How to Recover Deleted Photos From an SD Card

David Morelo
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recover deleted photos from sd card

Is it Possible to Recover Images From an SD Card?

Yes. Through the use of data recovery software, you can recover deleted images from an SD card. When an image is deleted, access to it is logically removed. Until the storage space that the photo occupied is reused, you can get it back. The key is to minimize the use of the SD card after you discover that you have lost some images. Continued use of the card makes it more likely that the images you want to restore are overwritten.

The Importance of SD Card Photo Recovery Software

When SD cards were first introduced by SanDisk, Panasonic, and Toshiba in 1999, their capacity was extremely limited. In fact, early SD cards could store only 32 or 64 MB of data, or up to 10 high-resolution pictures taken with a modern camera. Fortunately, the capacity of SD cards has been steadily improving, which is why we now have multiple specifications for high-capacity SD cards: 

  • Secure Digital Standard Capacity (SDSC): a capacity of up to 2 GB
  • Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC): a capacity of more than 2 GB up to 32 GB
  • Secure Digital eXtended Capacity (SDXC):  a capacity of more than 32 GB up to 2 TB
  • Secure Digital Ultra Capacity (SDUC): a capacity of more than 2 TB up to 128 TB

Here’s how many JPG pictures you can expect to store on an SD card:

MegapixelsFile size (MB)SDSC (2 GB)SDHC (32 GB)SDXC (2 TB)SDUC (128 TB)
4 MP1.2143022888146483293749248
8 MP2.47151144473241646874624
12 MP 3.6476762948825631248384
16 MP4.8357572236620823437312

As you can see, modern SD cards can store a very large number of high-quality pictures and an insane number of low-resolution pictures. 

While the ability to store thousands of pictures on a single SD card is something most photographers and smartphone users deeply enjoy, it can also lead to catastrophic data loss, and SD card photo recovery software is often the only solution. 

What’s more, it’s far easier to keep a few hundred pictures organized on an SD card than a couple of thousand. With a very large SD card, you might not even notice that you’ve accidentally deleted some pictures until it’s already too late to recover them. 

However, even the best SD card photo recovery software solution won’t be able to help you if you don’t act quickly and recover your images before they become overwritten. So without any further ado, let’s take a look at how to recover deleted pictures from an SD card.  

How to Recover Deleted Pictures from an SD Card on Desktop

With the right SD card reader, you can recover lost photos from an SD card of any type directly on your Windows or Mac computer. 

Windows Recovery

Option 1: Recycle Bin

Before we describe more complicated ways to recover pictures from an SD card, we want to first describe how to recover deleted photos from an SD card without software. 

This method works only if you delete your photos on the same computer you’re now using to recover them. If that’s the case, there’s a strong chance that you’ll be able to find them in the Recycle Bin, which is a special folder where Windows stores deleted files. 

To recover lost photos on SD card from the Recycle Bin

Step 1. Open the Recycle Bin by clicking on its desktop icon. Click the Recycle Bin Icon

Step 2. Highlight the photos you want to recover.

Step 3. Right-click on any highlighted photo and select the Restore option.Right-click on any highlighted photo

No luck finding your deleted photos in the Recycle Bin? Then it’s time to try a different solution. 

Option 2: CHKDKS 

Included in Windows is a useful utility for verifying the file system integrity of a volume and fixes logical file system errors. Called, CHKDSK, this utility can be used to make inaccessible files accessible again, and you don’t have to be an expert to use it even though it doesn’t have a graphical user interface. 

To recover images from an SD card using CHKDSK:  

Step 1. Type “cmd” in the search box on the taskbar and select Run as administrator. Run as administrator

Step 2. Enter the following command (make sure to replace X with the letter assigned to the SD card you want to fix) and press Enter: chkdsk X: /fEnter CHKDSK command

Step 3. Wait for CHKDSK to finish. The process may take several hours depending on the size of your SD card.

The /f parameter tells CHKDSK to fix all SD card errors. As you can see, recovering images from an SD card using CHKDSK is a straightforward process, especially if you follow our step-by-step instructions. But if you don’t feel comfortable using a command-line application, we have a much more user-friendly solution for you. 

Option 3: Disk Drill for Windows 

Disk Drill is one of the most popular data recovery tools that can restore images from an SD card as well as from virtually any other type of storage device. The Windows version offers free data recovery within 500 MB, and almost all modern versions of Windows supported. 

