How to Recover Deleted Photos

There is nothing worse than realising you’ve accidentally deleted a bunch of your precious photos from your camera or mobile phone’s SD card. But don’t give up just yet – photo restoration is by no means impossible with the correct tools and knowledge. Here’s our quick and handy guide on deleted photo recovery.

Before we explore the photo recovery process in detail, it’s a good idea to start by talking about what actually happens when you delete photos from an SD card. They aren’t technically deleted; the SD card just marks the space as free. So the first thing you need to bear in mind if you want to recover lost photos is that you shouldn’t use the SD card at all – don’t take any new photos, don’t even connect it to your camera or phone. If data is written onto the space where your deleted photos are stored, they will be permanently lost. If you follow this simple rule, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to recover your lost photos. While many cameras, mobile phones and SD cards often come bundled with free data recovery software, there are loads of programs out there, many of them free, that let you restore deleted photos. The photo recovery software you chose really depends on your operating system, so here we’ll look at two that are compatible with Windows (Recuva) and Mac (PhotoRec).


Recuva is a great free data recovery program that not only recovers photos, but also music, videos, documents, emails, and virtually any other type of file. As well as being able to undertake photo recovery from SD cards, it can also recover data from practically any rewritable media out there that you might have photos on – including USB flash drives and external hard drives. Recuva can perform deep scans for photo restoration, and will scour your SD card for your accidentally-deleted photos. Download Recuva to your PC, and connect your SD card to your machine; you’ll have to invest in an SD card adapter if your machine doesn’t have an SD card slot. Once you’ve downloaded the software and connected your SD card, load Recuva and begin the scan – the software is fairly intuitive and very easy to work out how to use. The wizard will ask you what type of files – pictures, music, documents, videos, emails or other – but if it’s just photos recovery you’re after, you only need to select the first option. Then you need to let Recuva know where to recover the photos from, so select your SD card. You can then begin the photo recovery scan by clicking the ‘Start’ button. There is an option to check to perform a ‘deep scan’, but don’t do this on your first attempt – there’s a good chance a standard scan will work, and the deep scan can take hours. If successful, Recuva will then show all the deleted files, and to permanently restore the deleted photos, check the boxes of the ones you want and click ‘Recover’, and you’ll be asked to browse for a folder to save them to. If the photo recovery fails, then you can try the ‘deep scan’ mode.


PhotoRec is our photo recovery program of choice for Mac users, although Windows users can use it too. Despite the name, like Recuva, PhotoRec is much more than just a photo recovery program – though this is what it specialises in. But it can actually recover over a whopping 390 file types! Unlike Recuva, though, there’s no flashy interface with PhotoRec – there’s nothing to install, and all you have to do is click the ‘photorec’ file once you’ve downloaded it. Obviously, download and extract the file to anywhere other than the SD card (or other device) you’re trying to recover photos from. When you run PhotoRec, it opens in your operating system’s default console app – this is Terminal for Mac machines. Once PhotoRec is up and running in Terminal it’s just a case of following the commands. Firstly, you’ll need to select your SD card – a good way of telling which drive is your SD card is by looking at the storage capacity. If you see numerous drives, one 1TB and another 32GB, it’s clear which one is your SD card. You’ll be asked if you want to scan the entire volume, or just a certain area – on SD cards it’s worth just scanning the entire drive. Finally, you need to select a destination to save your recovered photos to – we’d recommend somewhere local on the C drive, in a specially-created folder.

Photo Recovery