SD Card Data Recovery at Home

Photographs are among our most prized possessions. With no price attached to them most of the time, the value is more sentimental.

Most photos are taken and stored on SD cards, flash-based storage devices that are primarily used in digital cameras, but also some mobile phones. SD cards are often made from cheap components, so it goes without saying that we see a lot of them in the data recovery lab. However, if your SD card hasn’t suffered physical damage and you want to recover photos, there are plenty of great free data recovery tools out there. Before we delve into them, let’s look at how data is stored on SD cards, and why data recovery software is able to recover photos when they appear to have vanished. When you delete photos (or any kind of data, for that matter) from an SD card, they aren’t actually deleted – the space is merely marked as free so new data can be written. Therefore, if you want a chance of a successful data recovery, do not continue to use the SD card! If any new data is written to the space where your “deleted” photos were, you won’t be able to retrieve them back. There are loads of great free data recovery tools out there, that work on a multitude of storage devices, including SD cards; here are two great examples, Recuva and PhotoRec, that run on Windows and Mac, respectively.

Recuva is a powerful piece of data recovery software that can recover photos from SD cards as well as a multitude of other file types from pretty much every storage device imaginable, from hard disk drives and solid-state drives to USB flash drives and external hard drives. Download Recuva, and connect your SD card to your machine. Many modern computers and laptops have built-in SD card slots, but if yours doesn’t you can buy external USB SD card adapters that work just fine. When your SD card is connected and viewable in Device Manager, load Recuva and start the scan. Recuva’s user interface is incredibly simple and easy to use, and doesn’t take much figuring out. The wizard will ask what file types you want to scan for – common image types are .jpeg and .png. Locate the SD card in the devices section, and click the ‘Start’ button to begin the scan. There is also a “deep scan” option, but only try this if the standard scan yields no results, as it can take hours. If Recuva is able to locate any of your deleted photos, it will list them, and it’s then just a case of restoring them to your machine.

PhotoRec is a great tool for SD card data recovery on Apple machines running a Mac OS. Although tailored towards photo recovery, don’t let the name fool you – PhotoRec can actually recovery over 300 file types. Unlike Recuva, PhotoRec has no intuitive interface, so it takes a bit of getting used to. You first need to select your SD card from the list of available drives, and a good way to work out which one it is is to look at the storage capacity. PhotoRec will ask if you want to scan the entire volume, or just an area. It’s worth scanning the entire SD card if you want the best chance of a successful data recovery. You then need to select a destination to store any recovered files – we’d recommend somewhere other than the SD card, ideally your Mac’s main hard drive.

Data Recovery