Question: I purchased Data Doctor SIM Recovery software to retrieve some messages and photos I accidently deleted from my smartphone. I have bought two different card readers so far and neither of them has worked.  Different error messages have come up. Sometimes the USB cable does not find the SIM card and you can go no further; other times the USB cable does find the SIM card and when the search is complete there is no data on screen from the SIM card and then a runtime error is thrown up.  I don’t mind having paid for this program, but I’d like to know whether it works. Claire McAllister

Helproom Answer: Data Doctor is one of a number of so-called recovery tools on the market for various tasks such as retrieving lost photos and mobile phone messages. Some are totally rubbish. Before and after using anything of this sort, we recommend you update your  Internet Security or anti-virus software and run a security scan on your PC and check for anything that might cause concern.

Most such programs let you have a trial of the software whereby it scans the media card or disk to be recovered and shows you whether or not your images are still there, then puts up a paywall so you pay a fee to get at the content you want to retrieve. Any such software you use should give you at least given you this much information before you pay for it.

Software to retrieve information from a SIM card works in a similar fashion but won’t work if there’s PIN code on the SIM card preventing access. The other issue is whether the messages you want to recover were stored on the SIM in the first place or were actually stored on the phone memory. If you’ve removed the SIM from one phone and put it in another handset, this could be where your messages have gone. If you deliberately deleted the messages, they may simply be gone forever. Although forensics will allow messages to be recovered, it’s doubtful that a program such as the one you have will be able to dig sufficiently deep into the phone to do this.

Two other file recovery options to try are Recuva and Restoration. We’ve used these with some success for getting back accidentally deleted items.

As for the issue with the media card connection, can you ‘see’ the phone or its hard drive as a removable hard disk when you plug it in to your PC? Have you got the disc that came with the mobile phone? Usually there’s a media manager program that allows you to see photos and videos taken on the device, along with a list of recent calls. Text messages are also often included.

If you don’t have a utility disc for the phone (and there’s not a downloadable version available from the handset maker’s website), you will need to rely on your PC being able to see the contents of the media card or the hard disk on the phone itself. When you plug in the phone to your PC the phone’s screen should give you the option to switch to using its memory as a mass storage device. This will treat the phone memory as a hard disk and read whatever content is on it as discrete files.

If you’re not getting any of these options, it may be that the USB port is playing up and you need to plug in via an alternative USB connection or use a dedicated memory card reader (about £5 to £10).

The memory card or phone will still contain the information you – somewhere – unless you have formatted the card. This might happen if you stick it in a Mac, for example, as the file format Macs read is not the same as the one PCs read. Assuming this isn’t the case and you haven’t overwritten the photos by taking new ones that are now occupying the storage space they once did, we suggest you try one of the programs mentioned phone messages,doctor sim,sim card,anti virus software,phone memory,rsquo,security scan,recovery tools,pin code,runtime error,recovery software,card readers,mcallister,usb cable,forensics,error messages,smartphone,internet security,handset,fashion