What to Do If Photos Disappeared from an SD Card: an Easy Fix

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photos disappeared from sd cardLet’s cut to the chase. If you can’t see photos on your SD card, there’s no need to panic. At least, not yet. If photos disappeared from the SD card overnight, there has to be a logical explanation. We’ll talk about potential reasons that can lead to pictures on an SD card not showing and how you can get the photos back.

Why Did Pictures Disappear from My SD Card?

It’s understandably unnerving to have your photographs vanish into thin air, especially if you’re a photographer and your livelihood depends on it. However, the first step you need to take is isolating the problem that caused the photos to disappear.

  • 📋 Data Transfer: If you’ve transferred data from your SD card to another storage device, your data won’t appear on the SD card for obvious reasons. However, there are other data transfer-related problems that can cause the problem. For instance, did the power go out when you were transferring photos into the SD card? That can cause the files to become corrupt, which means they might not appear on your SD card.
  • 🗃️ Formatting: When you format an SD card, you wipe out all the data you’ve stored on it, including your photos. The missing photos may still be on the SD card’s memory, but you’ll need a data recovery tool for recovering the photos.
  • ⚠️ Corruption: There are a number of reasons why your SD card can become corrupt. A corrupt SD card is one that has undergone logical or physical damage, rendering the files stored on it unreadable. Logical damage is typically easier to fix than physical damage, which can also be fixed.
  • 🐞 Virus attack: A virus attack can tinker with your photos and other files stored on the SD card, which can lead to them disappearing from the card.
  • 📚 Faulty card reader: In some cases, this can be a hardware problem where your card isn’t reading the SD card properly.

However, in some cases, the files might just be hidden.

Are the Pictures on Your SD Card Hidden?

When you hide files, they’ll simply disappear from the SD card without being deleted. Essentially, they become invisible but remain accessible. If your pictures are hidden, you can easily unhide them using Windows Explorer.

  1. Press Ctrl+E to launch Windows Explorer and navigate to the folder where you’ve saved the photos.
  2. Select View from the top of the Windows Explorer, and select Show > Hidden items.

That’s all you need to do. You should now see the files reappear, provided the reason they had disappeared was that they were hidden.

How to Recover Photos Disappeared from an SD Card

If you tried unhiding files using File Explorer but didn’t see your photos reappear, you should try recovering the photos with a data recovery tool. There are several tools out there, but scanning the card can lead to further damage in some cases. To make sure you don’t cause damage, you should create an image of the card and then scan it.

Pro tip: Stop using the card right away when you realize you need to recover photos from the card. Using it or even trying to fix it can lead to overwriting of data or damaging the card further, rendering the current data irrecoverable.

Not all recovery tools allow scanning an image, but Disk Drill does. Disk Drill has a Byte-to-Byte backup feature that will allow you to do that. Disk Drill also supports a wide range of file extensions. For instance, if you’re trying to recover photos taken on a Canon camera, Disk Drill is perfectly capable of recovering CR2 files.

Let’s talk about how you can create an image, and then scan it to recover photos from your SD card.

Step 1. Download and Install Disk Drill

Download Disk Drill and install it on your PC.

installing disk drill

Step 2. Create Disk Image Using Byte-to-Byte Backup

Launch Disk Drill and select Drive Backup from the left sidebar. Click on the Byte-to-Byte Backup button at the top-right and enter a file name, the location where you want to save the file, and click OK to start creating the image.

selecting byte to byte backup option

Step 3. Attach Disk Image

Go back to the Data Recovery section from the left sidebar and click on Attach disk image. Select the image from the location where you saved the image file and select Open.

attaching image in disk drill

Step 4. Start Scanning

Once you see the image file listed, select it. You’ll see the list of scanning methods available in the right sidebar. It’s set to use All recovery methods by default, and that’s also the recommended option, so you don’t need to change that. Next, click on Search for lost data. Doing this will start the scan.

starting the scan with disk drill

Step 5. Start Recovering Files

Once the scan completes, you’ll be able to review found items. Check the box next to the files you want to recover and click on the Recover button at the bottom. Select a location where you want to recover the files and select OK. Be sure not to select the SD card containing the files you’re trying to recover as the recovery location to avoid overwriting data.

recovering photos using disk drill

Frequently Asked Questions

Arjun is an Tech ninja, codes HTML and CSS, and has received an honorary mention as the family’s go-to tech help during get-togethers. He has been writing guides for about six years and he’s currently a contributor on major Tech websites like MakeUseOf, HelpDeskGeek and 7 Data Recovery.
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Senior Data Recovery Engineer. Master's degree in Physics, Information Technology for Science Experiments.