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How to Recover Files from Formatted Memory Card Using Recuva App


Formatting is not simply removing a file or folder but full erasing of a memory card. All the photos, videos and documents will be deleted once you use format command. However, it is possible to restore files after you format them even if a situation feels hopeless. We’re going to show you how to do it but first a bit of theory.

Table of Contents

Difference between quick format and full format options

Remember about two peculiarities:

  • you won’t always be able to find deleted files on a formatted memory device (it depends on the formatting type – quick or full – used with an SD card)
  • no one can guarantee that the recovered files won’t be corrupted (for example, after multiple overwriting of a formatted partition it is impossible at all).

We should explain the difference between format and quick format of a disk.

During a quick format an OS writes boot sector and empty filesystem table to a partition. The whole space on your memory card is marked as free and available for other applications to use. 

In other words, after being formatted (accidentally or not), a memory card still has the files until they get overwritten. Basically, you can undo quick format by scanning the SD card and recovering the files.

*In fact, files on an SD card can get overwritten without you noticing it when your Android decides to copy data.

During a full format on top of the operations described above, disk partitions get zeros written onto them. As a result, it’s impossible to recover formatted files because of wiped out partitions.

The things you do after formatting an SD card

  1. Don’t write new files over the formatted SD card
  2. If Windows asks to format the memory device, don’t
  3. Eject your memory card from the phone (or other device it is connected to)

Why Recuva is some of the best software to recover files from formatted SD card

Basically, any more or less functional memory card recovery software should be able to work with formatted disks, memory cards and USB flash drives. Yet, our suggestion would be Recuva software in the first place. Developers from Piriform point out at its "Recovery from damaged or formatted disks" feature. We, in turn, want to mention some other features useful when you need to recover data from a formatted SD card:

  • Recuva can handle SD cards and USB sticks perfectly well. You can connect your memory device to the computer and use it as a regular hard drive
  • The Deep Scan recovery option increases your chances to find files which are hard to get. Since we’re talking about recovering data after format, it is essential.
  • Recuva supports FAT/NTFS and Ext 3-4 filesystems covering all desktop operating systems.  
  • Finally, using this software you don’t have to pay for saving recovered files and buy the license. There is no limit on the file volume and functionality.

1. Download and install Recuva

Let’s begin. Download Recuva latest version from the official page; select Recuva Free edition (you can choose 32 or 64-bit build).

Download Recuva Free

Besides the standard installer there’s also a Portable version which is not the most suitable variant for recovering formatted SD cards but useful in case you want to restore a deleted partition or files after formatting an HDD since the portable build doesn’t write files to a hard drive.

When download is finished, install and run Recuva software on your computer.

Installing Recuva app on PC

2. Use your memory card on the computer

To use a memory card as a disk you need to connect it to your computer or laptop using an sd card reader.

3. Scan for non-deleted files option

After starting the app, we won’t use Recuva Wizard and instead change the settings in Advanced mode.

  • In Options dialog box select Actions tab.
  • Check 'Scan for non-deleted files'

'Scan for non-deleted files' option allows Recuva to scan the entire SD card space for deleted files, both occupied by other data and not. This option will be useful in case of files on the card have been overwritten.

4. Deep Scan option

Deep Scan recovery option is used to scan the entire hard drive. Unfortunately, file names can be lost sometimes.

It should also be taken into consideration that Deep Scan is suitable for some file types only, the ones whose signatures are known to Recuva.

If files aren’t found with the help of Deep Scan recovery, you’d better try the software with a wider range of supported formats – for example, PhotoRec or DiskDigger.

Recuva 'deep scan' option
Formatted sd card scanning via Recuva

5. Scan SD card

When the settings are ready, run the scanning process. It will take more time than usual due to the parameters set before.

6. Preview and save results

The probability of file recovery in Recuva is marked with colors. Results can be filtered by date and file name (if the names haven’t been lost) as well as by file type. It all makes further work with found and recovered files easier.

After the files have appeared in the list, save them to a disk but not to the formatted SD card where they were deleted from.

Recuva: saving of results

Video instruction

Other recovery software (if Recuva software failed to help)

Auslogics File Recovery

Auslogics File Recovery comes in handy when you need to recover accidentally formatted sd card, hard drive/SSD, USB stick. It scans for all file types with no exception, has additional options ('Perform Deep Scan' and 'Restore damaged files' among others).

If a partition was removed from a disk or memory stick, it can be restored with the help of 'Search Lost Partitions' feature. Consequently, having recovered a partition, you can scan it for deleted files, and if they were overwritten, there’s still a chance to recover files after format.

DiskDigger for PC

DiskDigger is a tool able to recover sd card after format. It works on Windows and Linux. It is free, and its features are identical to those of Recuva.

