Can you recover really old deleted photos?

Recovering old deleted photos that were lost long ago is often possible with the right tools and techniques. Even if it’s been years since photos were accidentally deleted, there is still hope for getting them back.

Is it possible to recover photos deleted a long time ago?

Yes, it is absolutely possible to recover photos deleted a long time ago, even many years later. When photos are deleted from a digital camera or mobile device, they are often not fully erased. The memory card or device still contains traces of the deleted data until it gets overwritten by new data. This gives a window of opportunity to use data recovery software to scan the device and recover previously deleted files.

However, the longer ago photos were deleted, the lower the chance of recovery success. The deleted data can get partially or fully overwritten by new data over time. So recovering photos deleted last week has a much higher chance than ones deleted 5 years ago. But it’s still worth trying as you can often get back at least some of the photos.

What affects the chances of recovering old deleted photos?

Several factors affect the chances of successfully recovering previously deleted photos, especially ones deleted a long time ago:

  • Time since deletion – The longer ago photos were deleted, the lower the chances due to overwritten data.
  • Device usage – Heavy usage of the device where photos were stored can overwrite deleted data.
  • File system – Some file systems like FAT32 overwrite data fast, while NTFS is better for recovery.
  • Memory card formatting – Formatting the card replaces file system structures and makes recovery harder.
  • Photo file format – Larger files like RAW and TIFF have more recoverable data traces vs JPEG.
  • Storage capacity – The fuller the device capacity, the higher chance of overwritten deleted data.

What are the best tools for recovering old deleted photos?

The best tools for recovering old deleted photos are professional data recovery software programs designed for this purpose. Some top options include:

Recovery Software Key Features
Stellar Photo Recovery Scans all device data for recoverable photos. Advanced scan filters.
EaseUS Photo Recovery Recovers JPG, RAW, video and more. Filters by file types.
Disk Drill Has “Deep Scan” mode to discover lost data fragments. Free trial available.
Photorec Free open source recovery tool. Command line interface for advanced usage.

These programs scan the memory card or device sector-by-sector to recover all recoverable photo data. They ignore the file system structures and look for traces of actual photo content. Advanced features like deep scanning dig deeper for more recovery chances.

What are the steps for recovering old deleted photos?

Follow these key steps when trying to recover old deleted photos with data recovery software:

  1. Don’t overwrite data: Avoid using the device with deleted photos to prevent overwriting.
  2. Scan device with software: Run the recovery tool to scan the memory card or device thoroughly.
  3. Preview recoverable photos: Many tools show previews so you can selectively recover the right ones.
  4. Recover photos: Select the photos needed and recover them to a safe storage location.
  5. Double check for misses: Scan again with deep modes in case any photos are missed.

Going through these steps methodically gives you the best chance of getting back those long lost deleted photos successfully.

What mistakes should you avoid when recovering old photos?

Avoid these common mistakes when trying to recover old deleted photos:

  • Don’t save recovered photos back to original device – This can overwrite deleted data traces needed for recovery.
  • Don’t format the device after deletion – Formatting replaces file system structures.
  • Don’t take new photos if recovery is needed – This overwrites deleted data on the memory card.
  • Don’t open photos within the camera – Some cameras delete photos after viewing. Use computer instead.
  • Don’t enable photo syncing – Auto sync to cloud can overwrite deleted files before recovery.

Being careful in handling the device storing deleted photos is key to avoid losing recoverable data traces through inadvertent overwriting.

Can you recover photos without software?

It is very difficult and unlikely to recover deleted photos successfully without using data recovery software. The software is specially designed to:

  • Scan below the file system layer where traces of deleted data reside.
  • Understand the complex data structures of different photo file formats like JPG, RAW.
  • Reconstruct photos from fragments left over long after deletion.
  • Filter through everything to identify recoverable photo data.

Doing this manually through device explorer tools is complex and risks overwriting data traces during access. So for best results use specialized software.

Can you recover photos after factory reset?

It is possible in some cases to recover deleted photos even after a factory reset or device wipe. The full process still leaves traces of past data that recovery software can resurrect under the right conditions.

However, factory resets maximize the risk of severe data overwriting. The device storage is cleaned and reformatted from scratch. So recoverability depends on:

  • How much new data was written after the reset.
  • Whether device was encrypted.
  • Complexity of device storage.
  • Luck in preserved data fragments.

For greatest chance of success, avoid using the reset device until it can be scanned by powerful recovery tools.

Can erased flash drives be recovered?

Yes, data on flash drives that have been erased or reformatted can often still be recovered. Flash drives use solid state NAND memory chips to store data. Erasing flash drives does not fully remove data at the physical storage level.

Recovery software can scan below the flash drive’s file system to look for traces of erased files. However, flash memory does tend to overwrite deleted content faster than hard drives when reused. So the sooner data is recovered after erasure the better.

Can you recover photos from a dead phone?

It is often possible to recover photos from a dead or damaged phone that won’t power on. As long as the internal storage chips are intact, data recovery is still achievable in many cases. Some options to try:

  • Use adapter cables to read storage directly if ports are working.
  • Attach chip externally if directly removable.
  • Transplant chips into working phone for recovery.
  • Engage data recovery service with clean room access if needed.

With the right tools and techniques, recovery is feasible from phones that fail to power up or have damaged components like screens or controllers.

Can erased SD cards be recovered?

In most cases, erased files on SD cards can still be recovered. When an SD card is reformatted, the prior contents aren’t completely removed from the flash memory. Data recovery tools can scan the raw SD card sectors looking for traces of previously deleted files.

However, SD cards do tend to overwrite deleted data faster than hard drives when reused. Quickly writing new photos, videos or files to the erased SD card decreases recoverability. The less the card is reused before recovery, the better.


Recovering photos deleted long ago is often successful with the right approach. The key is using powerful data recovery software designed to resurrect lost data. Avoid overwriting the storage device where deleted photos resided. With some persistence and care, you have a fighting chance of resurrecting those precious photos you thought were gone forever.