SD cards are a popular means of providing extended storage to a wide variety of devices. Occasionally, you may accidentally delete files from an SD card before transferring them to longer-term storage. Luckily, these files are not permanently lost when they are logically erased from the card. Until their storage space is overwritten with new data, they can be recovered. This article will show you how to recover deleted files from an SD card using data recovery software.
How to Recover Deleted Data From an SD Card
When you delete files from a memory card, whether you do it from your camera, phone, or computer, they can’t be recovered without special software. That’s why it’s essential to choose reliable and effective data recovery software if you need to retrieve lost files. And keep in mind that the first scan of the memory card is usually the most successful, so it’s crucial to use a trustworthy program right from the start.
Important: Immediately upon discovering that you have deleted some photos or images from an SD card, you need to stop using it. Though you cannot access the files logically through your device or computer, the files are still physically present on the card. Using the card before performing a data recovery on it will greatly reduce the chances that you can successfully undelete the missing files.
Here are the steps to follow in order to restore deleted files from an SD card, microSD card, memory stick, or any other type of external storage that can be connected to your Windows machine.
Recover Deleted Files From SD Card Using Data Recovery Software
For the purposes of this article, we’re using Disk Drill Memory Card Recovery as our data recovery software of choice. Why? To begin with, the software is available for free, and you can easily use it to recover all the deleted files from your memory card. We’ll explain the other reasons shortly after providing you with a step-by-step guide.
- Download and install Disk Drill: You can download Disk Drill directly from its official website. In fact, we highly recommend you avoid downloading it from anywhere else since some third-party software download sites are known for bundling malware with software installers. Once you have the Disk Drill installed and downloaded, you can go ahead and double-click on it to begin the installation process. From there, simply follow the instructions provided by the installer.
- Attach the SD card to your computer: This can be done either with a card reader or by directly connecting the device that contains the card to your machine. If your card reader only supports standard SD cards, then you need to use an SD to microSD adapter, which is essentially just a plastic shell with pins, and you can buy it for next to nothing in your favorite electronics store.
- Launch the program: To launch Disk Drill, simply double-click on its desktop icon. Windows User Account Control will ask you if you want to allow Disk Drill to make changes to your device, and you need to click Yes to continue. Disk Drill needs to be able to make changes to your device to use its advanced data recovery algorithms to find missing files. But don’t worry: it won’t actually make any changes without you explicitly telling it to do so.
- Scan your SD card: Next, you need to find and select the SD card or external storage in the list of available disks. If you don’t know how the SD card is named, then you should be able to identify it by its size, which is conveniently displayed in the Size column. You can also switch to the Info tab for even more information about any selected storage device. With your SD card selected, you can go ahead and click the Search for lost data button to start Disk Drill’s scanning procedure.
- Review and select found files: It’s very likely that Disk Drill will find hundreds or even thousands of recoverable files, including files you no longer care about. That’s why you need to review files that Disk Drill has found and select those you want to recover. Fortunately, that’s very easy to do thanks to Disk Drill’s scan result filters (located on the left) and a handy preview feature (displayed on the right). To select a file, simply click the checkbox next to it. You can also select entire folders.
- Click the Recover button: To recover all selected files, you need to click the Recover button and specify the desired recovery location. Basically, you want to avoid recovering your SD card files to the same SD card. All other storage devices, including your system drive, are perfectly safe.
Disk Drill uses powerful scanning algorithms to reconstruct and recover files from an SD card. It will allow you to view those jpg files that you thought were gone for good. If you use a lot of cards it is almost inevitable that at some point you will need to rescue them from inadvertent deletion or formatting.
Windows users can download Disk Drill for free and use the app to unerase up to 500MB of data before upgrading their license. The tool provides many features in addition to its ability to undelete SD card data such as:
- Recovery Vault is free data protection utility that will help protect you from accidental or malicious file deletion.
- Duplicate finder to assist in identifying extraneous files and eliminating them to regain precious storage space for your system (currently available on macOS only).
- S.M.A.R.T. monitoring to check the health of your memory cards or any disk-based devices.
- Create disk image backups. You can scan an image of your memory card instead of the actual device to avoid further data deletion or data corruption. It is especially useful in case of a corrupted/malfunctional memory card.
