How do I recover photos from SD card on Android

How do I recover photos from SD card on Android?

Users lose data from their SD cards all the time, due to a variety of mishaps. Enabled with the convenience of storing some serious bulks, memory cards are quite vulnerable to data handling misfortunes. Even a minor operation can wreak havoc on your documents and media files, especially if you haven’t allowed an extra capacity for restoration. Usually, your pictures wave you goodbye in one of the following scenarios:

  • accidental removal;
  • misplacement;
  • data corruption (e.g. faulty file processing);
  • damaged card;
  • forcefully or inadvertently formatted card;
  • viral infection, sudden blackout, etc.

Whatever the reason behind the wipe-out of your bytes and pieces, it is crucial that you stop using the memory immediately after you notice the loss. Do not take photos and ensure that no program handles the data on your card in the background. When all set and ready, proceed to select a capable Android recovery tool that will start unearthing for you the not-yet-lost data.

Your chances of success with recovering wiped images depend on a number of factors including the complexity of encryption, file system format, root access, etc.
In a majority of cases, deleting a photo simply means removing a pointer indicating that particular file, after which the space it occupied remains marked as available for use. Unless and until the user overwrites that vacancy, the phone data survives.

Part 1. Retrieving Files with PhotoRec for Free

Recover Pictures Files with PhotoRec for Free

PhotoRec is a piece of software designed to bring back videos, photos, documents, and archived documents from HDDs, CD-ROMs, and SD memories. This tool bypasses the file system and dives deeper to the surface later with the underlying data on board. This means that it will work effectively regardless of the damage done to the media file system, including reformatted systems.

As an open source multi-platform app, PhotoRec is available for gratis and distributed in compliance with GNU General Public License. It comes paired with a program called TestDisk, a specialist utility designed for recovering faulty partitions on various file systems and repairing issues that prevent disks from booting.

For safety purposes, PhotoRec exclusively handles drives and memory cards in read-only mode. However, remember NOT to create or save files to the memory device after accidental or unintentional deletion! Overwritten data may certainly destroy the underlying files. Furthermore, bear in mind that with any restoration software, it is critically important that you write the retrieved photos to a different partition and not to the one they were on previously.


  • Supports quite a big number of storage devices;
  • In addition to photos, digs up various files, including office docs, ZIP archives, and HTML files.
  • Completely free-of-charge.


  • Slow customer support
  • Low-key UI with a primitive command-line esthetic.

Rescuing the Pictures with PhoneRescue

Rescuing the Pictures with PhoneRescue

There is definitely more than one option for you to recover deleted files from SD card on Android directly, without relying on extraneous devices or systems. Android-based PhoneRescue is an example of such a helper, and a fast-working one at that: the program claims to take sheer minutes when digging up your vanished photos.

It also features an intuitive GUI, with the workflow organized as a step-by-step wizard, making it perfectly accessible to those of us who are less tech-savvy. In the preparatory stage, users can preview pictures before tagging them for recovery, which saves time and effort by allowing you to sort out the unnecessary files.


  • Four modes of retrieval maximize the chances of success;
  • Not necessary to connect it to a PC;
  • Exceptionally high quality of repaired files.


  • Sometimes detects an excess of files, including undeleted ones.
  • Pricey for personal usage.


recover photos from SD card on Android - Disk Digger

Another sample of software that recovers data by establishing direct access to the central architecture of your storage device. DiskDigger can be launched on all the new and older versions of Android starting from 2.2 (Froyo) and up to 9.0 (Pie). It is highly efficient on mobiles that are rooted, although it demonstrates great results on unrooted devices as well. The app features two preset scanning modes: ‘Dig Deep’ for recently removed larger items (e.g. vids) and ‘Dig Deeper’ for smaller items, like photos.

In addition to helping users with SD card recovery for Android, this utility is also of great use with laptop drives, PC HDDs, SSDs, external drives, and the like.


  • Photos are always recoverable, no matter whether rooted in your phone or not;
  • Virtually every format can be retrieved;
  • Excellent performance on all supported types of storage devices;
  • Multiple platform compatibility.


  • Dig Deeper is very time-consuming;
  • Files of unsupported formats won’t be displayed.

Part 2. Restoring Corrupted/Missing Data from Android Using PC

If the fast methods above haven’t worked out, you may benefit from having more processing power on your side. It is pretty easy to bring back your no longer available files assuming that your phone or tablet of yours is operational and can be switched to Debugging mode.

It is done in a few steps:

  • Open Settings on your device. Go to Applications > Development > USB Debugging, and activate it.

OR, if the above doesn’t work:

  • Select About phone. Tap seven times on the Build number. Now you’ll have Developer options accessible.
  • After you plug your phone/tablet into your PC cable, you’ll need to pull down the upper ‘curtain’ and tap on the USB connection.
  • Afterward, you’ll be able to choose Connect storage to PC. (Sometimes, it doesn’t appear on the first try).
  • Your Win7/10 should load the device drivers in a minute or so, after which, the drive will become visible and receive an assigned letter.

From this point on, you are ready to launch recovery software.