Dig Deep mode is applicable for FAT32, exFAT and NTFS file systems, so if your memory card was formatted in one of those, feel free to test this software. Dig Deeper mode, though, works for all file systems. If DiskDigger finds familiar signatures, it will recover your documents, audio, video, archived and other types of data stored on formatted memory cards.

One of bonus features in DiskDigger is creating virtual disks VHD and VDI (a great opportunity to experiment with a copy of an SD card without risking of it getting overwritten).

Download DiskDigger app

Questions and answers

[Formatted SD card recovery]

I have formatted my entire memory card before formatting i tried to recover files from memory card and I recovered about 13 GB. but after formatting i tried the same but no data has been recovered. How can i recover formatted data from memory card?

Similar questions:

1. [recovering files from formatted SD card]

I accidentally formatted the micro SD card on my phone which had all of my pictures, music and other documents on it. I have tried Recuva and no image or music files were found with a deep scan. I really don't know how to get the file back, is there any way to recover the deleted files?

2. [SD card recovery]

my phone glitched for yet the third time this year alone and this time erased all the pictures of my daughter and son I had. they were on a SD card. previously put on my phone but my phone was factory reset TWICE out of know where and I recovered them. finally put them on an SD card In case my phone crashed again and now that has formatted after being "corrupted" overnight. I've tried Recuva and EaseUS and neither one has come up with any of the pictures. Help! I don't know what else to do.

The answer. Most likely, what you've managed to recover before the formatting is in fact the final result. It's unclear why you decided to do it and try to recover the files again, when the chances of recovery don't increase after a full formatting. As we said in the article, you should give a try to Recuva, Auslogics File Recovery or DiskDigger (the PC version).

I was using a Samsung Galaxy phone. Then I formatted its sd card (well, actually it wasn't me). I have no clue about this topic.  So... Is it possible to recover lost data from sd card or get any information from the phone after it's been formatted? For example, chats or photos? Thank you in advance!

The answer. What exactly are you interested in? Is it file recovery or safe deletion without any chances of recovery? If you are afraid of trespassers getting access to your confidential data, you should rely on such tool as Secure file deletion from CCleaner app for Android. With it you'll be able to repeatedly overwrite your deleted files, reducing the probability of recovering them to zero.

1. Hello, my phone is Samsung Galaxy j5. I put it in my pocket and when I took it out I saw a statement with the word "formatting" and showing the percentage of the progress. As the result of this all the photos and videos made since 2015 have been deleted from my memory card. Out of 28 GB available I had 24-25 GB full with data and now only 1 MB out of 28 GB is spent on data storage.

Could you please tell me how to recover data from formatted sd card? It's of great importance to me and I have absolutely no idea about what to do.

2. My phone memory was full. I inserted a memory card and on the next day the phone uploaded an update and performed a formatting. As a consequence of it I lost every single photo. Is there any chances of recovering them?

3. I decided to perform a hard reset of my phone, but before doing it I checked whether everything had been left on the flash drive: photos and etc. It seemed that everything was there. I restarted my phone and I was notified that a SD card had been detected and I was also asked whether “to configure and retrieve” it.  I chose “configure” and it showed that a formatting is required. Firstly I pressed “to format”, but then I discovered that my photographs were gone.

4. After restarting my phone the memory card had been randomly formatted. There were no errors or failures and Android didn't even report about it. It's such a pity to lose those files, is it possible to unformat sd card?

The answer. It's a standard procedure: you connect the memory card via a card reader to your PC, launch Recuva, choose the file types for recovering (photos, video and etc.), then scan and save the results on your PC.

You're lucky because the files were stored on the memory card, and it's much easier to recover them from there by any desktop program.

I've performed a reset to factory settings on my Android 7. There was a Samsung flash drive (with the capacity of 32GB) inserted in the phone. After resetting the system stopped recognizing the flash drive. I tried to read it via my computer, but it only suggested formatting the storage device. I formatted it. The phone also asked to format the drive. I formatted it once again. :))) Now I'm trying to recover my videos and photos, but the programs I use fail to find anything except of the system files. Is it possible to restore formatted sd card via any tool? Thank you in advance for answering.

The answer. It looks more like there were read errors of your memory card which you haven't fixed on time. You should have done it before formatting, not agreeing to your phone requests.  

In such case the chances are low. Try using "Deep Scan" option in Recuva program or any similar format memory card recovery tool.

I've expanded the internal memory on lg g4s phone with the help of a sd card.  Then I sold the phone and now I can't recover the data. The computer asks to format the flash drive. The file system is RAW and there are 2 disks.

The answer. Actually, the problem with a memory card of such kind is one of the most common, and we've written about it in details here. Please, look there for the answer to your question.

Vlad Brown, USA, Buffalo, WY

Vlad 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. 

His current responsibilities are to keep track of users' questions and provide answers to them, write proven manuals, be the website technical support and also run a Youtube channel.

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