How to Undelete Photos and Videos from an SD Card
digital cameras come with a few basic memory card
built right into the on-screen menu interface. While a
few of us will
find the ability to delete photos and format cards
useful, many more of us will end up with inadvertently
erased memory cards. If you find yourself
with a blank
SD card before you’ve exported your photos to a
despair. There is a good chance that you can get some or
all of those
photos and videos back.
Photo Undelete Porgrams
are literally hundreds of file undelete or data recovery
readily available off the shelf or on the web. But a few
among the crowd.
is a popular open source photo recovery tool that runs
under Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows.
Pros: It’s free
and uses read-only access on your device. Plus, it’s
designed for recovering photos.
Cons: As a
interface program, it may be a bit advanced for most
users. Be prepared
to spend a significant amount of time reading the
Data Rescue PC 3
is a do-it-yourself data recovery program that’s well
supported and easy to use.
data recovery software, includes support for multimedia.
upwards of $100, designed for Windows XP (though it may
work on later versions of Windows).
a best of both world solution, that combines an
incredibly intuitive user interface with advance file
simple wizard-style interface, works on all major
operating systems, and supports a wide range of file
systems. For home users, there's R-Undelete Home program that recovers files from FAT/exFAT devices for free, without registration. Almost all SD cards are formatted as FAT/exFAT devices.
to $54.99 for the full version. However, the Demo mode
(free) lets you
preview the files that you can recover before you
register. That way,
you can be sure that you are getting your money’s worth.
if R-Undelete can’t recover your files, no other program
can, so it’s a
good place to start, risk-free.
How SD Card
Photo Recovery Software Works
exception of PhotoRec, most good file undelete and photo
programs are self-explanatory (especially R-Undelete,
which features a
step-by-step process for recovering files from a disk).
steps you’ll take will vary depending on the software
you are using,
but the principle is the same.
Essentially, the delete and format operations that your
performs are very basic. When you delete photos from
camera, you’re not really erasing them, as you would
chalkboard. You aren’t left with a clean slate. Rather,
the camera is
marking the disk space on the card as “okay to
is, when the camera (or another device) needs the space,
it’ll go ahead
and overwrite the space currently occupied by your
photo, as if it
wasn’t there at all (in fact, you won’t see it when you
view the memory
card on your camera or computer).
What does this mean? It means that until something
overwrites that old
data, it is still there. You can go and retrieve it just
as easily as
you could pluck a newspaper out of a trash can. That’s
aforementioned photo recovery/file undelete programs do.
So, what if you’ve gone and formatted your disk? Again,
all is not
lost. Formatting a card basically establishes the file
system for the
card and prepares it for new data to be written. While
it may change
the file structure on the card, it doesn’t immediately
delete the data
that’s on the card.
Tips for Photo Recovery
The best thing you can do to increase your
chances for a successful file recovery is to stop using
your SD card
immediately. Do not take any more pictures and do not
copy any files to
the card. If you read the explanation above, you’ll
This is true for recovering deleted files from any type
of disk, but
it’s particularly critical for SD cards, which tend to
capacities than other disks. With less free disk space
far more likely that your data will be overwritten if
you take more
If you have a card reader for your computer, you should
use it, rather
than the USB or FireWire connection for your camera. You
use a program that uses read-only access (such as
R-Undelete). Some programs will write small amounts of
data to a disk
when it is mounted or being accessed, so stick to the
If you have a choice, format your SD cards in FAT. FAT
file systems are
the easiest to recover deleted photos from. Of course,
if you are
thinking this far ahead, you should just remember to
photos on a regular basis.
One last note: if your SD card is physically corrupted
or has some
other fault, your photos are likely gone forever. SD
stands for Secure
Digital, meaning that there is hardware encryption going
on during read
and write operations. If the SD card starts to fail on
level, you won’t be able to image it and salvage data
from it like you
could from a hard disk drive or a CD or DVD. If your SD
card is showing
signs of failure, replace it immediately!