Can we really recover deleted photos from phone?

Quick Answer

It is possible to recover deleted photos from a phone, but success depends on several factors. The best chances of recovering deleted photos are within a few days of deletion, before the phone overwrites the storage space. Specialized data recovery software can help retrieve deleted data, if done quickly. There are also some manual techniques that may work, like avoiding using the phone and removing the SIM card. Overall, quick action is needed for the best chance of getting back deleted photos.

What Happens When You Delete Photos From Your Phone?

When you delete photos from your phone, the files are not permanently erased right away. Rather, the space they occupied is marked as available to be overwritten by new data. The actual photo data remains intact until that space is needed for something new. This provides a window of opportunity to use data recovery tools to retrieve deleted files before they get overwritten.

Specifically, when you delete photos from your phone’s internal storage, the index linking those files is removed, but the data blocks containing the actual photo information remain untouched. It’s only when you write new data to those blocks that the old data is permanently overwritten. This delay between deleting and overwriting provides the chance to rescue your pictures.

However, the longer you use your phone as normal after deletion, the greater the risk that critical data will get overwritten. Every app update, file download, or photo taken eats into the available space. So time is limited if you want to recover deleted photos before they’re gone for good.

What Is the Best Free Data Recovery Software?

Several free data recovery programs are available to help retrieve deleted photos from phones. Some top options include:


Recuva is free Windows-based software with a deep scan tool that can dig deep to find deleted files. It supports various file types, including JPG photos from phones.


TestDisk is a free, open source data recovery program that works on Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux. It’s more technical than some recovery tools but can recover deleted photo files.


PhotoRec is free data recovery software focused specifically on photos, videos, and audio files. It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux to recover various file types from portable devices.

Disk Drill

Disk Drill offers a free basic data recovery tool for PCs and Mac. The easy-to-use interface makes finding deleted photos simple. An upgrade provides more features and unlimited storage scans.

These programs can scan a phone’s storage and rebuild files that have not yet been overwritten. They provide the best chances of getting back deleted pictures for free.

Can You Recover Deleted Photos Without Software?

In some cases, it may be possible to recover recently deleted photos without using special software. Here are some techniques to try:

– **Avoid Overwriting Data** – As soon as you realize photos were deleted, stop using the phone. Don’t take new photos, download apps, etc. This prevents overwriting deleted data.

– **Remove SIM Card** – Take out the SIM card to avoid any incoming data that could write over deleted files.

– **Reboot In Recovery Mode** – For Android phones, rebooting into recovery mode may allow you to restore deleted files from a backup.

– **Connect To PC** – Connecting the phone to a computer may reveal deleted photos still accessible from the device. You may be able to copy them to the PC.

– **Cloud Backup** – If photos were synced to iCloud or Google Photos, you may be able to restore recently deleted images.

– **Restore From iTunes** – For iOS devices, connect to iTunes and restore from a recent backup to retrieve deleted photos.

These methods don’t work as well as data recovery apps. But in some cases, they may help get back recently deleted pictures, especially if acted upon quickly before the phone overwrites photo files.

What Is the Success Rate for Recovering Deleted Photos?

The success rate for recovering deleted photos from phones depends on several factors:

– **Time since deletion** – The sooner recovery is attempted, the higher the success rate. If overwritten, data is hard to recover.

– **Avoidance of overwriting** – Using phone as normal makes recovery harder. The more it’s used, the more data gets overwritten.

– **Type of storage** – Internal phone storage has better recovery success than external SD cards.

– **File system** – Different systems handle deletion and overwriting differently. For example, FAT32 vs. exFAT.

– **Device integrity** – Any physical damage or software issues decrease the chances of recovery.

Given ideal conditions of attempting recovery immediately on an undamaged phone that hasn’t been used, the success rate can reach over 90%. But if significant time has passed and the phone was used extensively, success may drop below 30%. In real world scenarios, chances of complete photo recovery are often 50-70% if recovery is initiated promptly.

How Long Are Deleted Photos recoverable?

There is no precise timeline for how long deleted photos can be recovered from phones. It depends on how much the phone is used after deletion. If left untouched, data could potentially be recoverable for weeks. But with regular use, photo files may be completely overwritten within 48 hours.

Some general guidelines:

– First hour – 95%+ recoverable if phone left untouched

– First day – 80%+ recoverable if phone minimally used

– First 3 days – 60% recoverable on average

– First week – 50% recoverable chances or less

So for the best results, move quickly to recover deleted photos within the first few days. The longer you wait, the lower your chances due to files being overwritten during normal phone use.

Can You Recover Partially Overwritten Files?

If a deleted photo file is partially overwritten, there may still be a chance of recovering at least some of the data. When a file is overwritten, typically the parts of the file required to identify it – the file header and metadata – are affected first. The actual photo or video content stored deeper in the file system may remain intact.

