How To Recover Deleted Photos

How To Recover Deleted Photos

Most have experienced that sinking feeling after realizing priceless photos are missing. But permanent data loss is not inevitable. Recovering deleted pictures is still possible, depending on the situation. Secure Data Recovery, the leader in RAID, SSD, and hard drive recovery and proud corporate member of the Professional Photographers of America, provides this guide on how to recover deleted photos.

Common Causes of Deleted Photos

Deleted files and photos happen for various reasons. Accidental deletion is the most common cause. That might mean hitting the Delete button or formatting a storage device. Additional causes include malware or mishandling the device and inflicting damage on it. Determining the data loss scenario is the first step of photo recovery.

After diagnosing the problem, people can proceed with the appropriate course of action.

The subsequent sections detail the data recovery process for deleted photos on popular smartphones and storage devices.

How To Recover Deleted Photos From SD Card and Flash Drive

SD cards are susceptible to accidental deletion. Users can delete a file from their device, but there are other causes of sudden data loss. Formatting an SD card wipes its stored data. If users did not intend to format the memory card, their precious photos are gone.

Data loss does not have to be permanent, though.

Deleted data does not disappear from an SD card or flash drive. Instead, the file system marks the once-occupied storage space as available for rewriting. That means recovering deleted photos from an SD card or flash drive is possible until the file is overwritten. The deleted image is unrecoverable once the file system rewrites data to that block.

When the file system rewrites data to that block, the deleted image is unrecoverable.

Stop using the SD card or flash drive to maximize the likelihood of retrieving irreplaceable pictures. Continued usage increases the chance that the file is overwritten. Remove the card from its device and consider the options.

Data Recovery Service

A professional data recovery service will always provide the best outcome, given their experience with different failure modes and form factors. Experts also have advanced recovery tools and techniques.

When users delete photos from their SD card or flash drive, those files do not vanish. Fragments of those files remain in storage until overwritten. Technicians can retrieve and reassemble the file fragments into the old image. Corruption cases require further file repair.

Most laboratories even have a specialized combination of hardware and software to resolve problems that consumer data recovery products cannot, such as cases involving physical damage to the card.

This hardware is designed to detect memory cards and flash drives under challenging circumstances. Once detected, an engineer uses custom software to read the chip, create a logical image, fix errors with error-correcting code, re-read the chip, and then reconstruct the file.

Without these tools, certain recoveries are impossible.

Data Recovery Software

Data recovery software can sometimes address logical issues like accidental deletion.

Software could be a potential option if users did not restore the deleted data within the timeframe. For the most part, software is more accessible and intuitive than ever. Users pick their preferred software and follow its on-screen instructions. Often, the programs will scan the device, present a preview of recoverable files, and provide the cost of retrieving them.

Though users should still recognize software’s limitations and risks. Software is ineffective on damaged SD cards or flash drives. Cards or drives that are dropped, mishandled, or show signs of wear and tear must be repaired before recovering the photos.

In general, users should beware of shareware. While much of the software on the market is a legitimate option for reversing minor data loss, users should still be cautious of scams.

How To Recover Deleted Photos From Computer

From accidental deletion to hard drive failure, photos are removed from computers for several reasons.

The good news is that recovering photos stored on a hard disk drive (HDD) is often possible.

The bad news is recovering photos from solid-state drives (SSDs) is almost impossible due to an interface command known as TRIM.

Since TRIM eliminates the need to relocate pages from a block, the command improves the long-term performance of SSDs. Unless the user disabled TRIM within their command-line interpreter before the deletion occurred, the erased photos are gone.

Fortunately, there are immediate steps users can take to restore images on a computer.

Restore Deleted Photos With Recycle Bin or Trash

The concept of trash in computing dates back to 1982.

In the following four decades, countless users have restored deleted files through this method. The temporary storage space is a safety net for users who accidentally delete their photos.

Deleted data on a Windows computer is moved to the Recycle Bin. To restore:

  1. Launch Recycle Bin from the desktop.
  2. Right-click the relevant file.
  3. Click Restore in the context menu to return the file to its original location.

Deleted data on a Mac is moved to the Trash. To restore:

  1. Launch Trash from the Dock.
  2. Right-click the relevant file.
  3. Click Put Back in the context menu to return the file to its original location.

Restore Deleted Photos With Backups

There are dozens of valid backup programs or services available to users in 2023. The platform often depends on the operating system. Regardless, all these backup programs or services can transform data loss from a devastating event to a painless process.