Disk Drill

recover photos from SD card on Android - Disk Diller

A world-famous recovery tool, this one program is compatible with both Windows and Mac.
Primarily, Disk Drill specializes in giving your wiped files second life. Lots of devices are supported, including internal/external drives, SD cards, flash memories, Android phones, and digital cameras. With this utility, data on NTFS, FAT, exFAT, EXT 2/3/4, and HFS+ systems can be effectively dug up.

Another function that this software boasts is Data Protection, which basically provides the user with a vault designed to stay guard over valuable files. This feature allows you to recover deleted files from your SD card free of charge.

The third and final step to enhanced file security is called Drive Backup. With this active function, users will enjoy byte-to-byte disk backups and partition monitoring.


  • Clean and intuitive interface;
  • Available for Win and Mac systems;
  • A variety of file systems to access and restore data;
  • Search and preview files after scan.


  • Only 500 MB is provided for free use;
  • An image’s quality and recovery condition will not be shown in the scan results.

Dr.Fone Recovery Tool

recover photos from SD card on Android - Dr.Fone Recovery Tool

Another option you might be interested in is that offers decent quality data recovery from the phone’s external/internal storage. In particular, Dr.Fone is great because its free version lets you know whether your missed data has been found. This way, you won’t have to do a costly purchase simply to learn the app cannot retrieve a single thing.

Lots of users find its ability to repair the broken file system without performing a factory reset. Instead, this app sources the proper firmware and re-installs it, leaving your data fully intact.


  • Recoverable items include documents, books, vids, images, APKs, music files, call history;
  • A formatted card will be promptly scanned and data recovered;
  • Offers support for Win/Mac;
  • Works on over 6000 Android devices, either rooted or unrooted;
  • Helpful when you have limited access to data because of viral infection, damaged or dead screen, etc.


  • Quite expensive with the plans starting from $39.95;
  • Satellite products come in separately paid packages.

SD Card Recovery

recover photos from SD card on Android - SD card recovery

For those who have never cared to back up their photos locally or in a cloud, you now can resolve your issue with mismanaged images in a flash. SD Card Recovery brings to your desktop a portable and flexible lightweight software solution enabled with a smart deep scanning algorithm. It covers all native Android formats, including JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP.


  • Deep Scan feature;
  • Sleek and agreeable UI.


  • Previews aren’t available for all files;
  • Does not predict the quality of recovered data;
  • Somewhat costly.

Stellar Data Recovery

recover photos from SD card on Android - Stellar Data Recovery

Yet another potent instrument packed with a bunch of features, which turns the program into a many-purpose desktop assistant aside from its recovering capabilities.
With Stellar Data Recovery, it is possible to save the results of the card scan and continue the operation whenever you wish later.

Besides, the search and recovery process can be finely tuned and customized to create very specific requests. Most importantly, however, SDR gives you a powerful ability to recover images from encrypted systems. Its variegated subscription schemes allow users to select an appropriate toolkit for their specific needs.


  • Fully capable to bring back your mismanaged data from corrupt/defective SD cards;
  • Good quality restoration of encrypted files;
  • Over 200 types of various file types are perfectly recoverable;
  • Supports a host of file systems, including Fat16, Fat32, exFAT, and NTFS.


  • Paid for based on subscriptions;
  • Buggy previews;
  • May show data recovery results inconsistently.

FAQ Section

What happens to my SD memory if I format it as internal (phone) memory?

If formatted like this, an SD card will end up with the following properties: 1) All the information stored on the card gets erased;
2) It becomes encrypted—which, basically, makes it unmountable on other Android phones;
3) The regular format (FAT32/exFAT) changes to ext4 or f2fs.

What type of storage can I restore files on?

You can either restore files on internal storage or external storage. The internal storage of your device is based on chips inside it. It contains both the mobile OS and any extras (e.g. apps or system documents).
An external memory usually comes in the form of micro SD cards and flash drives and serves as an extension of your phone’s storage capacity. You might need root access for new smartphones to restore files on external storage.

Can I retrieve the erased data without 3d party software?

Normally, a mobile phone system does not feature internal restoration tools aside from Back up, Cloud Sync, and/or Recycle bin. When none of the said functions are present or helpful, you can try installing an app to deal with your missing file situation. Or, if caught in the predicament of not being able to turn on your phone, Mac/PC desktop tools might be your only option.

Is there any free software to help me bring back the lost files?

Even if you haven’t chanced upon a fully free-of-charge application, a good many of those available at Google Play will give you either a free trial or a limited number of media files to restore. This covers the needs of most users; of course, should your demands be higher or systematic, you might consider switching to premium and enjoy limitless volumes of restoration.

Can files be restored if I remove them permanently?

Indeed, the file rescuing programs do precisely that: dig up the data you can no longer access. Both rooted and unrooted devices are eligible for the recovery process. As a reminder, you may also solve your problem of missing photos even more easily if your device is backed up with Google Drive or any other product of cloud technology.


Hopefully, the described tools and methods will help you recover deleted files from the memory card on Android and any problems you have been experiencing with the SD will be solved. Just remember that securing yourself a proper backup process via cloud storage or system image relieves you from constantly worrying about your unique and valuable photos.