A simple online search can instantly reveal countless free SD card recovery software tools. What it doesn’t reveal, however, is which of the available solutions can actually do what they promise to do: recover deleted files from an SD card for free.
To give you a comprehensive answer, we tested 15 popular free SD card recovery software tools for Windows, listing their key features and evaluating their data recovery capabilities.
What You Should Pay Attention to When Choosing SD Card Recovery Software
SD card recovery software tools can appear to be remarkably similar when looking at them from a distance. It’s only when you spend some time with them that you begin to notice the differences. This is what we pay attention to when evaluating SD card recovery software:
- Performance: How long does the recovery take? How many file formats does the recovery tool support? How does it handle corrupted and damaged files? These are just some questions we ask ourselves to determine how well an SD card recovery software tool performs. Data recovery is a time-sensitive process, so you always want to select a recovery tool that can get the job done on the first go.
- Usability: Some SD card recovery software tools are designed to be as intuitive as possible, and some assume a certain amount of background knowledge. If you’re a regular home user and hope that you won’t ever again need to recover data from a memory card, you should select an SD card recovery software tool that’s self-explanatory and doesn’t force you to read a lengthy manual.
- Features: Free SD card data recovery software tools don’t typically come with a whole lot of extra features, but exceptions do exist. In most cases, additional features can be unlocked with a purchase of a license or paid subscription.
- Support: While we strongly believe that SD card recovery software should be self-explanatory, we also knowledge that not all data recovery scenarios are created equal. There’s always a chance that you’ll encounter a memory card recovery free software can’t deal with, and that’s when helpful customer support staff can make a real difference.
- Price: Just because a software tool advertises SD data recovery free of charge doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to get all your data back without paying. Some tools only let you preview deleted or lost files—not actually recover them. And many of the tools that do let you recover your files for free impose limits on the number or size of files.
It’s not easy for a free SD card recovery software tool to strike the right balance between ease of use and data recovery capabilities. There are many recovery tools that are so easy to use that a child could figure them out without any help, but they often deliver subpar results. There are also many recovery tools that work remarkably well but are so complicated that even professionals are intimidated by them.
Disk Drill combines ease of use with powerful data recovery algorithms to satisfy the needs of professional and home users alike. This platform-independent solution supports all common storage devices, file systems, and file formats. The free version can recover up to 500 MB of data, and it comes with several extra features that you would be hard-pressed to find even in paid SD card recovery software tools.
One such extra feature is called Recovery Vault, and its purpose is to provide an added level of protection for all your sensitive and important locations. Disk Drill can also create byte-to-byte backups of failing storage devices. Data recovery experts recommend creating a byte-to-byte backup before recovery so that you don’t lose your files in case the storage device dies in the middle of the recovery process.
Another hero of the day: @Cleverfiles Disk Drill! Had a corrupt SD card with timelapse footage. None of the data recovery apps could see or mount the card. I then formatted the card in a @GoPro , after that the card mounted and Disk Drill recovered everything :))
— Sybren Arnoldus (@IetsMetFilm) March 18, 2019
- Professional data recovery made simple.
- Can preview all recovery methods.
- Multiple scan options.
- Lets you save and resume recovery.
- Includes several extra features.
Is it Free? Disk Drill can recover data of up to 500 MB for free.
Recoverit by Wondershare is a 3-step SD card data recovery software tool with a clean user interface and proven data recovery capabilities. It maintains an excellent average review score of 4.5 on TrustScore, with users praising its recovery speed, customer support, and a money-back guarantee, among other things.
Speaking of Wondershare’s money-back guarantee, it’s nice to have it because the free version can recover only up to 100 MB of data. For unlimited recovery, you need to get one of the three paid subscriptions (Essential, Standard, or Advanced).
As its name suggests, the Essential subscription costs the least amount of money ($45.95 per month per PC or $59.95 per year per PC or $69.95 for a lifetime license), but it lacks some advanced features, such as computer crash recovery or advanced video recovery.
- Boasts the ability to restore over 1,000 file formats.
- Offers free remote technical assistance.
