Can permanently deleted photos be recovered on PC?

With the prevalence of digital photography, many PC users end up accumulating a large number of photos on their computers over time. While some of these photos hold precious memories, others may no longer be needed or wanted. This often leads to users permanently deleting photos to free up storage space.

However, accidentally deleting important photos is a common mistake. In such cases, users often wonder if it is possible to recover permanently deleted photos on a PC.

What happens when you permanently delete photos on a PC?

When you permanently delete photos on a PC, either by pressing the Delete key or emptying the Recycle Bin, the operating system does not actually remove the photo files right away. Instead, it removes the file directory entries for those photos, marking the disk space they occupy as available for reuse.

The actual photo data remains on the hard drive until it gets overwritten by new data. So until the deleted photo’s disk space is reused, the photo can be recovered using data recovery software.

Factors affecting deleted photo recovery chances

The chances of recovering a deleted photo depends on these key factors:

  • Time since deletion – The sooner you attempt recovery, the higher the chances.
  • Disk usage – If the disk was heavily used after deletion, the photo may get overwritten.
  • Disk format – Recovery is easier from NTFS vs FAT32 filesystems.
  • Recovery method used – Advanced techniques recover more photos.

In general, as long as the storage space is not reallocated and overwritten, deleted files remain recoverable from most storage media.

Can you recover permanently deleted photos without software?

It is not possible to recover permanently deleted photos manually without using data recovery software. This is because when files are deleted, only the directory entries pointing to them are removed. The actual data remains on disk until overwritten.

To recover deleted photos, you need specialized software that can:

  • Scan the disk sectors and find deleted photo data based on file signatures.
  • Piece file fragments together when the deleted photos were partially overwritten.
  • Bypass the operating system and access disk sectors directly at the low level.

This kind of low-level disk access and file carving is not possible to do manually through Windows Explorer or the command prompt. So third-party data recovery software is required.

Free deleted photo recovery software

There are many free deleted photo recovery programs that can help recover permanently deleted photos on Windows PCs. Some good free options include:

Software Key Features
Recuva Recovers photos from hard drives and memory cards. Has deep scan support.
TestDisk Specifically for recovering lost partitions and volumes along with files.
Photorec File carving utility from the makers of TestDisk. No partitioning ability.
Puran File Recovery Full-featured recovery tool for all file types. Interface not user-friendly.

While the free software can recover deleted photos in many cases, their capabilities are limited compared to advanced commercial tools.

Best professional photo recovery software

For business, professional photographers, or intense home users needing to maximize their chances of recovering permanently deleted photos, commercial data recovery software offer better capabilities.

Some of the top professional-grade photo recovery programs include:

  • Stellar Photo Recovery – Optimized specifically for photos, videos & multimedia files. Advanced scanning.
  • R-Studio – Powerful recovery even from formatted or damaged volumes. Bit-by-bit cloning utility.
  • Recoverit Pro -User-friendly interface with strong photo recovery features. SSD & RAID support.
  • Disk Drill – Has convenient recovery vault and highly customizable scans for refined file recovery.
  • GetDataBack – Effective on formatted & lost partitions. Separate NTFS & FAT recovery versions.

While costing $40 to over $100, these tools provide far more advanced capabilities, improving your chances of getting back deleted photos:

  • Recovery from severely damaged, corrupted, or formatted volumes.
  • RAW file system scan for maximum file recovery.
  • Preview found photos before deciding to recover.
  • Faster and more reliable recovery of 4K and HD photos & videos.
  • Retrieve additional metadata for sorting large sets of recovered photos.

Deleted photo recovery tips

To maximize your chances of recovering permanently deleted photos, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Avoid writing any new data to the drive after photo deletion.
  • Immediately stop using the device if important photos were deleted.
  • Connect the drive externally to another system for recovery.
  • Use read-only connection methods like USB write blockers for data safety.
  • Capture a disk image if the drive is formatted or corrupted.
  • Try multiple recovery tools for best results.

Can you recover permanently deleted photos from the Recycle Bin?

When you delete photos on your PC, they first go to the Recycle Bin. The Recycle Bin acts as a temporary holding place for deleted files, allowing you to recover them if deleted accidentally.

To recover permanently deleted photos from the Recycle Bin:

  1. Open the Recycle Bin – typically desktop icon or in Explorer sidebar.
  2. Find your deleted photos inside.
  3. Select the photos to restore.
  4. Click Restore or Restore All to recover photos back to original location.

However, if you emptied the Recycle Bin after deleting photos, they will be permanently deleted. Still, emptied Recycle Bin photos can be recovered using data recovery software until their disk space is overwritten.

Can you recover deleted photos after system restore?