Disk Drill offers a full-featured data recovery and protection tool that assists in preventing and recovering from unexpected data loss. We also conducted additional testing of Disk Drill to ensure that it’s safe for your device and your data.
If Disk Drill didn’t work for you, don’t worry – there are plenty of alternative memory card data recovery software options available for a variety of tasks. Here are some suggestions to consider:
- R-Studio: R-Studio is a robust data recovery software application that caters to advanced users and data recovery professionals. Compatible with all major operating systems, it offers many advanced features, such as the HEX editor, though its preview capabilities are suboptimal due to limited RAW image file format support and the fact that they’re displayed in a separate window. Despite its steep learning curve, R-Studio remains a respectable option for those seeking expert-level data recovery capabilities. The free trial version allows users to test most of its features, but its 256 KB file size restriction can also greatly limit what it can accomplish.
- TestDisk: TestDisk is a free, open-source software application designed to recover entire partitions and address various potential problems associated with them. Compatible with all popular operating systems, it lacks a graphical user interface, which makes it much less user-friendly than other recommended data recovery tools. While not intended for individual file recovery, TestDisk is a valuable tool for those aiming to recover complete SD card partitions or repair damaged file systems. Its real-world data recovery performance may be underwhelming, but the overall value offered by this free tool makes it a recommended addition to any data recovery toolbox.
- DiskDigger: If you can tolerate how poorly DiskDigger copes with high-PDI monitors and the fact that you have to manually confirm the recovery of each file with a 5-second delay, then we recommend you give it a try. Why? Because this lightweight and easy-to-use program doesn’t require installation, and despite several drawbacks, boasts an extensive database of file signatures that includes many popular formats of raw photos and video files. However, if you need to recover a large number of files at once, we would advise you to stay away from DiskDigger.
What is an SD Card and Where is it Used?
A Secure Digital Memory Card, or SD card, is a flash memory card that is used to add additional storage to a device. They are primarily used in mobile and portable devices such as digital cameras (Sony, Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, Panasonic, and others), handheld computers, camcorders, and smartphones. SD cards enable a user to swap cards on the go to deliver as much storage as required to complete a project or photoshoot.
They were introduced to the market by Panasonic, SanDisk, and Toshiba in 1999. SD cards make use of NAND flash memory. The standards for SD cards are managed by the SD Card Association. They have defined Speed Class ratings to help standardize data transfer speeds.
There are currently three primary types of SD cards that use different default file systems and provide varying data storage capacities. They are:
- SD Cards – The basic SD card uses the FAT16 file format and has a storage range of 128MB to 2GB.
- SDHC Cards – Secure Digital High Capacity cards have storage capacities that range from 4GB to 32GB. They use the FAT32 file format as their default. They are not backward compatible with devices that only take SD cards.
- SDXC Cards – Secure Digital Extended Capacity cards provide a storage capacity of between 64GB and 2TB. They use the exFAT file format and are not backward compatible with devices that only take SD or SDHC cards.
You can get each type of SD card in three different physical sizes:
- Standard SD, SDHC, and SDXC measure 32 x 24 x 2.1-1.4mm.
- miniSD cards have dimensions of 21.5 x 20 x 1.4mm.
- microSD cards are the smallest at 15 x 11 x 1mm.
The varying physical dimensions allow SD cards to be used as extended storage on a wide range of devices.
Recovering from SD cards can prove to be extremely important. Most mobile users do not perform a backup on all of their storage cards and can easily delete images or format the wrong one. This can lead to once-in-a-lifetime photos being lost due to a simple accident.
Disk Drill data recovery software can help you recover from unintentionally formatted SD cards or retrieve images that you did not really mean to delete. If you make extensive use of SD cards, having a tool like Disk Drill around will make it easy to recover from that eventual misstep.
Robert Agar is the Content Writer & Managing Editor for Handy Recovery. Robert brings over 30 years of experience in data storage, security, compliance, backup, and recovery to the HandyRecovery team. Several years ago, he turned his attention from hands-on technical roles to develop a career as a freelance writer concentrating on technology and its impact on society. Areas of focus include the cloud, data recovery, artificial intelligence, and industrial automation.
Andrey Vasilyev is an Editorial Advisor for Handy Recovery. Andrey is a software engineer expert with extensive expertise in data recovery, computer forensics, and data litigation. Andrey brings over 12 years of experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair to the team.