- Paid versions can repair corrupt video files.
Is it Free? Recoverit by Wondershare can recover data of up to 100 MB for free.
There are many different reasons why you might need to recover data from an SD card, from an unfortunate user error caused by a sudden lapse of attention to an OS crash or virus attack. MiniTool Power Data Recovery can solve these and many other data loss cases in a short amount of time and without requiring you to do anything apart from starting the data recovery process.
In addition to SD cards and other memory cards, MiniTool Power Data Recovery supports USB flash drives, HDDs, and SSDs (both internal and external). You can recover hundreds of file formats and preview roughly 70 of them, including Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, images, CAD files, and Adobe Photoshop projects.
The free version of MiniTool Power Data Recovery can recover up to 1 GB of data, and you can unlock unlimited recovery by purchasing a monthly ($69) or yearly ($89) subscription or a lifetime license ($99). All paid versions of this SD card data recovery software tool include the ability to recover files after a system crash.
- A lifetime license with free updates available.
- Can preview roughly 70 file formats before recovery.
- Includes a bootable media function to recover data after a system crash.
Is it Free? MiniTool Power Data Recovery can recover data of up to 1 GB for free.
Don’t let its name fool you: PhotoRec can recover a lot more besides photos. Its developers claim that the whole list of file formats supported by PhotoRec contains more than 480 file extensions, grouped in approximately 300 file families. Included on the list are all common picture file formats, document file formats, and archive file formats.
But what really makes it special is the fact that it’s completely free and open source, distributed under GNU General Public License (GPL v2+). Theoretically, you could use PhotoRec’s source code to develop your own version of the software and distribute it under your name.
If all this seems too good to be true, that’s because there’s one important catch: PhotoRec is a command-line free SD card data recovery tool with no graphical user interface. As far as command-line tools go, PhotoRec is relatively easy to use, but it’s still nowhere as usable as other tools on this list.
- Open source SD card recovery software tool.
- Uses read-only access for extra safety.
- Recognizes and recovers many different file formats.
Is it Free? PhotoRec is 100% free and open source.
iCare Recovery is a polarizing free SD Card data recovery software tool. On the one hand, you can use it to recover an unlimited amount of data without paying. On the other hand, its data recovery capabilities are very limited, and you shouldn’t expect it to recover permanently deleted files. To do that, you need to download iCare Pro Free, which can recover only up to 1 GB of data (confusing, right?).
The completely free version of iCare Recovery also doesn’t support memory cards with the exFAT file system and doesn’t come with any customer support. While the lack of customer support is understandable, the inability to recover files from exFAT-formatted memory cards could be a deal-breaker for many users.
Another potential deal-breaker is the outdated user interface, whose gray color scheme reminds us of software applications for Windows 98. That said, iCare Recovery is fairly easy to use, so any issues with its user interface can be easily overlooked.
- Unlimited basic data recovery.
- More than 600+ file types supported.
- Supports all memory cards (SD cards, CF cards, XD cards).
Is it Free? iCare Recovery is free, but its recovery capabilities are limited.
Developed by the people behind the PC optimizer CCleaner, Recuva is a lightweight free SD card data recovery software tool designed to make data recovery quick and easy. It can recover all commonly used file formats from memory cards, external hard drives, USB sticks, and other storage devices—even if they are damaged or recently formatted.
There are two versions of Recuva: Free and Professional. The Free version is truly unlimited in the sense that you can use it to recover as many files as you need. However, the Professional version offers a few extra features that might convince you to spend $19.95 on it, namely virtual hard drive support, automatic updates, and premium customer support.
When installing Recuva, pay attention to every option because this free SD card recovery tool is known bundleware that automatically installs CCleaner.
- Lightweight free SD card data recovery tool.
- Features an advanced deep scan mode.
- Has the ability to securely delete files.
Is it Free? Recuva can recover an unlimited amount of data for free.
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is a free SD card recovery software tool from the developers of the popular partition manager, EaseUS Partition Master. Just like all software tools from the company, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard puts heavy emphasis on ease of use and general usability. It’s designed to be accessible even to people with limited to no data recovery experience but still deliver professional results.
