A wrong move, a device malfunction, or maybe a misbehaving app, and your precious files on your Android device have gone bye-bye. Still, even if your data’s gone, don’t worry: you’ll probably have recovered all your deleted files on your Android device by the end of this article.
Unfortunately, we can’t offer a single, simple “press button to get back files” solution. The path to get back your deleted files from your Android device depends largely on where and how they were stored.
So, let’s see all the ways you can get your files back from your Android device.
Can You Get Deleted Files Back On Android?
Thankfully, there are many ways you can get your files back from your Android device:
- In most cases, your files are still accessible but hidden.
- If not, it’s still easy to get them back if you had them stored in a cloud-enabled service, like Dropbox.
- Even in the worst-case scenario, where they’re really deleted, it’s possible to get them back by using specialized recovery software.
That’s because, just like on Windows and Linux PCs, when files are “deleted” on Android, they’re not wiped from storage. Instead, they’re moved between folders, or the storage space they occupy is marked as available for use.
Keep in mind that eventually, your files will be removed. Thus, you have to act as soon as you realize they’re gone.
📱 How Can Your Files Disappear On Android?
Unfortunately, the most common cause for data loss is user error – the user accidentally deleting their files. Everybody thinks they’ll never have to deal with such a problem. However, it’s easy to select the wrong tiny thumbnails and merrily proceed to the deletion of photos you’d rather prefer you hadn’t eradicated. And, yes, we are talking from experience!
It’s also relatively easy, although rare, for the file system to become corrupted. An unexpected device shut down while a file writing process is in progress may lead to such a problem.
The same can also happen on older, overused devices with failing storage. However, in such cases, after managing to pull your data out, it’s best to start planning a device replacement. Even if you manage to save your data, those memory chips aren’t user-serviceable.
Those aren’t the only sources of data loss, but they are by far the most common.
💾 Recovering Deleted Files On Android From Internal And External Storage?
On most Android devices, there are usually two pools of storage you can access: internal and external.
- Internal storage is made up of memory chips inside the device. Both the OS and any extra files (for apps or created by the user) reside there.
- External storage usually refers to solutions that extend the device’s available internal storage, like micro SD cards and USB flash drives.
Modern versions of Android allow unrestricted access to the external storage since there would be no point in restrictions anyway. You can always, for example, connect a micro SD card to your PC to access everything on it. However, modern Android puts up barriers and doesn’t allow unrestricted access to its internal storage for security reasons. That’s why you might see suggestions that your device should be “rooted” for optimal file recovery on Android.
📲 Recovering Lost Data From Rooted VS Non-Rooted Android
Precisely because of the restrictions we mentioned above, you may see suggestions that your device should be “rooted” for optimal file recovery on Android.
The term stems from Linux, where “root” is the default administrator’s account. A root account has full, unrestricted access to everything on the device.
However, just like on Linux, it’s suggested you use a different account when using your device since it’s easy to break something when logged in as root. That’s why this account is disabled by default on Android.
Thus, “rooting” is usually a process through which the user gains back those administrative rights – and, with them, the ability to do whatever they wish to their device.
🔒 Encryption Headache
Encryption might be excellent for security, but it’s also a significant roadblock when you need to recover data from a device. When encrypted on Android, the contents of a micro/mini SD card can only be accessed on that Android device.
Encryption shouldn’t be a problem if you’re trying to recover your data directly on your Android device. However, it makes using your PC to recover your data impossible. You’ll first have to insert your SD card back to the device where it was encrypted, decrypt it, and then try to recover your data from it.
Almost all modern Android devices support encryption. However, many come with their own interfaces on top of vanilla Android, each “moving things around”.
Still, Android also allows you to perform a search in its Settings menu. So, you can locate the option to decrypt your SD card on all Android devices by simply searching for it:
- Visit your Android device’s Settings menu.
- Tap on the Search field and type “encrypt”.
- Select any entry that references your SD card or “external storage”.
- Check the options there and choose the one that will decrypt your SD card.
The Best Ways To Undelete Files On Android
In most cases, even if they’re nowhere to be found, you can probably still get your files back from your Android device. However, their recovery depends on many factors:
- Where were they stored?
- Were you using any cloud-enabled services?
- Did you keep backups?
- Is your phone rooted?
The method you’ll have to use to undelete files on Android depends on the answers to those questions. Still, although the solutions change, as you’ll see, they’re all pretty straightforward.
Method 1: Recover From Backup
Do you have one of their popular devices by Samsung, and were also using its Samsung Cloud in-built backup solution? Then, it’s easy to restore your data from there.
- Pay a visit to your device’s Settings.
- Choose “Accounts and back up”.
- Tap on Backup and restore.
- Select Restore data.
- Choose what you would like to restore, and then tap on Restore.
Soon after, you will have your data back. If not, it’s worth checking our more extensive guide on how to recover deleted photos from any Samsung phone.
Method 2: Get Back Your Deleted Photos
Undeleting your photos on Android devices is relatively easy, at the least, if you are using the default Photos app from Google for managing them. That’s because when you delete image files from inside Photos, they are not removed from the device. Instead, they’re moved to a trashcan. Eventually, they’re also removed from there, so you have to get them back before that happens.