Windows System Restore is used to roll back system files, settings, and programs to undo system problems. It does not revert user files like photos to their earlier state.

So doing a system restore after accidentally deleting photos will not bring the deleted photos back. The free space they occupied will remain available for overwriting.

To recover deleted photos after a system restore, you still need to use deleted photo recovery software to extract them from the disk before they are completely overwritten by new data.

Recovering permanently deleted photos from SSDs

Recovering deleted photos from solid-state drives (SSDs) is trickier than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) due to how SSDs work differently.

Challenges with deleted file recovery on SSDs include:

  • SSDs use TRIM command to immediately delete data marked for erasure.
  • Wear leveling spreads data across multiple NAND cells over time.
  • Limited window before deleted files get completely overwritten.

So photo recovery from SSDs has lower success rates, and you must act immediately after deletion using data recovery software designed for SSD devices.

Tips for recovering deleted photos from SSDs

  • Stop using the SSD right away if photos are deleted.
  • Avoid anything that saves new data to the SSD.
  • Disable TRIM using command prompt if supported.
  • Check if SSD controller made backup copies of deleted data.
  • Use professional recovery tools like Ontrack EasyRecovery.

Can you recover permanently deleted photos from the cloud?

If your photos were permanently deleted from a cloud storage service like Google Photos or iCloud, recovery options are limited compared to local storage.

Cloud services may retain deleted files for some time in backups before permanently erasing them. But they lack data recovery tools for end users.

You can try contacting the cloud provider to request restoring deleted photos from their internal backups. However, most don’t offer file recovery services.

Some last ditch efforts to try recovering cloud deleted photos include:

  • Viewing photos recently deleted folder if available.
  • Checking if photos were synced to a linked desktop folder.
  • Using a cloud extraction tool immediately after deletion.
  • Requesting forensic data recovery from the cloud provider.

Prevent permanent loss by downloading cloud photos to local storage for redundancy.

Can you recover permanently deleted photos with phone recovery software?

Yes, there are specialized data recovery apps that can help recover deleted photos from phones and tablets. Some examples include:

  • DiskDigger – Recovers photos from internal memory or SD cards for Android devices.
  • FoneDog Toolkit – Retrieves deleted photos, videos, and files from iOS and Android phones.
  • PhoneRescue – Powerful iOS photo recovery with support for iCloud and iTunes backups.

Such mobile recovery apps work similar to desktop software, scanning the phone’s storage at a low level to pull deleted photo data before it is completely overwritten.

To maximize success:

  • Stop using device immediately after deleting photos.
  • Backup device data to computer if accessible.
  • Avoid any new downloads, photos, videos, etc.
  • Use a phone recovery app as soon as possible.

Can you recover permanently deleted photos with recovery services?

For difficult cases of mass photo deletion or catastrophic data loss, you can enlist professional data recovery services to recover deleted photos.

Recovery services like Ontrack, Gillware, Secure Data have extensive equipment and capabilities like:

  • Clean room facilities to open drives without contamination.
  • Powerful proprietary data recovery tools.
  • Ability to repair physically damaged drives and devices.
  • Advanced techniques like chip-off forensics.

However, photo recovery services tend to be very expensive, usually costing $500 to $3000 or more depending on effort required.

Here are some scenarios where deleted photo recovery services may be your best or only option:

  • Photos lost due to drive hardware failure.
  • Accidental repartitioning or reformatting of drive.
  • Encryption like BitLocker is enabled on drive.
  • Extreme case of thousands of deleted photos.

Preventing permanent deletion of photos

While data recovery provides hope for getting back deleted photos, prevention is always better than cure.

Here are some tips to avoid accidental permanent deletion of photos:

  • Be cautious when using Delete key or emptying Recycle Bin.
  • Enable Recycle Bin protection against accidental deletion.
  • Back up your photos regularly to external drives and cloud.
  • Turn on file history to record previous versions of photos.
  • Use RAW image format for easier recovery of damaged files.
  • Store photos across multiple storage devices for redundancy.

Taking adequate precautions will safeguard your photos from loss, making recovery unnecessary.


While accidentally deleting photos may seem devastating at first, there is often still hope for getting them back with data recovery techniques. As long as the storage space remains intact and unallocated, free recovery software can extract deleted photo data in many cases.

However, the chances of recovery diminish over time as deleted files get overwritten by new data. So it is crucial to act fast and stop further usage of the storage device once important photos are deleted. Professional recovery services remain an option when all else fails.

Following some basic precautions when managing your photos can also prevent permanent loss in the first place. With the right tools and knowledge, you have a strong chance of reclaiming deleted photos that hold cherished memories and important moments before they are gone for good.