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard has two scanning modes, one that takes a shorter amount of time and one that scours the scanned storage device sector by sector, looking for deeply buried files. Regardless of which of the two scanning modes you select, you can always recover any data that has already shown up—no need to wait for the recovery process to finish.
The free version of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard can do a lot of the things the paid version can, but it doesn’t include what’s arguably the most unique feature of this SD card data recovery software tool professional one-on-one remote recovery assistance.
- Recovers data from deleted, hidden, lost or raw partition.
- Lets you recover data while scanning.
- The ability to export/import sessions.
Is it Free? EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard can recover data of up to 2 GB for free.
The free version of Stellar Data Recovery isn’t nearly as feature-packed as the paid members of the Stellar family, but you can trust it to reliably recover data from any memory card. It can deal with just about every file format, including custom or uncommon file formats.
The user interface of Stellar Data Recovery is intuitive and well thought out. As a user, you always know where to click next, and all available options are explained right within the software. To make the data recovery process as safe as possible, Stellar Data Recovery lets you clone a failing memory card and recover files from its backup.
Stellar Data Recovery is available in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and it works on Windows 10, 8.1, 8, and 7. Even though Windows XP support isn’t advertised, you should be able to use Stellar Data Recovery with the operating system without any major problems.
- Recovery from formatted file systems.
- BitLocker data recovery.
- Recovers any file format, including custom or uncommon file types.
Is it Free? Stellar Data Recovery can recover data of up to 1 GB for free.
With R-Studio, it’s possible to rescue files that don’t appear to be recoverable anymore. This free SD card recovery software solution features support for NTFS, NTFS5, ReFS, FAT12/16/32, exFAT, HFS/HFS+ and APFS (Macintosh), Little and Big Endian variants of UFS1/UFS2 (FreeBSD/OpenBSD/NetBSD/Solaris) and Ext2/Ext3/Ext4 FS (Linux) partitions and all storage devices, including SD cards.
The user interface of R-Studio resembles Windows Explorer, making it feel instantly familiar. You can open multiple tabs within the same window to locate a missing file on multiple SD cards without the need to constantly switch between sessions.
Being a professional-grade data recovery solution, R-Studio comes with a hex editor with support for NTFS file attribute editing. The Technician version includes even more extra features, but it comes with an eye-popping price tag of $899.99.
- Support many different file formats.
- Familiar user interface.
- Recovery over network.
Is it Free? The free version of R-Studio can’t recover files larger than 256 KB.
Even though Recover My Files doesn’t leave the same positive first impression as the leading free SD card data recovery software solutions featured in this article, its great data recovery capabilities demonstrate that it’s never a good idea to judge a book by its cover.
Compatible with Windows 7, 8, and 10, Recover My Files can recover data from memory cards, hard drives, USB flash drives, floppy disks, and other media. It can deal with complicated data loss scenarios, such as a partitioning error or computer crash.
You can download Recover My Files for free and use it to preview your files, but you won’t be able to actually recover them without paying at least $69.95 for a license. Because of this limitation alone, we can’t rank it any higher.
- Recovers files from accidentally formatted SD cards.
- Built-in hex editor.
- Tested by the Department of Homeland Security.
Is it Free? The free version of Recover My Files can’t save recovered files.
Acronis Revive is a straightforward SD card recovery tool that costs $49.99. On its website, you can download a free demo that lets you find a deleted file and assess its chance of recovery. Unfortunately, the demo version doesn’t let you recover the file.
To justify the need to purchase a license, Acronis Revive advertises features such as the ability to a disk image during recovery, visual indication of scanning progress, recovery logs, multiple scan modes, and support for numerous file types. We’re not sure whether all of these features are worth paying for (the visual indication of scanning progress stands out the most), but at least Acronis isn’t asking too much money for them.
As far as the recovery process itself goes, Acronis Revive makes it painless and quick, guiding you through the entire process from start to finish.
- Can preview photos and videos before recovery.
