged, the partition table may also be damaged: file paths, their names and attributes are lost, and the contents of such an object can only be recognized by signature. The preview functions and grouping of found files by their types will help here.

Programs for recovering photos from a memory card

Consider the most effective programs for recovering photos from SD cards of a smartphone or camera.

It should be noted right away that the best photo recovery program is RS Photo Recovery, however it is paid, but if you want to save your time and nerves, we highly recommend it to you. In our memory, no one had problems with it. How to purchase and use the program can be found here.

The program from Piriform is one of the very first free data recovery utilities.

The utility is best used to recover photos that have just been deleted from the memory card, or immediately after formatting it, until the data has been overwritten. The program interface is simple and translated into Russian, so working with it is simple.

  1. After the scan is completed, we get acquainted with the search results for lost graphic files.

  1. Using the preview, we mark the photos we need from among those that can be restored (they are marked with a green icon), click "Restore" and select the target directory.

It is recommended to restore photos to the hard drive so as not to overwrite the files available for recovery.

If access to photos was lost due to a failure of the SD memory card (improper removal, exposure to viruses, physical deterioration), it can be restored using the Actions menu, where you need to put a checkmark next to "Search for deleted files".

R-studio is one of the best programs for recovering deleted photos on any SD cards. Distributed on shareware basis. She will easily cope with her task when it comes to restoring photos that are dear to the user.

  1. In the program window, select our flash card, in the menu context of which click "Scan ..."
  2. In the dialog that appears, set the main parameters:
  • file system (usually NTFS)
  • select “Search for known file types” -> “Graphics-Images” or specify the format of lost photos, for example “jpeg”.

  1. After the scan is completed (the process may take tens of minutes), we look through the results in any convenient mode.
  2. Select the necessary photos using the preview function, and click "Restore" on the toolbar or in the context menu of image files.
  3. We indicate the recovery path, additional process parameters and click "OK".

Creating copies of important data, adhering to the rules of operating a flash card and not taking rash actions, you will significantly reduce the likelihood of using programs to restore photos from a memory card of a camera or smartphone.

We recommend viewing the recovery video using a specific example and a specific program.