Is it possible to recover deleted photos after deleting permanently?

Losing important photos due to accidental deletion can be devastating. Many people assume that once photos are permanently deleted from a device, they are gone forever. However, with the right tools and techniques, recovering deleted photos is often possible.

Why Photos Can Often Be Recovered

When you delete a photo from your device, the reference to the file’s data on the storage drive is removed, but the data itself remains intact until it is overwritten by new data. This provides a window of opportunity to use data recovery software to scan the drive and rebuild the references to restore the deleted photos.

Here are some key reasons deleted photos can frequently be recovered:

  • Storage drives do not immediately overwrite deleted data. Overwriting occurs slowly over time as new data is added.
  • Many devices and storage media have spare capacity that is not occupied by active file data, allowing deleted data to persist.
  • File systems mark deleted space as available for new data, but do not remove the original data immediately.
  • Photos typically occupy a large amount of storage space, so complete overwriting takes substantial time.
  • Devices and media that are not frequently written to, like flash drives, retain deleted data for longer periods.

As long as the original data still resides on the physical storage media intact, data recovery software stands a good chance of recovering deleted photos successfully.

When Is Photo Recovery Impossible?

While undeleting photos is often possible, there are certain circumstances where photo recovery is impossible:

  • If files have been completely overwritten by new data, the original contents are no longer retrievable.
  • Heavily fragmented files may only be partially recoverable or corrupted.
  • Severely damaged media cannot reliably have data extracted.
  • Some storage devices encrypt data at the controller level, preventing access to raw data.
  • Once deleted photos have been removed from cloud storage recycle bins, they are typically irrecoverable.

The key factor that determines whether a deleted photo can be recovered is the continued availability of the photo’s data in its original form on the storage media. Once overwritten or encrypted, recovery becomes impossible.

How Undeleting Photos Works

Recovering deleted photos involves bypassing the file system and directly reading data from the underlying storage device using data recovery software. Here is an overview of how the undeleting process works:

  1. The storage device is connected to a computer and scanned at the disk level by data recovery software.
  2. The software searches for traces of deleted photo file formats based on file signatures.
  3. Links to files that appear “deleted” in the file system are rebuilt, restoring access.
  4. The recovered photos can then be extracted and saved to another location.

Advanced data recovery tools can reconstruct photos even if the original file system suffered corruption or damage. The recovery process aims to gain access to the raw storage media directly to read any data that remains intact.

Factors That Affect Photo Recovery Chances

If you need to recover deleted photos, the likelihood of success depends on these key factors:

  • Time elapsed – The less time between deletion and recovery attempt, the higher the chances.
  • Overwritten data – Less overwriting means more intact data can be recovered.
  • Drive condition – Recovery is easier from undamaged, well-maintained drives.
  • File system – Some file systems handle deletion and overwriting differently.
  • Software capabilities – More advanced tools deliver better recovery results.

Attempting recovery immediately after deletion, from a lightly used drive, and with top-tier software maximizes your chances. Severely overwritten or damaged storage media makes recovery much less likely to succeed.

Photo Recovery Software

Specialized data recovery software provides the best mechanism for recovering deleted photos. Here are some features to look for:

  • Direct disk access for scanning below the file system level.
  • Support for all common photo, video and image formats.
  • Capability to extract metadata along with image data.
  • Options for quick and deep scanning at the raw disk level.
  • Preview function to selectively target recoverable files.
  • Batch recovery and exporting restores multiple files.

Leading photo recovery software options include:

Software Key Features
Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery Recovers photos, video, and multimedia files. Supports all storage media types.
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Uses a deep scan algorithm for finding lost media files. Filters results by file type.
Remo Photo Recovery Software Performs formatted drive recovery. Restores RAW images, videos and other media.

Digital Camera and Memory Card Recovery

Digital cameras and memory cards need specialized techniques for photo recovery due to how they store data:

  • Recovering deleted photos is best performed by removing the memory card and using a card reader for direct access.
  • Camera onboard memory requires connecting the device in storage mode for recovery.
  • Quickly recovering photos is ideal before substantial overwriting occurs after continued camera use.
  • Preview functions permit targeting specific photo types like JPG, RAW, etc.

Following prompt data recovery best practices permits recovering deleted photos from cameras and memory cards in most cases.

Recovering Photos from Smartphones

Smartphones store photos across internal storage, removable SD cards and cloud backups. To recover deleted photos from phones:

  • SD cards can often directly recover recently deleted photos.
  • Cloud backup services like iCloud and Google Photos allow restoring deleted photos if still retained in the cloud recycle bin.
  • Data recovery software can extract deleted photos from internal phone storage if the device is rooted/jailbroken.
  • Specialized mobile recovery apps can be useful but typically work best on rooted devices.

Quick action is required for phone photo recovery before cached image data is overwritten. Manual recovery using root access delivers the most reliable results.

Laptop and Computer Picture Recovery

Here are some best practices for recovering deleted photos from laptops and desktop PCs:

  • Avoid saving new data onto the system drive that may overwrite deleted photos.
  • Boot the computer from another drive or OS boot disk for read-only disk access.
  • Attach portable storage drives directly to a secondary computer for recovery.
  • Use the preview features of data recovery software to target recoverable photo file signatures.
  • Extract recovered photos to secure external storage instead of the original drive.

Ideal results come from using secondary boot media and destination drives, minimizing overwriting and leveraging flexible recovery software with extensive photo format support.

