How can I recover all my permanently deleted photos?

Accidentally deleting photos from your device can be devastating, especially if they hold sentimental value or capture once-in-a-lifetime moments. With the right tools and techniques, it is often possible to recover deleted photos, even if you emptied the trash or reset your device to factory settings. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through various methods to help recover your lost photos.

How are deleted photos stored on devices?

When you delete photos on your device, they are not immediately erased from the storage media. Instead, the operating system simply marks the space occupied by the deleted photos as available for overwrite. The actual photo data remains on the storage device until it gets overwritten by new data. This provides a window of opportunity to recover deleted photos using data recovery software, provided the storage space has not been reused since deletion.

Factors that affect photo recovery chances

Several factors determine the likelihood of recovering permanently deleted photos:

  • Time elapsed since deletion: The sooner you attempt recovery, the higher the chances.
  • Overwrite actions: Installing apps, saving files, or restarting the device can overwrite deleted photos.
  • Storage type: Photos deleted from hard drives have better recovery odds than those from flash storage.
  • Device type: The operating system and storage formats affect recovery success.

Keeping these factors in mind, let’s look at the steps to recover deleted photos from various devices and storage media.

Recovering Deleted Photos from Windows Computer

Here are some ways to recover deleted photos from a Windows PC:

Method 1: Restore from Recycle Bin

When you delete photos on a Windows computer, they are first moved to the Recycle Bin. Restoring photos from Recycle Bin is the easiest method, provided you have not emptied it yet.

  1. Open the Recycle Bin from your desktop or the start menu.
  2. Look for your deleted photos.
  3. Select the photos to restore.
  4. Click on the Restore button to recover them to the original location.

This allows you to quickly undo any accidental photo deletions. However, once you empty the Recycle Bin, this method cannot retrieve deleted photos.

Method 2: Use data recovery software

If you emptied the Recycle Bin or used SHIFT+DELETE to permanently erase photos, data recovery software offer the best chance for recovering them. Here are the key steps:

  1. Download and install a reliable data recovery application like Recuva, TestDisk, PhotoRec, or Disk Drill on your PC.
  2. Run the software and select the drive or device that contained your deleted photos.
  3. The tool will scan the drive and list all recoverable images and files.
  4. Preview and select the photos you wish to restore.
  5. Specify a folder to save the recovered photos.

The deep scan functions of these tools can retrieve photos even after reformatting the hard drive. Just ensure you do not save anything new to the drive before recovery.

Method 3: Extract photos from backups

If you regularly backed up your computer, you may be able to recover deleted photos from the backup. But it depends on the backup type:

  • File backup: Lets you restore individual photo files that were deleted.
  • System image: Restores the entire system including photos to an earlier state.
  • Cloud backup: Can restore files and folders if backed up before deletion.

Check your backup service or drive to see if you can restore the missing photos from an older copy.

Recovering Deleted Photos from Mac

Accidentally deleted photos on your Mac? Not to worry, here are some effective ways to get them back:

Method 1: Restore from Trash

When photos are deleted on a Mac, they go to the Trash folder. To recover deleted photos:

  1. Open the Trash folder
  2. Select the photos you want to restore
  3. Right click and choose Put Back to undo deletion

This method works as long as you don’t empty the Trash. Once emptied, proceed with the next options.

Method 2: Use data recovery software

Data recovery apps like Disk Drill and Stellar Data Recovery have user-friendly Mac versions that can rescue photos deleted from the internal drive or external devices. Follow these steps:

  1. Download and install the Mac recovery software.
  2. Run a scan on the relevant drive/device.
  3. Preview recoverable photos and select those you want.
  4. Save the retrieved photos to another drive.

These tools employ advanced techniques to thoroughly scan Mac storage and recover even permanently deleted files.

Method 3: Restore from Time Machine backup

If you use Time Machine to back up your Mac, you can retrieve deleted photos from a previous backup state as follows:

  1. Open Time Machine and browse through older backups
  2. Navigate to the folder or drive where the photos were stored
  3. Select the photos and restore them to your Mac

Provided the photos were not deleted before the last backup, this method can successfully recover them.

Recovering Deleted Photos from Smartphones and Tablets

Smartphones and tablets use solid state storage, so recover deleted photos quickly using:

Method 1: Photo trash folders

Many Android devices save deleted photos to a Trash or Recycle Bin folder before final removal. To recover deleted photos:

  1. Open the Photo/Gallery app and look for a Trash or Bin folder
  2. Navigate to this folder and check for your deleted photos
  3. Select and restore the photos back to the gallery

If you don’t see a Trash folder, try a file manager or recovery app instead.

