How to Recover Deleted NEF Files and View It

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recover deleted nef files

Losing your NEF files to corruption or device damage can be a huge problem, especially if you’re a professional photographer or take a lot of important photos. Fortunately, it’s not the end of the world since there are certain methods you can use to recover NEF files.

In this article, we’ll take a quick look at what NEF files are, how to recover them if they’re accidentally deleted or lost, and how to view them once they’ve been successfully restored.

What Is a NEF File?

NEF is short for Nikon Electronic Format and is used exclusively by Nikon cameras. It is a RAW image format that contains various information, including camera ID, device settings, the lens utilized, and more, along with all the image info caught by the device’s sensor.

The advantage of the NEF format over run-of-the-mill image file types like JPEG or TIFF is that the images are captured as NEF RAW files and include no changes to sharpening, tone, hue, or white balance made by the camera. Instead, this file type will save those edits as instructions, allowing you to make as many edits as you want without disturbing the original image.

The Nikon NEF format is also 12-bit or 14-bit, which makes for superior tone depth compared to other image file types.

How To Recover Deleted NEF Files

NEF photo files are commonly saved in memory cards by Nikon cameras, so it’s not out of the ordinary for these files to be corrupted, lost, or accidentally deleted. That being said, it’s certainly possible to retrieve those files, especially if you enlist the help of the right recovery software, like Disk Drill Data Recovery.

Whether it’s from an SD card, flash drive, external hard drive, or any other storage medium, Disk Drill can easily help you get your lost NEF files back. All you have to do is follow the simple steps below:

Step 1. Start by downloading Disk Drill from the official website. Once the setup file has been downloaded, launch the file and follow the on-screen instructions until the program is successfully installed.
nef disk drill download
Step 2. Run the Disk Drill app, select the storage medium you’d like to recover the NEF files from, and press the Search for lost data button.
nef disk drill select storage
Step 3. The recovery tool will begin searching for all retrievable files in that storage medium. The length of time this process takes depends on the speed of the storage medium you’re scanning, as well as the overall size.
disk drill scanning
Step 4. Once the scan is complete, you can browse all the potentially recoverable picture files by selecting Pictures from the left side of the screen. From there, you can arrange the results by Type, and then scroll down until you find all the retrievable NEF files.
disk drill results
Step 5. Select the NEF files you’d like to recover by ticking the checkbox beside the file names and then hit the Recover button near the bottom of the window.
select files to recover
Step 6. You’ll be prompted with a pop-up that asks you to select a storage medium to save the recovered files. Bear in mind that this must be a different medium than the one you’re recovering from. Once you’ve selected a destination, hit the OK button to start recovering.
choose file destination
Step 7. The recovery process could take anywhere from seconds to minutes, or longer depending on the overall size of the files you’re trying to recover. Once the process is complete, you can browse the retrieved files by clicking on the Show recovered data in Explorer button.
disk drill recovery complete

How To View Recovered NEF Files

Windows is normally capable of viewing NEF files using its default Photos app, but if you’re encountering certain files that just won’t open, you can install the official Nikon codec that will help Windows identify these files.

If you’re wondering how to view NEF files on Mac, the Apple Preview app is included with all Mac machines and fully supports NEF images. Alternatively, you can download and install the free Nikon ViewNX2 .nef file viewer that allows you to open NEF files and edit them. This tool is available for both Windows and Mac operating systems.

How To Repair Corrupted NEF Files

Downloading the Microsoft Nikon codec pack or installing the official ViewNX2 are both valid ways to potentially resolve corrupted NEF images that won’t open using the default programs on your chosen operating system. You can also employ the services of dedicated software, such as the Stellar Photo Repair tool.

Furthermore, you can use Windows’ built-in CHKDSK tool to try and repair NEF files. To do so, follow these steps:

Step 1. Press the Windows button and key in “cmd”.
nef cmd search
Step 2. Right-click the Windows Command Prompt and select Run as administrator. You’ll be prompted with a confirmation window where you’ll need to select Yes.
run as administrator
Step 3. Type in chkdsk D: /f /r /x into the Command Prompt, where “D:” refers to the storage medium where your corrupt NEF files are located. Then, hit the Enter key to have CHKDSK start scanning and repairing files.
nef cmd repair
Step 4. Once the process is completed, restart your machine. This could potentially repair any corrupt NEF files on the storage medium scanned.

Through the steps outlined above, you can now recover and repair any important NEF files that you may have lost due to device damage or accidental deletion.


Ultimately, the answer to this question depends on the photographer’s preferences and needs. Generally, NEF files provide more detailed, higher quality images compared to JPEG files. This makes them better suited for larger prints and those who need higher resolution images. On the other hand, JPEG files are smaller and can be easily shared or emailed without taking up too much storage space.
RAW files are a much broader category of image file formats, while NEF is a specific type of RAW file format created by Nikon cameras. Though similar in many ways, these two types of files are not interchangeable and should not be used interchangeably.
These files cannot be opened on most computers unless you have the appropriate software installed. If you are attempting to view the NEF file, you will need to install Nikon software such as Nikon ViewNX or Capture NX-D. Additionally, if you want to edit or convert the file, you may need additional software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.
Emma Collins is a content writer who has been writing tech tutorials & how-to guides relating to her wide interests in technology. She's been writing articles on Windows, Android, iOS, Social Media, Gaming, and more as a tech writer for over 5 years.
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12 years experience in software development, database administration and hardware repair.