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How to Recover Deleted Photos from SD Card for Free


One of the frequent problems among Android and iOS users is losing photos from SD Card. There exist reliable ways restore deleted photos from memory card for such cases. Unlike internal storage, SD Card can be connected to the computer, which makes things easier as you can use recovery soft without limitations.

We are going to explore Recuva, a tool that we’ve mentioned a lot, and give you a step by step tutorial on using its features in photo recovery. By the way, this guide is applicable to other types of files.

Table of Contents

What do I need to restore files?

Basically, you don’t need anything extraordinary to restore files on your own at home:

  • computer/laptop to install software on
  • card reader to connect memory card
  • memory card from which files were deleted
  • patience and accuracy for faultless result

When are photos lost from SD Card?

In most cases it’s caused by:

  • Accidental deletion of photos
  • Transferring files from memory card to internal memory and the other way round
  • Errors after incorrect unmount
  • Corrupted files on SD Card
  • Memory card format error

1. Take out SD Card from your phone

Take out SD Card from your device (smartphone, tablet, digital camera or other device where it was used). It has to be done to avoid accidental overwriting of the data on it.

2. Install recovery software

Free card recovery software software isn’t less effective than many paid analogues (which you can test any time). Besides, why not start with a free solution which may turn to be pretty helpful.

We are going to use Recuva tool. It restores images and in fact should support any photo format be it jpg, png, raw, gif or others. There is a version for Windows but none for Android yet unfortunately.

Download Recuva Software

Install Recuva on any partition of your computer– data was deleted from SD Card.

3. Select media formats

  1. At the start you’ll be greeted by Welcome to Recuva Wizard. This step by step recovery guide is meant to assist newbies: simply answer a few basic questions to get the result.
  2. Press Next, you’ll be offered to select among file types. Check the box next to the image file formats. You can just skip filtering formats, it doesn’t even affect scan speed. Yet, you will have to filter restored files by hand, and it’s not that much fun to sort hundreds of photos.
  3. Choose Pictures and tap Next.

4. Connect SD Card to the computer

  1. Connect card reader (with SD Card in it) to your computer or laptop. The instruction on it is given [here].
  2. In File location specify the location files were deleted from.

Tip. Not to waste time on scanning other directories you can create a separate folder. If you are not certain whether you want to enhance chances for sd card data recovery, choose root directory.

Where are files stored on my device?

As a rule, photos are stored in DCIM folder. This is common storage on devices with memory card support. This folder also has photos from Camera, downloaded images, video, etc. For more detail see here.

5. Enable Deep Scan feature

Deep Scan feature is a thing thanks to which Recuva is able to find files which basic scan doesn’t see. Even though this method proves effective every other time, still you’ll notice the difference.

Enable Deep Scan in Recuva main menu: Options – Actions – Deep Scan.

How to enable 'Deep scan' option in Recuva app

6. Launch SD Card scan

  1. To begin press on Start.
  2. Wait for the scanner to finish checking selected folder on the memory card; it can take from several minutes to an hour.
Recuva - sd card scanning process

7. Sort photos, keep the ones you need

  1. Deleted photos found by Recuva are displayed as thumbnails. It’s really handy since you get the results straight away and know which ones you are going to save.
  2. If necessary, you can switch to Advanced mode and see more detail about selected files you’d like to get back.
  3. Recovery chances vary from case to case. Recuva uses colors to mark it:
    • red for minimal likelihood,
    • yellow for average,
    • green for maximum.
  4. In the Info all the information about a file can be checked: Filename, Path, Last modification time and more (also duplicated in columns); sometimes they come in handy. Preview shows the result as is: pictures damaged or not.
Recuva photo preview

Tip. If Recuva hadn’t managed to locate any files, add more formats in the settings of Recuva Wizard or via Advanced mode in the search bar. Try adding RAW, .CR2, .NEF or .ARW when scanning to retrieve photos.

8. Save selected photos to the disk

Select photos and press on Recover.

Saving photo from sd card to HDD

Ideally, restored data should not be saved to the disk it was deleted from (especially it’s true for files deleted from an HDD). In our case it doesn’t matter too much, just don’t save photos back to your SD card unless you want to significantly lessen chances for recovery.

P.s. What if Recuva fails to help to get deleted photos from memory card

Let’s suppose you followed the tutorial and set it up in Recuva Wizard correctly but you are not happy with the results. Then:

  1. Peep at this page on recovery: here we’ve collected materials concerning data recovery on mobile devices and personal computers.
  2. Try some other recovery soft, for example free options like PhotoRec and DiskDigger.
  3. Have a look at the answers from other users and our answers (see below).


Huawei y5 went glitchy, turned off itself, and nearly all my Camera photos disappeared. Scanning SD Card shows that there’s more free storage on it, which means that photos are lost. I wonder if they were removed permanently.

Unless you had deleted photos yourself, there must have been an error on your SD Card – usually it’s bad sectors. Windows will suggest formatting but better refuse. Try our tutorial on fixing errors on memory card. If it doesn’t help, in Recuva specify the folder where lost files were stored and try restoring them using method described in this guide.

I wanted to transfer photos from my photo camera to the computer. A window popped offering to format memory card, and I pressed on OK by accident, so my SD Card got wiped. How to retrieve deleted photos from memory card? There were many files that were not backed up on other media.

You had to scan your memory card for errors on your PC but you formatted it instead. Recuva may help in your case but only if you had done quick format and hadn’t had it overwritten. Read our compilation of questions and answers.

Every file shows some free space, as if the files were there, they all are dated by 1980 and won’t open in Android Gallery. On my laptop I can’t see them either. What can you suggest?

It could be corrupt exif data or memory card reading errors. Our suggestions:

  1. Make a backup copy of files on the computer or in Google Photos.
  2. Format your memory card in Full Format mode to repair reading errors. UseSDFormatter.

I was transferring photos from internal storage to SD Card but for some reason they all got deleted. I restored them using some utility but they are blurred now. How can it be fixed?

You must have restored thumbnails. Try scanning the folder on SD Card one more time but in Deep Scan mode.

I used USB cable to send files to SD Card in the same phone by copy and paste. But they never showed up and files disappeared from sd card.

We’d suggest using DiskDigger utility for Android in this case and for photo recovery from memory card. If it fails to help, here is our guide on how to retrieve deleted photos from phone internal storage – a lot needs to be taken into consideration.

Ilia is a professional writer. He has expert knowledge in data recovery with 15 years of experience. He started his career as a journalist by reviewing PC and mobile apps. His current responsibilities are to keep track of users' questions and answer them.