How to recover lost photos

Here's how to recover photos you've deleted from your camera or memory card. Visit Photo Advisor for more digital photography tips.

If you've ever accidentally deleted photos from your digital camera's memory card – or even had them deliberately deleted by someone else, it can be easy to retrieve the lost image, provided you stop taking any additional photos.

Many free file recovery application are available, such as UndeleteMyFiles Pro, from or Recuva.

These programs rely on the fact that files aren't usually physically expunged from your memory card or hard drive when you decide to delete them or even to format the drive. Instead the data is left in place but the system marks the space they occupy as usable for new files. It's not until a new file is written to the same place on the storage medium that it becomes overwritten and physically lost.

Data recovery software can examine all of the areas on your drive marked as empty and work out what types of file used to be there. If a complete file can be found it can reconstruct it as though it had never been deleted. With some file types, such as images the software will attempt to recover as much of the picture as possible, even if sections of it have before permanently lost.

To retrieve lost files with Recuva, download and install the software from and then run it. It's important not to install it on the same drive as your deleted files as the act of installing a new piece of software may itself cause deleted files to be overwritten. If you have only one drive, consider placing it temporarily in an external drive caddy and running the recovery from a different computer.

When you start Recuva, you can speed up the process by telling it the type of files you're looking for, or you can select "Other" to search for all deleted files.

Next, you can select where you want the software to search. Here, we've picked only removable drives, so we can scan a memory card. This also speeds up the process.

Now you're ready to start scanning for deleted files. When you click Start, the software will come up with a selection of recoverable files. Simply select the ones you wish to recover and click the "Recover" button. It will then ask you for a location to save the recovered files. Again, make sure you use a different physical drive to the one from which you're attempting to recover data.

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