- Visually displays scanning progress.
- Offers multiple scan modes.
Is it Free? The free version of Acronis Revive can’t save recovered files.
Remo Recover presents itself as a complete recovery and file repair solution with support for memory cards, hard drives, external storage devices, and any other storage media. It features a four-step approach to data recovery (select the device to recover, scan for lost data, preview recovered data, and save the recovered data) and an intuitive user interface.
You can use Remo Recover to get back as much as 1 GB of data for free, but you need to upgrade to one of the three available paid editions to recover more data than that. The only paid edition of Remo Recover that makes sense is Remo Recover Pro because it supports the most file formats and comes with premium customer support.
Regardless of which edition you select, you can always take advantage of Remo’s 30-day money-back guarantee and ask for a refund if the software fails to live up to your expectations.
- Four-step approach to data recovery.
- Intuitive user interface.
- 30-day money-back guarantee.
Is it Free? Remo Recover can recover data of up to 1 GB for free.
The official website of Puran File Recovery can tell you a lot about this free SD card recovery solution. It can tell you that it was last updated in 2016, and the only thing that was included in the update was support for Windows 10.
It can also tell you that Puran File Recovery supports only FAT12/16/32 and NTFS file systems, which is nothing in comparison with leading free SD card recovery solutions, such as Disk Drill. Puran File Recovery is also behind when it comes to design and general usability. Its user interface is amateurish at best and looks like something from the Windows Vista era.
Fortunately, not everything about Puran File Recovery is bad. For example, its recovery engine does a solid job of combining speed, accuracy, and simplicity. It can intelligently scan a drive byte by byte and detect deleted/lost partitions.
- Has a search box with support for wildcards.
- Preserves path structure during recovery.
- A portable version available.
Is it Free? Puran File Recovery is free for private and non-commercial use.
TestDisk is a free SD card recovery tool from the developers of PhotoRec. The two tools are designed to complement each other.
TestDisk can restore a deleted/reformatted partition or extract data with metadata if the filesystem on the SD card is still intact. If the file system isn’t intact, PhotoRec can recover any data on the SD card even if it means that metadata won’t be preserved.
Just like PhotoRec, TestDisk is a command-line tool with features for novices and experts alike. The official documentation, does a wonderful job of explaining how to use the two tools to achieve the best results when recovering files from SD cards and other storage devices.
- Can fix partition tables and recover deleted partitions.
- Open source SD card recovery software tool.
- Command-line user interface.
Is it Free? TestDisk is 100% free and open source.
Part of IObit’s growing range of software applications, IObit Undelete presents a simple but effective free SD card data recovery solution that doesn’t require installation and can recover all kinds of lost files with only a few clicks.
Unless you have a very slow computer or an extremely large SD card, you can expect the entire recovery process to finish in less than a minute. One reason why IObit Undelete is so fast is that the application is as thorough as some other free SD card recovery software applications on this list.
It also lacks some important features, such as the ability to preview files before recovery. But despite these shortcomings, IObit Undelete is worth the download. After all, it’s completely free.
- Doesn’t require installation.
- Quick scanning.
- Gives each file a recoverability score.
Is it Free? IObit Undelete can recover an unlimited amount of data for free.
After testing 15 free SD card data recovery software tools, it was easy to select Disk Drill as the winner. This user-friendly tool allows you to solve even the most challenging data recovery scenarios with just a few clicks—no expert knowledge needed. You can use Disk Drill to recover pictures, videos, documents, and just about anything else you might ever store on an SD card. Unlike so many other “free” SD card data recovery software tools that we tested, Disk Drill supports SD recovery free of charge, offering free data recovery within 500 MB.
Did You Know?
The original Standard-Capacity (SDSC) SD cards are limited to 2 GB of storage space. The limit increased to 32 GB with the release of the Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) format in 2006. Three years later, the SD Card Association introduced the Secure Digital eXtended Capacity (SDXC) format, which supports cards up to 2 TB. The latest format is called Secure Digital Ultra Capacity (SDUC), and it supports cards up to 128 TB.