How to recover deleted photos from SD card on Android phone for free?

Losing photos from your Android phone’s SD card can be devastating. Those precious memories captured in photos are often impossible to replace. Thankfully, with the right tools and techniques, you can recover deleted photos from your Android phone’s SD card for free.

Why Photos Get Deleted from SD Card

There are several common reasons photos may get deleted from your Android phone’s SD card:

  • Accidental deletion – You may have accidentally deleted photos you wanted to keep while cleaning up space on your SD card.
  • Formatting the SD card – Formatting or resetting your SD card will wipe all data, including photos.
  • Corrupted SD card – If your SD card becomes corrupted, access to photos can be lost.
  • Improper removal – Removing the SD card from your device without properly unmounting it can cause data loss.
  • System crash – A system crash or reset can sometimes delete photos stored on the SD card.
  • Virus or malware infection – Viruses and other malware can attack your device and potentially delete or corrupt photo files.

The good news is, even if photos have been deleted from your Android phone’s SD card, the actual photo data still exists on the card until it gets overwritten by new data. This means the photos can be recovered as long as you act quickly and do not overwrite the card.

Requirements for Photo Recovery

To recover deleted photos from your Android SD card, you will need:

  • Android phone with SD card
  • PC or Mac with SD card reader
  • Data recovery software
  • Time and patience!

Let’s go through each requirement in more detail:

Android Phone with SD Card

First, you’ll need an Android phone that uses an SD card for external storage. Many modern Android phones still support SD cards, but some do not, so double check your device supports external SD storage.

PC or Mac with SD Card Reader

To recover deleted photos, you’ll need to remove the SD card from your Android device and connect it to a computer using an SD card reader. This allows you to access the SD card directly from the computer and scan it using data recovery software.

If your computer does not have a built-in SD card slot, you can purchase an inexpensive external USB card reader that plugs into your computer.

Data Recovery Software

The key to recovering lost photos is using specialized data recovery software. This software scans the SD card and attempts to rebuild deleted photo files.

There are many data recovery apps available, both free and paid. For photo recovery, we recommend:

  • Recuva – Free for personal use, Recuva is one of the most popular free photo recovery tools.
  • Stellar Photo Recovery – Affordable paid software with advanced photo recovery features.
  • EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard – Another paid option with strong reviews.

Free software like Recuva provides a simple solution for recovering recently deleted photos. Paid software offers more advanced recovery capabilities for severely damaged or corrupted media.

Time and Patience

Recovering lost photo files takes time. You’ll need to install the data recovery software, scan your SD card, and then wait while files are rebuilt. This process can take hours for a large SD card with lots of photos.

You may also need to try multiple recovery software tools and repeat the process several times. Photo recovery has no guarantees, so you will need patience and persistence.

Step-by-Step Guide

Follow these steps to recover deleted photos from your Android phone’s SD card:

  1. Remove SD card – Power off your Android phone, remove the SD card, and set it aside.

  2. Insert card into computer – Use an SD card reader to connect the card to your computer.

  3. Download recovery software – Download and install a data recovery app like Recuva.

  4. Scan card – Open the recovery app and select the SD card drive to scan.

  5. Recover photos – The app will search for recoverable photo files. Select all found photos you wish to recover.

  6. Save recovered photos – Choose a safe location like your computer hard drive to save the recovered photo files.

  7. Safely eject card – Once recovery is complete, use “Safely Remove Hardware” to disconnect the SD card.

  8. Insert SD card into phone – Put the SD card back into your Android device.

Some recovery apps may have slightly different steps, but the general process will follow this pattern. Let’s break down a few of the key steps:

Choosing File Types

When scanning your SD card, the recovery software will find all deleted files of various types. You can save time by selecting only image and photo file formats for recovery.

Common photo/image formats include JPG, PNG, RAW, BMP, GIF and more. Deselect documents and other file types you do not need to recover.

Preview and Select Photos

Recovery software previews found photos so you can select only the files you want to restore. This avoids filling up your computer with unnecessary files.

Carefully review all photos before recovery. Images may be fragmented or corrupted. Select only the best quality photos for recovery.

Saving to a New Location

Never save recovered photos back to the SD card you are scanning! This can overwrite deleted data and make it unrecoverable.

Choose a new location like your computer hard drive or external hard drive to save recovered photos.

Tips for Improved Recovery

Follow these tips to help improve your chances of successfully recovering deleted photos from your Android SD card:

  • Stop using the SD card immediately after photo loss. Continued use makes overwritten data unrecoverable.
  • Try multiple recovery tools for best results. Each software may recover different files.
  • Scan and recover data in read-only mode to prevent overwriting.
  • Save recovered photos to a different drive than the SD card being scanned.
  • Analyze your drive’s health with disk utilities before attempting recovery.
  • Photoshop and image editing software can help repair corrupted images after recovery.

Common Photo Recovery Issues

Photo recovery does not always go smoothly. Here are some common issues you may encounter:

Scan Takes a Long Time

SD card scans can take multiple hours depending on the card’s size and usage. Be patient and do not interrupt the scanning process.

Card Appears Empty

If your SD card shows empty or almost no files after a scan, the card may be severely corrupted or damaged. Test it with disk utilities like CHKDSK or reformat and try rescanning.

Recovered Photos are Corrupted

Fragments of corrupt photos may get recovered. Try photo repair software to fix pixelation, distortion, missing data, and other damage after recovery.

Not Enough Storage Space

Recovered photos quickly consume storage space. Choose an external drive with ample room to save your recovered files.

Limited Free Recovery

Free recovery apps like Recuva have limited capabilities compared to paid software. You may get better results by purchasing advanced recovery tools.

Avoid Common Photo Deletion Causes

Prevention is the best way to avoid losing photos on your Android phone. Here are tips to avoid common deletion scenarios:

  • Manually transfer photos from your SD card to a computer or cloud storage regularly.
  • Eject the SD card properly before removal to avoid corruption.
  • Use your phone’s “Safe Remove” eject feature before taking out the card.
  • Turn on automatic photo syncing to services like Google Photos.
  • Enable Recycle Bin features to retrieve accidentally deleted files.
  • Use a protective case on your phone to prevent physical SD card damage.
  • Don’t take photos when your phone or SD card has critically low storage.

Saving copies of your photos in multiple locations is the best insurance against loss. Back up irreplaceable photos online or on an external hard drive.

When Photo Recovery Fails

Despite your best recovery efforts, sometimes deleted photos are lost forever if:

  • Photos were overwritten by new data on the SD card.
  • The SD card is physically damaged or corrupted.
  • Devices like microwaves or magnets were used on the card.
  • The phone cannot read the SD card anymore.

If you are unable to successfully recover photos after multiple tries, the last resort may be a professional data recovery service. But these services are often expensive.

If professional recovery is not feasible, accept the loss and consider it a lesson to always backup photos in multiple places in the future.


Retrieving deleted photos from an Android phone’s SD card is possible using free data recovery software like Recuva. With some effort and patience, you stand a good chance of saving photos that otherwise might be lost forever.

Follow best practices to avoid photo loss in the first place. But when disaster strikes, remember these SD card recovery techniques to rescue those precious memories.