For Windows computers, users tend to back up and restore images with Google Photos, Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive. On Mac, duplicating and restoring photos is done through iCloud, iTunes, and Finder in most instances.

Users must have created a backup before data loss to utilize this method.

Data Recovery Service

If restoring is not an option, then a data recovery service is always the most effective solution for salvaging deleted files from a hard drive.

Hard drives are sophisticated devices that store data in sectors on magnetic disks. These disks efficiently record and retrieve digital information within the confines of a file system. In essence, the file system manages the allocation of space.

When users delete a photo from their computer, that file still exists in unallocated space. That means the file system marks the space the photo once occupied as free without overwriting it. A data recovery service can access the deleted data and recover photos by reassembling file fragments that may still be present on the hard drive.

In certain circumstances, an engineer searching for missing data might have to use custom scripting to recognize file signatures and recover the deleted pictures.

Some situations call for an unconventional approach, such as file carving. File carving is an advanced technique that scans for file components and recovers deleted data from the raw disk space, bypassing the file system.

With deleted data, the potential for corruption exists. Corruption occurs when chunks of a deleted file are overwritten. Additional file repair might be required to restore the photo to a usable state.

A data recovery service can be the difference between recovering essential data and suffering permanent data loss.

Data Recovery Software

Data recovery software offers many of the same advantages and disadvantages for hard drives.

Software represents a potential DIY solution for some users, but it is critical to acknowledge its shortcomings. Programs designed for consumers cannot resolve complex data loss. For example, software is inadequate if the hard drive suffers a mechanical failure or severe file fragmentation. These scenarios require the expertise and equipment of an experienced engineer.

In addition, downloading software to the same hard drive could jeopardize deleted data. Deleted files might reside in unallocated space, given how an HDD stores data. Saving new data to the drive, such as data recovery software, could overwrite the deleted pictures. Download the software to an external device instead.

How To Recover Deleted Photos From iPhone

Recovering deleted pictures from an iPhone ranges from impossible to painless. In 2014, Apple introduced Data Protection as part of its iOS 8 release. Data Protection is a privacy feature that supplies built-in, end-to-end encryption and prevents unauthorized parties, including Apple, from accessing data.

Furthermore, recent iPhones and iOS devices feature crypto-shredding. The practice deliberately overwrites per-file encryption keys and renders the device’s contents inaccessible to all parties, including the user.

That combination complicates traditional data recovery efforts. Without the keys, engineers cannot decrypt and recover those files.

Fortunately, Apple recognized some of the consequences of Data Protection and implemented solutions within existing applications, services, and programs to restore lost data.

Users can restore deleted pictures on iPhones through one of the following methods.

Restore Deleted Photos With Photos App

Restoring deleted images with the Photos app is the most straightforward solution for the most common problem.

Starting with iOS 16’s release in 2022, iPhones can restore deleted photos without a cloud service like iCloud or a backup program like iTunes. Now, users can retrieve these files with the iPhone’s default Photos app.

However, deleted pictures must meet certain conditions for restoration.

On iOS 16, iPhones transfer deleted photos to a Recently Deleted album for 30 days instead of automatically deleting them. Users can immediately access and restore photos they accidentally deleted. Recovered photos revert to the Photos app.

To restore recently deleted photos or videos:

  1. Launch the Photos app from the iPhone’s Home screen.
  2. Tap the Albums icon on the bottom of the Photos screen.
  3. Scroll down to Utilities, then choose Recently Deleted.
  4. Enter the iPhone’s passcode when prompted.
  5. Press Select in the top-right corner.
  6. Select the relevant photos and videos.
  7. Tap Recover in the bottom-right corner.
  8. Confirm the selected photos with Recover Photo.

As mentioned, restoring files with the Photos app is limited to specific situations.

Photos only appear in the Recently Deleted album if users have deleted them within the past 30 days. Deleted images from more than a month ago are considered permanently deleted.

Continue with the next steps if the photos are important.

Restore Deleted Photos With iCloud Backup

There are still options for users that did not recently delete their photos or update to iOS 16.

Apple offers free cloud storage through its iCloud platform. All iPhone and iPad owners receive 5 GB of space to start, but users can upgrade to iCloud+ with a subscription and obtain more cloud storage.

Restoring an iCloud backup could be a solution depending on settings and subscription.

With iCloud, users can restore their iPhones to a particular point in the past. If the iCloud backup predates the deleted pictures, retrieving lost files is still possible.

Since iPhones automatically synchronize with iCloud, photos deleted from the device are also removed from iCloud Photos. As a result, most users will need to reset their iPhones to restore the photos.