Thankfully, just like you can recover your deleted photos on Windows 10, that’s also possible on your Android-based smartphone:
- Launch Google’s official Photos app.
- Move to its 4th tab, Library. Choose Trash on the top right.
- Inside, you will find all image files deleted within (by default) the last 60 days.
- Tap and hold on the first one that you would like to recover to initiate a selection, and then tap on the rest of the images you would like to get back.
- Tap on Restore to get your images back.
Also read How to Recover Deleted Photos From Any Device for more ways to get back your photos.
Method 3: Undelete Your Lost Google Drive Files
If you are using Google Drive, you can get your files back just like you can from Google Photos. However, you must be even swifter because Google Drive’s default period for deletion is 30 days, half that of Google Photos.
- Run the official Google Drive app on your device.
- Unlike Google Photos, the trashcan on the Google Drive app isn’t accessible from one of the tabs, so there’s no point searching for it there.
- Instead, slide from the left to access the app’s menu, and from there, choose the third option, Trash.
- Inside Google Drive’s trash folder, you will find all files deleted within the last 30 days.
- Tap and hold on the 1st file you want to recover to initiate a selection process. Then, tap on the subsequent ones that you also want to get back.
- Tap on the icon with the three dots on the top right. Then, choose Restore from the panel that slides from the bottom of the screen to undelete your files.
Still, sometimes this approach might not work. In such cases you might want to check out our extended guide on how to recover deleted files from your Google Drive.
Method 4: Restore Your Files In Dropbox
Getting your files back from Dropbox can be equally easy, even if it might not seem so initially.
- If you look inside the Dropbox app for your lost files, you probably won’t find them.
- instead, launch your favorite browser and pay a visit to Dropbox’s site. Sign in with the same credentials you use for the app.
- Tap on the “hamburger menu” on the top left to access a menu that will appear on a slide on the left side of the screen. From there, choose the last entry, “Deleted files”.
- Check all deleted files, and tap on the ones you want to get back.
- You can either tap on each file and then select “Restore all files”, or you can tap and hold on a file to enable Dropbox’s multi-file selection mode. In the second case, a new “Restore” button will appear on the top right. After selecting your files, tap on that button to undelete them.
It’s worth noting that this is only one of the many approaches you could use to recover deleted files from dropbox.
Method 5: Recover WhatsApp Data
If you are using WhatsApp, you might not see an option to get any lost data back. However, recovering your WhatsApp data can be unbelievably easy!
- Getting your data back in WhatsApp can be as easy as uninstalling and then reinstalling the app again. WhatsApp will prompt you to grant it the right to look for backups in your device’s files. Tap on “continue”.
- Tap “Allow” on all prompts to give WhatsApp access to your files.
- If WhatsApp locates a backup, it will offer you the option to restore it. Tap on the “Restore” button to do so.
- After a while, WhatsApp will inform you about the outcome of the recovery. Tap on “Next” to return to Whatsapp’s main interface with, hopefully, most of your data back.
Method 6: Recover Your Lost Android Files With a Mac and Disk Drill
Although they share some popular solutions, in most cases Windows and macOS have their own dedicated software for specialized tasks. As far as data recovery goes, if you’re on a Mac, Disk Drill is one of the main protagonists.
To recover deleted files from your Android device with Disk Drill for Mac:
- Install Disk Drill on your Mac by downloading it from its official site and then dragging its installation file to the Applications folder.
- Connect your Android device to your Mac with a USB cable, and answer positively when asked if you want to “Allow USB debugging”.
- Disk drill needs unrestricted access to recover as many of your deleted files as possible from your Android device. However, “unrestricted access” demands a rooted Android device. If you don’t know if your device is or isn’t rooted, or want to learn more about the process, make sure to read this guide on the topic.
- Run Disk Drill and find your android device on its list. Click on the “Search for lost data” button on its right to begin the recovery process.
- After a while, Disk Drill will present you the files it located. If you can’t make heads or tails of them purely based on their filenames, make sure to use Disk Drill’s preview function by clicking on the little “eye” icon next to their filename.
- Place a checkmark on the left of the files you want to get back. Then, click on the Recover button on the top right of Disk Drill’s window.
Interested in Disk Drill? Then read our full review.
Method 7: Get Back Your Disappeared Android Files on a PC With PhoneRescue
If you’re on a PC with Windows, it’s worth trying a solution like iMobie’s quite popular PhoneRescue. Although the OS is different, this solution more or less works the same way as Disk Drill on a Mac.
- Download iMobie’s PhoneRescue from its official site, then run the downloaded executable to install the app on your PC.
- Connect your phone to your computer with a USB cable. Then, follow the on-screen instructions (both on your PC and your smartphone) to install a secondary application on your smartphone. With both the PC and smartphone “nodes” up and running, iMobie’s PhoneRescue will connect to your phone.
- If you want to perform a Deep Scan for optimal results, PhoneRescue will offer suggestions on how to root your phone. Those who’d prefer to keep their phone unrooted can use the app’s Quick Scan function.
