Can you recover photos from a wiped SD card?

Losing photos from a wiped SD card can be devastating. Those precious memories of family vacations, your child’s first steps, or fun times with friends can seem gone forever. But don’t panic! There are several methods you can try to recover deleted photos from an SD card, even if you did a full format or disk wipe.

What Happens When You Wipe an SD Card

When you format or wipe an SD card, the photos and other files are not actually erased right away. Instead, the card is signaled that the space taken up by the deleted files is now available to be overwritten by new data. So your photos may still be on the card, but the operating system just can’t seem to find them.

Recovering wiped photos is possible because nothing gets overwritten immediately. However, the longer you use the card after deletion, the higher the chance something new could overwrite the space where your photos once existed. So it’s important to stop using the SD card right away if you want the best chance of getting your photos back.

How to Recover Photos from a Wiped SD Card

If you want to recover photos from a wiped SD card, follow these steps:

1. Stop Using the SD Card

As soon as you realize you may have permanently deleted photos from your SD card, stop using it. The more you write new files to the card, the more likely something new may overwrite your deleted photos.

2. Try Recovery Software

Specialized data recovery software can scan your SD card and restore deleted photos. Programs like Recuva, Disk Drill, and Stellar Photo Recovery work on Windows and Mac computers. Insert your SD card into a card reader connected to your computer. Run the software and select the drive letter associated with your SD card. The software scans and displays recoverable photos.

3. Use the Command Prompt

If you have a Windows PC, you can use the Command Prompt to recover wiped photos. Here are the steps:

  1. Insert SD card into your computer’s card reader
  2. Type cmd in the Windows search bar and open Command Prompt
  3. Type chkdsk L: /f /r (Replace L with your SD card drive letter)
  4. Type Y to proceed when prompted
  5. Wait for the scan to finish
  6. Open your SD card folder to check for recovered photos

4. Try a Camera or Card Reader

Sometimes connecting your wiped SD card directly into your camera or a standalone card reader can allow you to access deleted photos. This is because these devices may not register that the files are deleted. You can copy any retrieved photos onto your computer for backup.

5. Send to a Pro

For difficult recoveries, you may need to use a professional data recovery service. Experts have specialized tools and clean room facilities to physically repair damaged media and extract data. This can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars, but may be your last resort for irreplaceable photos.

Tips to Avoid Needing Photo Recovery

Prevention is always better than a cure. Follow these tips to avoid ever needing to recover deleted photos from your SD card:

  • Always safely eject SD cards before removal
  • Copy photos to your computer or cloud storage regularly
  • Enable “delete protection” on your camera if available
  • Consider using write-protect tabs on your SD cards
  • Be cautious and avoid deleting any photos unless you are certain

Can You Recover Photos from a Formatted SD Card?

Yes, the recovery process is essentially the same whether you wiped photos from your SD card or did a full format. Formatting simply marks all existing files as deleted so the space can be overwritten. Your photos remain intact in their original location until replaced by new data.

Following the steps outlined above quickly after noticing your mistake gives you the best shot at recovering photos after formatting an SD card. Just don’t save anything new to the card to avoid overwriting your deleted pictures.

How to Recover Photos After Factory Reset

Performing a factory reset or restoring your camera to factory default settings will wipe everything on your SD card. However, you can still recover deleted photos by using data recovery software, the Command Prompt method, or a professional service. Just make sure you act quickly before the deleted data is overwritten.

Can You Recover Photos After Full Format?

Yes, you can recover photos even after a full format of your SD card. A full format recreates the file system on your card, but does not immediately erase or overwrite existing files. Data recovery software scans the raw storage and can restore deleted photos until they are replaced with new data.

How to Recover Photos After Quick Format

A quick format is essentially just marking files as deleted without actually overwriting data. So recovering photos works the same as any other deletion scenario. Use recovery software, the Command Prompt, or a professional service to extract photos before they get overwritten by newly saved data.

Can You Recover Photos After Overwriting?

If your deleted photos have been partially or fully overwritten by new data saved to the SD card, your chances of recovery plummet. The original photo data has been destroyed by the new files written over the same location. However, recovery software can sometimes reconstruct portions of overwritten photos.

Does Size Matter for Photo Recovery?

The capacity of your SD card does not affect the chances of recovering deleted photos. Whether it’s 32GB or 128GB, recovery software scans the raw storage to find recoverable data. However, a larger capacity SD card has more storage space where deleted photos could be lurking unseen by your computer.

Can You Recover Raw Photos?

Raw photo files from your digital camera contain more uncompressed image data than compressed JPEGs. The good news is that recovery software can restore deleted RAW photo files from your wiped SD card. The extra data may even improve chances of getting back a corrupted photo.

Can You Recover Photos Without Software?

Recovering photos without dedicated data recovery software is tricky but not impossible in some cases. Using your camera or card reader to access “deleted” files may work if they weren’t overwritten. You can also view raw disk data with free tools like Recuva and TestDisk to search for lost photo files.

Does Photo Recovery Work on SDXC Cards?

SDXC (extended capacity) cards work just like standard SD cards, only with larger storage. So deleted photos can be recovered from SDXC cards using the same process as a typical SD card. Even if you wipe an SDXC card, data recovery is still possible until overwritten.

Can Erased Photos Be Recovered from an SD Card?

Yes, erased photos can be recovered from an SD card, including those deleted from your camera, smartphone, drone, action cam, or other devices. As long as the storage sectors containing your photos haven’t been overwritten, data recovery software can restore them.

Can You Recover Photos Deleted from a Camera?

If you deleted photos from your digital camera while reviewing shots or formatting the memory card, recovery is often possible. Camera rollback protection features can help in some models. Otherwise, use data recovery software as long as your deleted pictures on the SD card aren’t overwritten.

Can You Recover Photos Deleted from a Phone?

Phones store photos on internal flash storage or a microSD card. For internal phone storage, you need to root or jailbreak your device to attempt recovery. For memory cards, insert the card into a computer and run data recovery software before overwritten.


Accidentally deleting or wiping photos from your SD card can be devastating. Thankfully, free and inexpensive software makes DIY recovery fairly straightforward in many cases. You can often get back your precious memories as long as they haven’t yet been overwritten.

Just make sure to stop using the SD card right away after noticing deleted photos. Then use recovery software, Command Prompt, or professional data recovery to get back as many irreplaceable pictures as possible. Following some preventative tips can also help avoid needing recovery in the first place.

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