Method 2: Recovery apps

Specialized apps can scour a device’s storage and restore deleted media files. Some options include:

  • Android: DiskDigger Photo Recovery, DigDeep Image Recovery
  • iPhone/iPad: iMyFone D-Back, Fonelab iOS Data Recovery

To recover deleted photos using these apps:

  1. Install and launch the recovery app on your device
  2. Allow requested permissions to access photos
  3. Scan the device storage
  4. Select the photos to recover
  5. Save the photos to the device gallery or storage

Using an app is often the most effective approach to retrieve deleted photos on mobile devices before they are completely overwritten.

Method 3: Extract from device backups

If your photos were backed up to cloud storage or a computer before deletion, restoring from the backup is an option.

For iCloud backup, use these steps:

  1. Go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud
  2. Tap Manage Storage > Backups
  3. Select the backup and Restore from it

For iTunes or Finder backups, connect your device, select it, and click Restore to recover photos.

Tools like iMyFone D-Port Pro also allow extracting photos from iPhone/iPad backups made in iCloud and iTunes.

Photo Recovery from Digital Camera Storage

Recovering photos deleted from digital camera storage like SD cards, microSD cards, and other removable media is also possible if you act quickly.

Method 1: Undelete from camera memory

Some digital cameras allow you to restore recently deleted photos:

  1. Check your camera user manual for the Undelete option
  2. Navigate to the Playback or Review mode in the camera menu
  3. Select Undelete and choose the photos to restore

If your camera lacks this capability or the photos were deleted long back, use the methods below.

Method 2: Remove SD card and use recovery software

Once you accidentally delete photos from the camera memory card, remove it immediately and avoid storing anything new:

  1. Take out the SD card from camera and insert into computer
  2. Run data recovery software and select the memory card
  3. Recover erased photos with the software

Following this quick process improves your chances, as the deleted data still resides on the SD card.

Method 3: Extract photos from cloud backups

Several cameras automatically back up photos over Wi-Fi to the manufacturer’s cloud service as you click. So, you can retrieve deleted photos from these backups:

  • Canon Image Gateway
  • Nikon Image Space
  • Sony Imaging Edge
  • Fujifilm Photo Storage

Check your camera app connectivity settings and cloud account to restore photos from there.

Tips for Successful Photo Recovery

To improve your chances of recovering deleted photos from any device, follow these best practices:

Act quickly after deletion and avoid storage use

Immediately stop capturing more photos or accessing the device. The sooner you attempt recovery, the better the odds before permanent data overwrite.

Use reputable recovery apps from reliable sources

Trust established names like Recuva, Stellar, Disk Drill and use downloads only from the official company websites, app stores, etc. to avoid malware risks.

Save recovered photos to another drive immediately

Don’t restore photos back to the same drive you are scanning, as that may overwrite deleted photo remnants before complete recovery.

Stop the device from powering down during recovery

Unexpected shutdowns or restarts could curtail a recovery scan midway. Disable auto sleep and ensure adequate battery levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common queries on retrieving permanently erased photos:

Can you recover photos after factory reset?

While a factory reset erases all data, recovery software can often retrieve photos using advanced scan techniques to extract them from the storage sectors. Avoid using the device further and run a data recovery tool immediately after factory reset.

Is it possible to recover deleted photos after reformatting a hard drive?

Reformatting a storage drive erases all its data, but does not overwrite it completely. File recovery software rely on metadata and patterns to restore as much data as possible from reformatted drives, unless they have been rewritten extensively after the reset.

Can you recover permanently deleted photos from the cloud?

When you delete photos from cloud storage like Google Photos or iCloud, they may move to a trash folder for a few weeks before being completely erased. If you act within this period, it’s possible to recover deleted cloud photos from the trash.

What is the success rate for photo recovery software?

The success rate can vary widely based on how recently deletion occurred, device storage type, overwrite actions performed, etc. Under ideal conditions, recovery software can retrieve up to 90-95% of deleted photos. The odds drop considerably after extended usage of the storage media.

Should I use paid or free photo recovery solutions?

We recommend using proven paid tools from leading providers, as they offer the best features, scanning capabilities and higher recovery rates. Free versions may lack access to advanced scanning algorithms and have limited functionality.


While accidental photo deletion can seem devastating, hope is not lost. With the right tools and techniques, permanent photo recovery is quite feasible in many cases if attempted soon after losing them. We hope our guide gave you a good understanding of how to leverage trash folders, backups, recovery apps and other solutions to rescue your precious deleted photos. Act quickly on the storage media before the data is overwritten, and you can bring your photos back safely.