It is imperative that you stop using the SD card as soon as you suspect you have experienced data loss. Using the card to save additional images runs the risk of overwriting the files before you can recover them. Put it to the side until you get a chance to recover the lost images.

To recover deleted pictures from an SD card using Disk Drill for Windows

Step 1. Download and install Disk Drill data recovery software on your computer.

Step 2. Connect the SD card to your machine either with a card reader or by attaching the device in which it resides.

Step 3. Launch the application.how to recover deleted photos from sd card

Step 4. Select the SD card from the list of disks available to Disk Drill.

Step 5. Click the Search for lost data button to initiate the scanning algorithms.how to recover deleted pictures from sd card

Step 6. Review the list of files that Disk Drill identifies as recoverable.recover images from sd card

Step 7. Select the files you wish to recover. Designate a storage location where the images will be saved.

Don’t use their original location as this can lead to file corruption. Save the images on your computer.

restore deleted photos from sd card

Step 8. Click the Recover button to perform the file recovery.recover deleted photos from sd card with disk drill

free data recovery software Disk Drill for Windows & macOS Free Download

Mac Recovery

Option 1: Trash 

Just like Windows, Mac computers have a special folder for deleted files, called Trash. If you insert your SD card into your Mac using a memory card reader and delete a photo from it, the photo will be moved to Trash, giving you a chance to easily get it back. 

To recover deleted photos from a memory card using Trash

Step 1. Click on the Trash icon located on the right side or bottom of the Dock to open it. Click on the Trash icon

Step 2. Select the photos you want to recover. 

Step 3. Click on any of the selected files, hold the click, and drag your mouse to another folder or your desktop. 

If you want to restore a photo that you’ve deleted using your digital camera or camcorder, you won’t be able to find it in Trash, but it may still be physically present on the SD card, which is why you should try our next two solutions. 

Option 2: First Aid in Disk Utility

Before using a free program to recover deleted pictures from your SD card, you should verify that the SD card is in good working order. On macOS, you can do just that using the First Aid feature in Disk Utility. Sometimes, First Aid is all you need to regain access to data that has become inaccessible. 

To recover deleted pictures from an SD card using Disk Utility

Step 1. Open Finder and go to Applications > Utilities. 

Step 2. Launch Disk Utility. Open Disk Utility

Step 3. Select the SD card you wish to run First Aid on.

Step 4. Click the First Aid button in the toolbar.Click the First Aid button in the toolbar

Step 5. Click Run and wait for Disk Utility to finish the verification and repair process.

Now that you’ve run First Aid on your SD card, you should be ready to recover any lost images from it using Disk Drill for Mac. 

Option 3: Disk Drill for Mac

The Mac version of Disk Drill offers the same professional-grade image recovery performance as the Windows version, but it features a user interface that matches the look and feel of macOS and Apple’s own applications. 

With Disk Drill for Mac, you can easily recover all commonly used image file formats, including JPG, PNG, GIF, TIFF, SVG, WEBP, BMP, PSD, AI, INDD, and RAW formats used by Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Pentax, Sony, Olympus, Fujifilm, Leica, Samsung, Sigma, Hasselblad, and other camera manufacturers. 

To recover deleted images from an SD card using Disk Drill for Mac

Step 1. Download and install Disk Drill data recovery software on your computer

Step 2. Click the Recover button next to the SD card on which your images were stored prior to deletion. Recover button next to the SD card

Step 3. Wait until Disk Drill finishes analyzing the SD card. 

Step 4. Look inside the recovery folders and locate the deleted files using the preview feature. 

Step 5. Select each image you want to recover and click the Recover button.Select images for recovery

Step 6. Specify where you want Disk Drill to recover the deleted images and click Choose.

Keep in mind that you should always select a folder on a different drive than where the deleted images were originally located.  

How to Recover Deleted Pictures from an SD Card on a Phone 

To recover deleted pictures from an SD card that you use in your smartphone or tablet, you don’t need a computer with an SD card reader because you can perform the recovery directly on your mobile device or using a USB cable. 

Keep in mind that the instructions below are meant for Android users only since iOS devices such as the iPhone don’t support SD cards. 

Option 1: Recover Pictures from the SD Card Using a USB Cable

Android smartphones support various file transfer protocols and modes (including USB Mass Storage Mode, Media Transfer Protocol, and Picture Transfer Protocol), all of which make it possible for you to recover pictures from the SD card directly using a USB cable. 