In this case, recovery software looks for patterns and artifacts from partially destroyed files. Even if the original file name and location are lost, the software can rebuild portions of corrupted photo and video files. This relies on the key data that constitutes the image or video still being present in the phone’s storage blocks.

The more a file is overwritten, however, the less likely even partial recovery becomes. With thorough overwriting, no identifiable data fragments remain to rebuild the deleted files. So partially overwritten photos are a long shot – but not impossible with the help of capable data recovery tools.

Can Deleted Photos Be Recovered After a Factory Reset?

It becomes very difficult to recover deleted photos after a factory reset, but not necessarily impossible in all cases. When resetting a phone to factory default settings, most data is deliberately overwritten to wipe the storage. However, remnants often remain that recovery software can sometimes piece together.

Success depends on the reset method:

– **Soft reset** – Files marked as deleted but space not overwritten yet. Good chance of recovery.

– **Standard factory reset** – Typically overwrites user data partitions. Recovery still possible but challenging.

– **Advanced factory reset** – Multiple-pass overwriting of all storage space. Almost impossible to recover data.

So if a basic factory reset was performed, sophisticated recovery tools may be able to salvage deleted photos by extracting data from residual file fragments. But an advanced reset that thoroughly overwrites all data makes photo recovery highly unlikely.

Is It Possible to Recover Deleted Photos From the Phone’s SD Card?

It can sometimes be possible to recover deleted photos from a phone’s removable SD card, but generally with lower success rates compared to internal storage recovery.

SD cards make recovery harder for a few reasons:

– **Less critical data** – Usually stores non-essential data like media, not key phone software. Easier to overwrite.

– **Faster overwriting** – SD cards overwrite deleted data faster than internal phone storage.

– **Encryption** – Some phones encrypt SD card data, complicating recovery.

– **Removability** – SD cards are easily lost, damaged, reformatted, etc.

So while recoverable, deleted photos on SD cards typically have lower odds than internal storage photo recovery. Quick action is especially essential before the deleted files get overwritten. Proper handling of the SD card is also a must to avoid physical damage. But with the right approach, recovering deleted photos from removable storage remains possible in many cases.

Can You Recover Deleted Photos From iCloud or Google Photos?

If you had your photos set up to sync with iCloud or Google Photos, you may be able to recover deleted pictures from these cloud storage services. Both keep deleted files in a trash or bin for a period of time before permanent deletion.

For iCloud, deleted photos remain in the Recently Deleted folder for 30 days. On Google Photos, the trash holds deleted items for 60 days.

So as long as photos were synced prior to deletion from the device, check the cloud trash folder to restore missing photos. Just keep in mind these services only retain deleted files for a limited window before they are gone for good.

Can You Recover Deleted Photos From iPhone or Android Backups?

If you have device backups through iTunes or iCloud for iPhones, or Google Drive for Android phones, these backups provide an opportunity to retrieve deleted photos. As long as the photos were synced to the backup prior to deletion, they’ll remain accessible in the backup files.

To recover deleted photos from backups:

– **iPhone** – Restore your phone from the iCloud or iTunes backup where the photos existed. This will retrieve the deleted files.

– **Android** – Use a file explorer to locate the Photos folder within your Google Drive backup. You can copy these files to another device.

Backups serve as archives containing previous versions of your photo library. So as long as backups are maintained, there’s a way to restore deleted images by accessing those archives.

Prevention Tips To Avoid Needing To Recover Deleted Photos

While recovery is sometimes possible, it’s better to avoid needing photo recovery in the first place. Here are some prevention tips:

– **Enable cloud sync** – Auto-upload photos to cloud storage for an online backup in case of deletion.

– **Create regular backups** – Do local device backups so deleted files remain in backup archives.

– **Use file protection** – Enable options like Recycle Bin to avoid permanent deletion accidents.

– **Add storage** – Increase storage capacity to prevent running out of space, which can cause deletion.

– **Confirm before deleting** – Pay close attention to avoid selecting the wrong files to delete.

– **Avoid rooting/jailbreaking** – Modified devices increase risk of data loss from system instability.

Following best practices for securing your photos both locally and in the cloud will reduce the stress of recovery should accidental deletion ever occur.


While accidental photo deletion can happen to anyone, recovery is possible in many cases by acting quickly. Specialized recovery software offers the best results, but even manual techniques can work if done fast before the phone overwrites files. Restoring from backups also provides a route to retrieve deleted images.

Following some simple precautions is the ideal approach to avoid being in a position of needing recovery. But deletion does happen on occasion. Being prepared with recovery knowledge and software can enable you to successfully restore your memories, provided the deleted photos have not already been overwritten by continued phone use.