How to 'undelete' and recover digital photos from your camera's memory card.
Photo recovery: important first steps
While moving through the numerous menus on a digital camera or juggling a host of memory cards, it is surprisingly easy to accidentally delete or lose important photos. This short and free tutorial will show you how to use photo recovery software to rescue, or undelete, your lost photos.
Before you do anything else: remove the memory card from the digital camera and do not use it under any circumstances until you have recovered your photos. On the side of the memory card there should be a little switch with a lock symbol on it. Move the switch to the locked position - also called write protection mode - as shown by the purple arrow in the adjacent photograph. The lock position varies slightly between card types. These instructions are listed first for a reason. If you keep using the card, your deleted digital photos will be permanently lost. Locking the card will allow you to read the contents but not accidentally wipe your lost photos beyond recovery. If you don't have one, get your hands on a memory card reader for your type of card - they are available for about 10-15 dollars online or in most digital camera and electronics store. Here is an example of what you need.
Free recovery software
There are numerous programs on the internet that can be used for digital photo recovery. In this tutorial, we will be using the free program 'File Recovery' (for a copy, see the related link, above). Most photo recovery software works the same way, so you can follow these steps with other recovery programs.
Photo Recovery: step-by-step
- Download and install File Recovery. Do not start the program just yet.
- Create a new folder on your desktop (anywhere is okay, but putting the folder on the desktop makes it easier to find later). To do this, go to your desktop, right-click and select: New-Folder. Call the folder something easy to remember like 'recovered photos'.
- Put your memory card into the card reader and plug the card reader into your computer.
- Start File Recovery. Note: File Recovery uses a green tick for 'OK' and a red cross for 'Cancel'.
- Select your language and click the green tick
- A help screen will be displayed showing various options. Read this screen if you want, then click the red cross.
- Once you close the help window from the previous step, you will now pick the drive with your photos on it (this is the card reader with your memory card inside it). Go to the menu and click Object-Drive. The program will check for every drive on your computer (tip: you can use this program to undelete all sort sof files from your computer, just digital photos). This process can take a minute or so. Your memory card will be one of them - it should look something like 'Noname - on removable disk #2'. The listing may vary slightly depending on computer setup, your memory card reader and card type.
- Select your drive and click the green tick. Now wait while File Recovery evaluates what is on your card. This can take a while.
- Once the scan has completed, click on the 'Deleted' icon in the left window. Your deleted files and folders should now display on the right. Green means the file can be recovered, generally without a problem. If there are too many files to spot which photo is the one you want to recover, use the search option listed under Object-Find (this assumes you know the name of the file, which you probably won't, but that's okay. The next step explains a way around this problem).
- The best way to ensure you get everything you want is to select all the files by clicking Edit-Select all. The selected files should be highlighted in blue.
- Right-click on the selected files and select 'Save to...'. In the next window, click the Desktop and then the folder you created in step 2 ('recovered photos').
- Click the green tick and be patient. This next step can take a long time, especially if the card is large and there are lots of photos selected for recovery (the total time can be anywhere from a few minutes to several hours).
- Once the process is complete, go the folder on the desktop and browse its contents. There may be all sorts of garbage files in there - which is normal. Some photos may have been partially damaged (ie partially over-written by another file). In these cases, sections of the photos will be missing, or large grek/black blocks may appear. Even in these cases, with a little cropping it may be possible to recover an important part a photograph.
- When you have finished and checked the undeleted files, don't forget to switch the memory card back to the unlocked position.
This page: Photo recovery - free photo recovery software and tutorials for recovering deleted or lost digital photographs