To check for a backup that occurred before deletion:

  1. Launch the Settings app from the iPhone’s Home screen.
  2. Tap the Apple ID profile at the top of the Settings screen.
  3. Select iCloud to show its status.
  4. Tap iCloud Backup.
  5. Check the backup archive.

If one of the backups predates the deleted picture, users can restore that version on their iPhone.

(Note: Older backups will be missing data saved to the iPhone since the backup’s creation. To avoid data loss, create copies of these files with a different iCloud account or a separate service, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive.)

Proceed with the following steps once finished with backing up the most recent data.

  1. Launch the Settings app from the iPhone’s Home screen.
  2. Scroll down and select General.
  3. Scroll down and tap Transfer or Reset iPhone.
  4. Select Erase All Content and Settings at the bottom of the screen.
  5. Tap Continue.
  6. Enter the appropriate passcode when prompted.
  7. Select Erase Now. Do not elect to back up before erasing. Doing so will overwrite the previous backup.
  8. Follow the on-screen instructions until the Apps & Data screen appears.
  9. Tap Restore from iCloud Backup.
  10. Sign in to iCloud with the appropriate Apple ID when prompted.
  11. Choose the appropriate backup.

Users might have to sign in to all their accounts again if they choose to restore their photos using this method.

Restore Deleted Photos With iTunes Backup

An iTunes backup is another restoration option for Mac users.

However, users must meet certain criteria to retrieve photos with an iTunes backup.

First, users must be running macOS Mojave or earlier. With the 2019 release of macOS Catalina, Apple split iTunes into three applications.

The other requirement is that users must have connected their smartphone to their computer and created copies of its contents at some point.

Without a manual backup, restoring photos from iTunes is impossible.

Still, for those that have saved a backup on iTunes, there is an additional factor to consider. Users cannot extract or preview specific photos with the software. To recover or view one photo, users must restore them all.

Like with iCloud, users will want to duplicate recent data and photos with the service of their choice before continuing with iTunes.

To restore an existing iTunes backup:

  1. Launch iTunes.
  2. Connect the iPhone to the computer via a USB cable.
  3. Click Summary in the Settings sidebar.
  4. Press Restore Backup in the window’s bottom-right corner.
  5. Select the preferred backup when prompted.
  6. Press Restore to start the process.

Wait for the restoration process to finish.

Restore Deleted Photos with Finder

Those that run macOS Catalina or later use Finder to restore iPhone photos.

Similar to iTunes, users must create an iPhone backup beforehand for Finder to work.

As long as a backup of the iPhone is saved within the file manager, users can restore that version to their device.

Again, save the data added to the phone since the last backup with a different service.

To restore images using Finder:

  1. Launch Finder.
  2. Connect the iPhone to the computer via a USB cable.
  3. Click the iPhone in the Locations sidebar.
  4. Press Restore iPhone in the General tab of the main window.
  5. Select the preferred backup when prompted.
  6. Press Restore.

Check for the deleted files in the Photos app once the restoration is complete.

Data Recovery Service

Despite constant innovation, commercial services cannot currently recover deleted photos from iPhones. Once their 30 days in the Recently Deleted album expires, the iPhone permanently deletes the images.

But iPhone data recovery is still possible in specific conditions. A data recovery service can assist in cases of a damaged iPhone. That includes instances where the iPhone is dropped or submerged in water. Professionals can even retrieve data when an iPhone’s intricate electronics malfunction.

In rarer circumstances, technicians can recover text the iPhone stores in an SQLite database. Rather than immediately deleting data, an SQLite database assigns it to an unused page, or freelist. Still, data within the freelist is subject to being defragmented or vacuumed. When that happens, the text disappears forever.

Data Recovery Software

Consumer tools that can recover deleted images from iPhones do not exist.

How To Recover Deleted Photos From Android

Recovering deleted photos from Android is comparable to retrieving lost data on iOS.

Restoring images from a recently deleted folder is almost effortless, regardless of the photo service. Recovering permanently deleted pictures from internal storage is much more difficult.

Since the release of Android Nougat in 2016, the mobile operating system has employed file-based encryption. This form of encryption offers more security to users because each photo possesses a unique cryptographic key. Without the key, unauthorized parties cannot access the file’s contents.

However, once someone deletes a picture, the key is simultaneously destroyed.

At that point, recovering those photos is not viable.

Users can still take advantage of the following methods to restore their deleted images.

Restore Deleted Photos From Google Photos

Google Photos is one of the most popular photo services on Android. Like its iOS counterpart, Android phones and tablets have a built-in mechanism to reclaim lost photos. Users that erased their photos by accident can retrieve them from a folder for recently deleted files.

