Deleting photos and then realising it was a mistake can be a heart-stopping moment. But as long as you have only just deleted them, you should be able to get them back. The method will depend on which device you deleted them from, but the general process is the same - just as with recovering any type of file.

Recover deleted photos in Windows

By default, if you select some files and press the Delete key, Windows will put the files in the Recycle Bin. They’re not deleted at all: they’re just moved to a different place.

Open the Recycle Bin – there’s usually an icon on the Desktop but if not, it’s in the Start menu. In Windows 10, just type Recycle in the search box and it will appear in the results.

You can check in the Recycle Bin for your photos. To filter the list to just photos, find the Item type column, hover over it and click the downward-facing arrow to bring up the list of file types. Scroll through and tick each type, including JPG and JPEG. Tick others if you know your photos are in a different format, such as DNG or RAW.

You can click on Item type itself to order the results from newest to oldest, or oldest to newest.

How to recover deleted photos

If the photos aren’t in the Recycle Bin and have really been deleted, you might still be able to recover them. When Windows deletes files, it only marks the space where there were stored on the hard drive as “deallocated”, which is essentially just a flag to say the space can be used for new files.

This is faster than erasing the files themselves and it means recovery software can scan your drive and look for photos in this deallocated space.

Photo recovery software

There are many, many utilities which can recover photos and you can try any of these:

Before you download or install one, remember that this might well overwrite some of your deleted photos, so it’s best to use a different computer to download it. And it’s also best to pick one that can be installed on a USB stick and run from there.

That’s why we recommend the ‘portable’ version of Recuva from Piriform. Be sure to read the installation instructions on that page.

Recuva is easy to use because a wizard guides you through choosing the type of files you want to recover, where they’re located (you can choose ‘I’m not sure’) and then goes off to try and find the photos.

How to recover deleted photos

A list should appear: you can tick the boxes next to the ones you want to recover and choose where to save them. Ideally, choose a different hard drive or a USB stick.

The original file names are likely to be gone and replaced with nonsense, but at least you’ll have your precious photos back.

Recover deleted photos from SD card

If your deleted photos are on an SD card, use the same process described above, but you don’t have to worry about downloading and installing on your laptop or PC: doing so won’t overwrite those deleted photos.

Even if you don’t choose Recuva, pretty much all file recovery software works in the same way.

Recover deleted photos from iPhone

If you deleted photos on your iPhone or iPad, there’s a Recently Deleted folder in the Albums section within the Photos app. This keeps deleted photos and videos for 30 days, so as long as that time limit hasn’t passed, you can select the ones you want and restore them to your main camera roll (now called All Photos).

If you can’t get back photos with this method, then read our more in-depth guide to recovering deleted photos from an iPhone.

Recover deleted photos from Android

So long as you use Google Photos on your Android phone, you’ll find there is a similar system to the iPhone where you can find recently deleted photos in a Bin or Trash can.

Open the Google Photos app, tap the menu icon (three horizontal lines) then on Bin (Trash in the US).

Tap and hold on any of the photos you want to recover and tap Restore at the bottom. The photos will be put back in their original location on your phone’s storage, and in any albums they were in.