Recovering Deleted Photos from SD Cards

Here are some tips for recovering deleted photos from SD cards and other removable media:

  • Avoid further card use once deleted photos are discovered to limit overwriting.
  • Use the USB card reader slot or external adapter for direct access from recovery software.
  • Scan the raw SD card drive level instead of only exploring files through the file system.
  • Check preview images before recovery to avoid restoring corrupted remnants.
  • Extract recoverable photos before reformatting and reusing the SD card.

SD cards store significant photo and video data directly accessible once removed from the host device. Quick action can often recover substantial quantities of deleted multimedia.

Recovering Photos After Factory Reset

Recovering photos after a full factory reset that wipes device data requires:

  • Removing SD cards before device reset to preserve stored photos.
  • Using data recovery software as soon as possible after a reset to recover internal media files before they are completely overwritten by new data.
  • Checking cloud backup services like Google Photos or iCloud for any synced images that may be restored from the cloud.
  • Enabling USB storage access to perform a raw disk data recovery scan on Android devices.

While challenging, prompt photo recovery efforts immediately following a factory reset can sometimes yield success before significant file overwriting occurs.

Recovering Permanently Deleted Photos from the Recycle Bin

When photos are permanently deleted from system recycle bins, recovery involves:

  • Avoiding storage drive use to minimize overwriting deleted data.
  • Performing a deep scan data recovery tool search across the media.
  • Using file carving methods that can extract image data without file system information.
  • Restoring recovered photos to a separate destination drive.

Recovery from system recycle bins is difficult but sometimes possible using meticulous disk scanning and data extraction techniques.

Common Photo Recovery Scenarios

Understanding common scenarios where users seek to undelete lost photos can help maximize recovery success:

  • Accidental deletion – Photos recently deleted by mistake can often quickly be restored using recovery software as long as storage media has not been overwritten.
  • Missing files – Photos that have mysteriously disappeared from a system can potentially be recovered through deep scanning if still resident on the media.
  • Lost or reformatted drives – Data recovery tools can restore photos even from reformatted or corrupted drives as long as the photo data itself remains intact.
  • System crashes – Following system crashes or failed boots, photo recovery is often possible by accessing the drive from a secondary system.
  • Factory reset – Recovering photos after device resets can be successful if attempted immediately before much overwriting occurs.

Understanding common photo loss situations allows selecting recovery strategies most likely to restore missing photos from the underlying storage media.

Avoiding Photo Recovery Pitfalls

It’s important to avoid these mistakes when attempting to recover deleted photos:

  • Overwriting the storage drive further by continuing to save files or install software.
  • Attempting to recover files onto the same drive they are being restored from.
  • Falling for fake or inflated marketing claims of data recovery software capabilities.
  • Failing to preview found images to avoid restoring corrupted files.
  • Not extracting recovered photos before reformatting and reusing a drive.

Careful drive handling, using reputable software and targeting recoverable images selectively maximizes successful photo restoration.

Photo Recovery Methods to Avoid

Some photo recovery techniques are risky or Technical and should be avoided:

  • Opening drives in a write mode risks overwriting valuable data.
  • DIY physical data recovery attempts often destroy a drive and its data.
  • Unverified recovery software can damage drives or steal data.
  • Custom data recovery is costly and not always effective for average users.

Concentrating recovery efforts using proven software in a read-only mode provides reliable photo restoration without risk of harm.

Photo Recovery Success Stories

While results vary based on specific circumstances, photo recovery can often achieve remarkable successes:

  • A vacation’s worth of mistakenly deleted photos successfully restored from a laptop’s hard drive prior to overwriting.
  • Photo and video files totaling over 100GB extracted from a corrupted external USB drive.
  • A phone’s entire internal memory recovered after a factory reset allowing users to recover lost baby photos.
  • Files recovered from a water-damaged SD card by reading its raw data sectors before physical degradation spread.

When storage conditions allow extracted photo data to remain intact, impressive quantities of images can be salvaged and restored to users.

Partial Photo Recovery

In some cases, complete photo recovery is not possible, but partial recovery can still salvage useful data:

  • Corrupted parts of a storage device may allow recovering some but not all photos.
  • Heavily fragmented files might have chunks of data restored but gaps as well.
  • Preview functions help identify and target fragments with promising identifiable image data.
  • Partial sets of recovered photos may still have meaningful personal or professional value.

Though fragmented and incomplete, recovered portions of photos provide better results than none at all.

Cost Considerations for Photo Recovery

Photo recovery software costs include:

  • DIY recovery software ranges from free to under $100 for robust tools.
  • Professional in-lab recovery service fees often exceed $1000 or more.
  • DIY tools carry no guarantees, while paid services typically guarantee results.
  • Complex cases may warrant a professional service despite high fees.

Weighing the importance of photos against time constraints and technical capabilities helps determine if affordable DIY or paid professional recovery is right for each unique situation.

Preventing Photo Loss

Preventing photo loss avoids the need for recovery efforts:

  • Maintain multiple copies of important photos in different locations.
  • Use cloud backup services to store copies offsite as a disaster recovery safeguard.
  • Enable Recycle Bin protection and backups within photo editing and organization software.
  • Store photos across different media types like portable SSD drives, optical discs, or cloud storage.

Taking proactive measures provides redundancy against loss events and reduces reliance on post-deletion photo recovery techniques.


Recovering deleted photos is often possible with the right software and techniques, but results vary based on how much data overwriting has occurred. Quick action, robust tools and proper handling of media devices can allow restoring photos successfully in many cases. However, prevention via diligent backup practices still offers the most effective protection against photo loss.