Simply connect your device to a computer using a suitable USB cable and tap “Charging this device via USB” notification. Select File Transfer or a similar option and access the content of your SD card just like you would a USB flash drive or any other storage device.  

Option 2: Recover Deleted Pictures from the SD Card Directly on the Phone

Thanks to the open nature of the Android operating system, you can perform image recovery directly on your phone using an app like DiskDigger. For best results, your device should be rooted, but DiskDigger can be used even without root permissions. 

To recover deleted pictures from the SD card using DiskDigger

Step 1. Download DiskDigger for Android.

Step 2. Insert the SD card into your smartphone. 

Step 3. Launch DiskDigger and tap Start basic photo scan. Launch DiskDigger

Step 4. Give DiskDigger permission to access your device’s storage. 

Step 5. Select the pictures you want to recover.

Step 6. Tap the Recover button.Recover Images with DiskDigger

If DiskDigger failed to recover all pictures, don’t despair because we have one more solution for you that you can use to recover deleted photos from SD card directly on your phone. 

Option 3: Recover Deleted Photos from Google Photos without Software

It pays off to use a cloud backup service to automatically back up all photos as soon as you take them. Android users don’t need to look too far for a good cloud backup service because Google has already developed one, called Google Photos. If you have turned on the back up and sync option in Google Photos prior to losing your images, you’re in luck because you can now recover them without software.

To recover deleted photos from Google Photos:

Step 1. Open the Google Photos app.Google Photos app

Step 2. Look for the deleted photos. 

Step 3. Select any photo you want to recover.

Step 4. Tap Save to device.Save photos to device

If you can’t find the deleted photos in Google Photos, make sure to check the Trash folder (Menu > Trash) since deleted photos stay there for 60 days. 

Top 3 Free Programs to Recover Deleted Pictures from an SD Card

Let’s take a closer look at three popular free programs to recover deleted pictures from an SD card on any device. When deciding which programs to select, our goal was to cover multiple operating systems and use cases. We ended up with three free programs, each offering a slightly different approach. 

Disk Drill Icon1. Disk Drill (Windows & Mac)

Disk Drill is an easy-to-use data recovery solution that works on all Windows and Mac computers. It stands out with its signature one-click approach to data recovery that allows its users to recover deleted pictures from an SD card with a single click on the Recover button. 

In addition to SD cards, Disk Drill supports all commonly used external and internal storage devices, such as hard drives, solid-state drives, and USB flash drives. In total, Disk Drill can recover more than 400 file formats, including image and video file formats, document file formats, and archives. 

Disk Drill comes with several free disk tools that you can use to keep your SD cards organized and your data protected. Both Disk Drill for Windows and Disk Drill for Mac can preview all recoverable files for free, and the Windows version can also recover up to 500 MB. 

DiskDigger Icon2. DiskDigger (Android)

If you want to recover photos from an SD card directly on your Android smartphone, DiskDigger is an easy choice. The app works on all Android devices running Android 2.2 (Froyo) or higher, and you can download it for free directly from the Google Play Store by searching for “DiskDigger.”

DiskDigger is available in two versions: Free and Pro. The free version can only recover photos and videos from cache and thumbnails, whereas the Pro version can recover far more file formats from any location, including an SD card (which usually appears as “/mnt/sdcard” in Android). 

Exif Untrasher Icon3. Exif Untrasher (macOS)

Exif Untrasher is a free app for Mac whose only purpose is to recover pics from an SD card or any other storage device. The app really has only two options: one lets you select the storage device you want to scan, and the other one lets you pick the destination folder. 

Unlike Disk Drill and other feature-packed image recovery solutions, Exif Untrasher can recognize only JPG/JPEG images and doesn’t provide any way to restore RAW files or videos. You won’t find Exif Untrasher in the Mac App Store, but you can download it directly from its official website. 

Conclusion

SD cards offer a portable and convenient method of extending the storage capacity of your camera or mobile device. If you regularly use these cards, there is a very good chance that you will fall victim to a data loss event at some point. No matter how careful you are, accidents can happen.

recover images from sd card with disk drillIf you need to recover images from an SD card, Disk Drill offers a simple and effective solution. It can easily restore the valuable photos and videos stored on SD cards and any other removable storage device. It’s a great tool to have at your disposal.

David Morelo
David Morelo is a professional content writer in the technology niche, covering everything from consumer products to emerging technologies and their cross-industry application.
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12 years experience in software development, database administration and hardware repair.