Can I recover deleted photos from my SD card on my phone?

Quick Answer

Yes, it is often possible to recover deleted photos from an SD card, even if you deleted them on your phone. When you delete photos, they are not immediately erased from the SD card – instead, the space they occupied is marked as available to be overwritten. As long as that space has not been overwritten by new data, recovery software can scan the SD card and restore the deleted photos.

Steps to Recover Deleted Photos from SD Card

Here are the general steps to follow to recover deleted photos from an SD card:

  1. Stop using the SD card immediately. Any new data written to the card could overwrite your deleted photos.
  2. Connect the SD card to a computer, either by inserting it into a built-in SD card reader or using an external USB card reader.
  3. Download and install a photo recovery software on your computer. Some options include Recuva, PhotoRec, and Stellar Data Recovery.
  4. Run the photo recovery software and select the SD card to scan.
  5. The software will scan the card and display any recoverable deleted photos.
  6. Select the photos you want to restore and choose a folder on your computer to save them to.
  7. Safely eject the SD card when done.

The key is to not overwrite the storage space where your deleted photos reside by adding new data to the SD card. As soon as you realize photos are missing, stop using the card and attempt recovery.

Why Deleted Photos Can Be Recovered

When you delete photos on your phone or camera, the actual image files are not wiped from the SD card right away. What happens is that the space they occupy is marked as available to be overwritten by new data. Until that space is needed for new files, the deleted photo data remains intact but invisible on the SD card.

This is why it’s crucial to stop using the SD card as soon as you realize photos are deleted. The act of taking new pictures or transferring files to the card could overwrite the deleted photos and make them unrecoverable.

Data recovery software scans the unused sections of the SD card that are marked as available space. It looks for traces of intact image files that match common photo file formats like JPG and RAW. When matches are found, the software reconstructs the photo files so they can be restored.

However, there is no guarantee that the space occupied by deleted photos has not already been partially or completely overwritten by new data. The sooner you run recovery software after deletion occurs, the better your chances of getting the photos back intact.

Factors That Affect Photo Recovery from SD Cards

Several factors come into play when attempting to recover deleted photos from an SD card:

Time since deletion – As time passes since the initial deletion, the risk grows that the space occupied by deleted photos will be overwritten by new data. Act quickly.

SD card capacity – The less storage space is available on the card overall, the greater the chances that deleted photos will be overwritten.

Level of SD card use after deletion – Using the SD card extensively after photos are deleted drastically reduces recoverability.

Cause of deletion – Accidental deletion allows a better chance of recovery than if the photos are deleted intentionally.

File system – SD cards formatted with FAT32 allow an easier recovery than cards formatted with exFAT or NTFS.

Following the proper steps immediately after deletion gives you the best shot at getting back your photos successfully.

Benefits of a Dedicated Photo Recovery Software

Trying to recover deleted photos directly on your phone is not ideal. A purpose-built photo recovery program for computers offers important advantages:

  • Bypasses Android’s file system: Android’s file system is complex and doesn’t easily reveal deleted photo files. Recovery software bypasses this limitation.
  • Scans the full SD card: Phone recovery tools only scan a limited portion of available storage. Desktop software scans the entire card.
  • Recovers more file types: Phone apps often only support JPG recovery. Desktop tools can recover JPG, RAW, PNG, GIF and more.
  • Improves chances of full recovery: The advanced scanning algorithms of desktop software excel at reconstructing fragmented photo files.
  • Won’t harm the phone: Installing recovery apps directly on a phone could negatively interact with the operating system.

For the most efficient photo recovery from an SD card, a dedicated desktop program is recommended over trying to do it directly on the phone.

Alternative Ways to Attempt Photo Recovery on Android

While a desktop photo recovery program is the best solution, there are some other options you can try directly on an Android device to potentially recover deleted photos:

  • Use the trash bin – The Android trash retains deleted files for 30 days, after which they are permanently deleted. Check it for missing photos.
  • Try file explorer apps – Apps like DiskDigger Photo Recovery perform limited scans for deleted images.
  • Use Google Photos – If backups were enabled, deleted photos may be retrieved from cloud storage.
  • Check if the app deleted photos – Gallery, camera and social apps sometimes maintain their own trash that could contain deletions.
  • Root the device – With root access, it’s possible to directly access all of the SD card’s storage for a full scan.

These options have mixed results, but could potentially recover deleted photos in some cases. Using multiple methods in parallel improves your chances.

When Is Photo Recovery Impossible?

Unfortunately, there are certain situations where recovering deleted photos from an SD card is essentially impossible:

– The storage space occupied by the deleted photos has been completely overwritten by new data. The original image data no longer exists on the card.

– The SD card experienced physical damage, corruption, or format errors that prevent accessing stored data.

– Encryption was enabled on the SD card, scrambling the deleted files.

– The deleted photos were originally stored in the phone’s internal storage, not the external SD card.

– The deletion occurred a very long time ago, leaving ample window for overwritten data.

– recovery software requires the SD card file system to be intact, which may not be the case if corruption occurred.

Essentially, if the deleted photo data itself is gone or unable to be accessed, recovery becomes impossible. But in most typical deletion scenarios, at least some photos can be rescued successfully.

Pro Tips for Maximizing Photo Recovery from SD Card

Follow these tips and best practices when attempting to recover deleted photos from your phone’s SD card:

  • Immediately stop using the SD card to prevent overwriting deleted data.
  • Connect the SD card to a computer for scanning rather than performing recovery directly on the phone.
  • Use reputable recovery software and avoid untrustworthy freeware options.
  • Save recovered photos to another storage drive, not back to the SD card.
  • Keep backups of photos in cloud storage or external drives when possible.
  • If recovery is unsuccessful, try alternative software before attempting to format or reuse the card.
  • Be selective when recovering photos, restoring only your most valued images.

Carefully following the proper procedures for recovery gives you the optimal outcome when trying to get back deleted photos from an SD card. Patience and persistence are key.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does deleting photos on my phone also delete them from the SD card?

Yes, when you delete photos on your Android phone, it deletes them both from the internal phone storage and the external SD card. However, the actual photo files on the SD card are only marked for deletion initially. Until they get overwritten by new data, recovery is possible.

Will a factory reset delete photos from the SD card permanently?

Performing a factory reset on your Android device will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recover deleted photos from the SD card afterward. A factory reset wipes all data from the phone’s internal storage. If you want any hope of recovering photos after this, do NOT use the SD card again in the reset device.

Can I recover photos without dedicated recovery software?

You can try basic recovery using Android’s trash bin, a file explorer app, Google Photos backups, or apps that come with SD card makers like SanDisk. But these options are hit-or-miss. To maximize your chances, invest in professional recovery software designed specifically for recapturing deleted photos.

Is there any free deleted photo recovery software?

Yes, you can find free solutions like Recuva, Disk Drill, and Glary Undelete. But free options are more limited in scanning capability. Paid software like Stellar Photo Recovery, EaseUS, and Remo offer advanced scanning for optimal recovery of deleted photos.

Can I recover photos deleted from an SD card years ago?

If it has been multiple years since the photos were deleted, your chances of recovery are very low. With that huge window, it’s almost certain your deleted photos have been completely overwritten by new data. But if you have not used the SD card much since deletion occurred, it still may be worth an attempt.


Recovering deleted photos from an SD card is often possible with the right software and techniques. When deletion occurs, stop using the card immediately and connect it to a computer. Specialized data recovery software can scan the card and salvage deleted photos that have not yet been overwritten. While results are not guaranteed, following the proper photo recovery procedures gives you the best possible chance to restore your lost images. Be sure to also learn ways to keep backups of your photos moving forward.