How can I recover my deleted files from memory card without any software?

Recovering deleted files from a memory card without the use of data recovery software can be challenging, but is possible in some cases if the files were deleted recently and the memory card has not been overwritten with new data. When a file is deleted from a memory card, the directory entry for that file is removed, but the actual file data may still exist on the card until it is overwritten by new data. Using basic computer skills and disk utilities, one may be able to recover deleted files from a memory card if they act quickly before the deleted data areas get overwritten.

Stop Using the Memory Card Immediately

The first step when trying to recover deleted files from a memory card without software is to stop using the card right away. As soon as you realize important files have been deleted, eject the card from your phone, camera, or computer. The more you use the memory card and save new files, the higher the risk that the deleted data will get overwritten by the new data. Leaving the card untouched gives you the best chance of recovering the lost files.

Try Your Device’s “Recently Deleted” Folder

Many digital cameras and smartphones have a “recently deleted” folder where deleted files get stored temporarily before being permanently erased. Ejected your memory card, put it back in the device it was in when the files were deleted, and check for a “recently deleted” or “trash” folder. If your deleted files show up there, you may be able to recover them.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • The device may permanently clear out the contents of the recently deleted folder after some time, so don’t delay in checking for your files.
  • If you find your deleted files there, move them back to the device’s main storage or copy them to your computer immediately to avoid losing them again.
  • This method only works if the device hasn’t yet overwritten the deleted files’ data on the memory card.

Try a File Recovery App (Without Installing Software)

There are many free file recovery apps available online that can scan a memory card and recover deleted files. While you specifically asked about recovery without software, some of these apps do not require full installation to run:

Online File Recovery Services

Many companies offer web-based file recovery services where you can upload the contents of your memory card to their website for analysis and get a list of recoverable files. This allows you to try file recovery without installing anything.

Portable File Recovery Tools

Some file recovery apps are designed to run portably from a USB drive without needing installation. You can download one of these tools onto a USB, connect the memory card through a card reader, and run recovery on it without setting up software.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Research companies thoroughly before uploading your card to a website – choose a reputable paid service for privacy.
  • Portable tools work if the card isn’t physically damaged, but websites can recover from more issues.
  • These methods work best if the deleted files have not been overwritten by new data on the card.

Use Free Recovery Software Installed on a Computer

If you have access to a computer, you can install free data recovery software that can scan memory cards and recover recently deleted files. Here are some options:


Recuva is a popular free file recovery program from Piriform that works well for recovering deleted files from memory cards in many cases. It installs quickly and is easy to use – just point it to the connected memory card to scan for deleted files.


TestDisk is an open source command line utility that can recover deleted files from hard drives, memory cards, and other media. It’s more complex than Recuva but potentially more powerful for experienced users.


PhotoRec is a companion app to TestDisk focused specifically on recovering image and video files from memory cards and disks. It can recover even if a partition was deleted or reformatted.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Don’t save recovered files back to the memory card or you may overwrite deleted data.
  • These work best on unencrypted memory cards and before any overwriting occurs.
  • Going this route requires installing software, but it can be uninstalled after recovery.

Try Manual Recovery Using Disk Utilities

If you are comfortable using disk utilities, you may be able to recover deleted files from a memory card manually by reading its raw data directly. This requires some technical skills but does not rely on any software.

Using Command Prompt

On Windows, you can connect the memory card, open the command prompt, and use the “dd” command to make a full byte-for-byte image of the memory card to your hard drive. You can then preview this image as if it were a drive and try to recover deleted files from it without touching the actual memory card.

Using Linux Tools

Booting into a Linux environment via live CD or USB stick opens up very powerful file recovery tools like Scalpel, Foremost, and The Sleuth Kit. Media can be previewed at the block level and attempts made to restore deleted files.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • This requires an advanced knowledge of computers – don’t try without the proper skills.
  • Make images of memory cards before trying recovery to avoid making things worse.
  • Having a technical expert perform this recovery is recommended.

Send to a Professional Data Recovery Service

If deleted files from a memory card are extremely important, but you’ve exhausted all other DIY methods, turning to a professional data recovery service may be warranted. These experts use specialized tools and techniques like working in dust-free clean rooms and manually repairing media to have the very best chance at getting data back.

When to Consider Professional Recovery

If you have irreplaceable files like wedding photos, important documents, or business data deleted from a memory card, and you’ve tried the above options unsuccessfully, professional recovery services may be able to help when all else fails. The costs vary widely, but can be worth it for critical data.

Finding a Reputable Service

Research companies thoroughly and look for experience recovering specifically from memory cards. Get a written quote for service costs beforehand and make sure there are strong guarantees provided on the work. Understand the risks first before allowing failed attempts by others to damage the card further.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Professional recovery can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars – only use if critical.
  • Not all services can recover from every situation, research their capabilities.
  • Shipping a damaged card improperly can make successful recovery less likely.

Prevent Needing File Recovery in the Future

Going through the recovery process for deleted files is stressful and time consuming in most cases. While the above options may help recover lost files from a memory card, it is always better to try preventing file deletion in the first place. Here are some tips to avoid finding yourself in this situation again:

Be Careful When Deleting Files

Always double check you are deleting only the intended files before confirming deletion. Accidentally deleting files is one of the main ways people end up needing recovery.

Back Up Your Memory Cards

Make copies of important files from your memory cards to other storage locations in case of deletion or card failure. Cloud backup services and external hard drives help protect irreplaceable data.

Use Memory Card Formatting with Caution

Reformatting a card erases all data completely with little chance for recovery. Only use this when absolutely necessary and be certain important files are backed up.

Invest in Recovery Software

Having a quality file recovery program installed and ready to scan for deleted files can make recovery much easier when needed before overwriting occurs.

Learn Proper File Deletion Methods

Using command line tools or wiping programs can overwrite deleted files many times to prevent future recovery. Understand how deletion really works.


While accidentally deleting files from a memory card can be stressful, there are options to try recovering those files yourself without relying on paid software. Quick action is key – stop using the card immediately after deletion, and try recovery techniques before new data overwrites the lost files. With some effort, you may get your photos, documents, and other information back. In the worst cases, professional recovery services provide one last resort. But ideally, you can avoid being in this situation altogether by frequently backing up your memory cards and using them cautiously.