How to recover deleted photos from a memory card

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CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.

If you've accidentally deleted your images on your camera's memory card and thought they were lost to the vortex of time, there may be a way to retrieve them.

You will need a card reader, a computer, memory card and nerves of steel.

Step one: don't do anything to your memory card once you realise photos have been lost or deleted. This means, don't take any more photos on the card and remove it from the camera.

Step two: fire up a software recovery suite. The software mentioned in this video is Recuva for Windows and PhotoRec for Mac. Bear in mind that there are plenty of other options out there, and you may already have one that was included with your memory card from vendors like Lexar or SanDisk.

Step three: install and set up the software on your PC. The steps from now on are for using Recuva.

Step four: fire up Recuva and choose what sorts of files you want to try and retrieve. In this tutorial we're looking for photos, but Recuva also gives you the option of finding a number of other file types. Click through the menu until you reach the screen telling you which location to look in. Plug your card reader into your computer and select the root directory of where your camera stores its image files — provided it hasn't disappeared when the card was formatted or the pictures were deleted. This is typically a folder called DCIM, or the camera manufacturer or model's name.

Step five: run the scan and see what files it turns up. Hopefully you will get some results here, which means the software has found your images. If you chose to search only for pictures in step four, it will only show up standard file formats like JPEG. If you are looking for RAW files and they're not showing up there is one more step you can do. Click "Switch to advanced mode", which will show you what file types the software is looking for. All you have to do is add the file extension of your camera's RAW format. This is typically something like CR2, NEF or ARW depending on your camera brand. If in doubt, check your camera manual.

Step six: select all the images you want to restore, and click the "Recover" button. Choose a place you want to restore the files to. You will want to choose somewhere you can access easily, like the desktop or your pictures folder. It's best not to save them back to the memory card.

Step seven: check the files that have been recovered, then back them up!

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Markson89 posted a comment   

Had the same problem - iTunes automatically does backups of the photos you take with the camera on the iPhone, but not the photos you load onto the phone. You can use a tool like the memory card backup extractor iPhone / iPod Touch Backup Extractor to get the files. Worked like a dream! Good luck


MattL3 posted a comment   

This saved my arse, thanks guys.


elbert_26 posted a comment   

The above mentioned software is great. But can it recover images captured by Sony cyber-shot camera? As the problem of data loss, became common among Sony cyber-shot camera users. Few days back when I encounter with a data loss situation in which I lose my memorable photographs from Sony cyber-shot camera, I use digital photo recovery tool to recover photos from camera memory card. It is such a wonderful application to recover deleted/ lost pictures files. The best thing about the software is that it is available for both Mac and Windows. Any needy person can try this tool from here:
Software link:
Download link:

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