- PhoneRescue will begin analyzing your smartphone and present its findings in realtime.
- When iMobie’s PhoneRescue completes its scan, go through the different types of data from the menu on the left, and choose the entries you’d like to recover by placing a checkmark on their left. Finally, click on the icon on the bottom right of the app to start the recovery process.
PhoneRescue’s trial version only allows you to preview the data you can get back. You have to purchase the app for actual data recovery.
Method 8: Undelete Your Data From an SD Card With Disk Drill for Windows
If the files you lost were located on the external storage of your Android device, you can get them back with a PC, too.
Usually, this storage is a mini or micro SD card. Disconnect it from your Android device and connect it to your PC – you might have to use a card reader for that. We have already covered many solutions for recovering deleted files from an SD card. Out of them, one that’s both easy and guarantees results is Disk Drill Data Recovery.
To get your files back with Disk Drill, download it from its official site, and install it. Then…
- Run Disk Drill and choose your SD card from its device list. Click on “Search for lost data” on the bottom right to begin the scanning process.
- Give Disk Drill some time to scan your SD card and locate your files. The more time you allow it, the more files it will find. For that reason, it’s better to let the scanning process complete.
- Check out Disk Drill’s results and place a checkmark to the left of the files you want to get back. You can’t tell if a file is worth saving purely by its filename? Check it out by either right-clicking on it and choosing “Preview” or clicking on the little “eye” icon next to its filename. When you have selected all the files you want to undelete, click on the “Recover” button on the bottom left.
- When prompted, choose where you want to store the recovered files. To maximize recovery potential, prefer to select a different storage device than the one from where you are trying to get back your files.
- When Disk Drill completes its recovery process, it will inform you about the results. You will find your recovered files in the folder you specified in the previous step.
Still, despite Disk Drill being our top choice, it’s not the only recovery solution you can turn to. Check out our best Android data recovery software roundup for more suggestions.
Method 9: Save Your Files Directly On Android With Disk Digger
Even if you don’t have access to a Mac or PC, it’s still possible to recover your deleted files directly on your Android device. Flow chart, you can use an app like Disk Digger.
- Search for “DiskDigger” on Google Play, and install the app on your Android device.
- Run the app and choose “START BASIC PHOTO SCAN” if your device isn’t rooted. However, you’ll get better results if your device is rooted and you go for a “FULL SCAN”.
- When asked, allow DiskDigger to access your files.
- After a while, DiskDigger will start presenting the files it located. The more time you allow the scan to run, the more files it will find.
- Tap on the files you want to get back to place a checkmark on them.
- Tap on the “Recover” button on the bottom left of the app. Then, choose how you want to get back your recovered files.
- One of the most popular and straightforward approaches is choosing the first option that forwards your recovered files to any installed app – like Dropbox or an email client. Then, for example, email your recovered files to yourself.
If you have an ancient device with a version of Android older than 4.0, it might not work with modern recovery apps. However, that’s expected, since unfortunately, almost no other current app would work on it.
You should also check out our review of the PC version of Disk Digger + our ranking of the best apps to recover data from SD card(s) on Android.
Method 10: Have The Experts Save Your Data From Your Android Device
If you believe trying to get back your files on your own is too much fuss, or your attempts to do so were fruitless, you can always turn to the experts. Services like CleverFiles’ Data Recovery Center can recover lost data from Android – or any other type of device.
Of course, services like these come with a price and some waiting time. However, they also have more chances of getting your precious data back. Two of the reasons we prefer CleverFiles’ Data Recovery Center are their cost-effective free evaluation and no data – no charge policies.
You can also check out our extended review of the best data recovery services to find more alternatives, and learn what they offer over typical data recovery apps.
It depends on where you had them stored. Some apps – like Dropbox – offer either an undo delete function or a trash can where you can find your deleted files.
Quite the opposite, recovering files from a rooted Android device is better because you have unrestricted access to your device’s storage.
There’s no guarantee “you’ll get more data back” by using a computer. However, computers are more powerful than mobile devices, and their software is more advanced, so it’s possible.
Yes, there are specialized apps for that, like Disk Digger. However, such apps can’t reach their full potential on “vanilla Android”. Your device must be rooted for that.
So, You Can Get Your Data Back on Android!
Getting your files back on an Android device is, admittedly, less straightforward than on a computer. That’s mainly because the recovery’s outcome is also affected by where you kept or how you used to access your files. Each app can be a separate microcosm with its own rules. Thankfully, most apps offer functions that allow you to recover any data you lost from them.
Even in worst-case scenarios, where your data is nowhere to be found, you can turn to third-party solutions like Disk Drill and DiskDigger. And even if you don’t manage to get your files back, no matter what you try, you always have the experts as a final solution.
Odysseas Kourafalos started playing with technology over thirty years ago, with a Commodore 128. Instead of gaming with it, he ended up trying to learn what made games - and tech, in general - tick. Since then, he's used thousands of applications, from music trackers to video editing suites, on multiple platforms, and lived to write about them.
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.