As of the March 2023 release of Android Tiramisu, deleted pictures remain in the phone’s temporary storage for 30 days. If the photos are backed up to the cloud, they will stay for 60 days.

To restore images deleted from Google Photos to an Android device:

  1. Launch Google Photos app from the Home screen.
  2. Open the menu in the top-left corner of the application.
  3. Select Trash or Bin.
  4. Press and hold the desired photo.
  5. Tap Restore at the bottom of the screen.

Returning the file to the phone’s photo library restores it across all Android devices.

Restore Deleted Photos From Google Drive

Google Drive is the file storage service from the tech giant. It comes preinstalled on most Android phones. Like Apple with iCloud, Google allocates free cloud storage to those with a Google Account. At the time of this publication, users receive a combined 15 GB for their Gmail and Google Drive services.

Restoration of a deleted photo is possible for those that have linked Google Drive and Google Photos.

Proceed with the following steps on an Android phone:

  1. Launch Google Drive.
  2. Open the menu in the top-left corner of the application.
  3. Select Trash in the sidebar.
  4. Tap the three vertical dots next to the deleted file.
  5. Press Restore in the pop-up menu.

If the photos are still missing, Google can sometimes retrieve them. For Google to recover all these pictures, users with a consumer account (compared to an organization account) must have created the file, uploaded it to Drive, or accepted ownership from someone. Otherwise, Google cannot intervene.

Restore Deleted Photos From Dropbox

Dropbox is a third-party file hosting service that centralizes photos saved across numerous devices. It uses a freemium model, like iCloud and Google Drive. Users of Dropbox Basic receive 2 GB of storage space. Those that exceed Dropbox’s storage limits must subscribe for additional space.

Using the service to salvage deleted pictures requires a pre-existing backup on their servers.

To restore deleted photos on Dropbox:

  1. Sign in to dropbox.com.
  2. Click Deleted Files in the sidebar.
  3. Select the desired file or folder.
  4. Press Restore for the selected photos.

All Dropbox users can recover deleted data within 30 days. Depending on the plan, some users can obtain photos within 180 days after deletion.

Restore Deleted Photos From OneDrive

Microsoft’s file hosting service, OneDrive, is another restoration option for users with the application on their smartphone or a backup on the platform. Files deleted from an Android phone are stored in OneDrive’s Recycle Bin for 30 days with a personal account and 93 days with a school or work account.

To retrieve photos from OneDrive’s Recycle Bin on an Android:

  1. Tap the Me icon in the bottom-right corner of the screen.
  2. Press Recycle Bin.
  3. Select the desired files.
  4. Tap the Restore icon at the top of the application.

Restored files are returned to their original OneDrive folder.

Data Recovery Service

At one point, commercial services could recover deleted data from Android phones, but that was before the introduction of file-based encryption and TRIM protocols. For users with deleted photos on much earlier versions of Android, recovery remains possible.

Even with some of the restrictive conditions of Android data recovery, mobile engineers can still salvage data from smartphones or tablets. Common causes of data loss on Android devices include water damage and unresponsiveness. Professionals can reunite users with their files in most of these cases.

Data Recovery Software

Like iOS, consumer software cannot recover permanently deleted photos from an Android phone.

Recover Photos (And Protect Them)

Recovering or restoring deleted photos from SD cards, hard drives, iPhones, and Android devices can be a frustrating, stressful experience, given our emotional attachment to these images.

Restoration is usually a simple process, as outlined in this post.

However, a certified data recovery service is required for complex or critical data loss in some situations. Their tools and techniques are often the difference between losing and recovering precious photos.

At Secure Data Recovery, we have resolved over 100,000 cases and retrieved billions of files for our customers. Despite taking cases that other services will not, we maintain a documented 96% success rate. That is a result of having the most-credentialed personnel in the industry. And it gives us the confidence to guarantee our results. No data? No recovery fee.

Regardless of the method, it is important to back up irreplaceable data. Saving those files to a separate device or a cloud storage service (or both) protects against accidental deletion and damaged media.

Do not let lost data lead to lost memories.

Contact us at 800-388-1266 for a free consultation and learn what our experts can recover.

Category: How to Guides
Article by

T.J. Burlee is a content writer for Secure Data Recovery Services. He specializes in various topics in the data industry, including data recovery technology, storage devices, and digital forensics. Throughout his career, he has covered complex concepts and provided accessible solutions for users. Before joining Secure Data, he worked as a freelance technical writer.

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