How to Recover Lost Images on Flash Memory

If you’ve accidentally formatted a flash card that holds the only copy of your photos, you may be able to recover them. Formatting simply makes the memory used available to hold new images, in the process making the old ones invisible to file system viewers. The photos remain on the flash drive until new pictures are written to the location they occupy.

Mount the Flash Card as a Drive on Your Computer

  1. Remove the flash card from your camera immediately! You need to avoid writing anything to the flash card. If you have already taken some new pictures, you may still be able to achieve a partial recovery. The situation will not get better by removing the card, but you will prevent further destruction.
  2. Insert the card into a card reader attached to your computer. If you don’t have a card reader and normally connect your camera to your computer when uploading photos, re-insert the card into the camera and make the connection.
  3. Note the drive letter of the flash drive.
  4. Navigate to the folder that should hold the photos and verify that they are not visible. If you do see the photos, there is obviously no need to run a file recovery program.

Attempt File Recovery

  1. Obtain a file recovery program that can recognize files of the type your camera produces (e.g. jpeg). We recommend starting with Recuva simply because it is freeware.
  2. Try several other programs if you have no success with your initial attempts. It is possible that programs will vary in their abilities to recover files. Look for more free solutions or software that you can buy only after you determine that it will find your photos. For example, the demo version of File Rescue Plus will show you what it finds, but is limited to recovering only five files.
  3. Send your card to a file recovery expert if you have no success. We recommend that you look for ones who will charge you only if they are able to recover the photos.

Recover and Backup

  1. Copy recovered photos to your hard drive.
  2. Back up your photos so that you have at least two copies.
  3. Return the flash card to your set of media available for re-use.

Related Tutorial

  • How to Avoid Flash Memory Data Loss
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