Can you recover deleted photos from an SD card?

Data storage may be more reliable than ever before but, as we know, it still fails. Mechanical fault, power surges and technical errors are all common causes of data loss but, ultimately, the most common cause of data loss is still – and, in our opinion, will remain to be – human error.

As a result, we regularly recover data that people have accidentally deleted and, more often than not, the data in question is largely comprised of image files which, considering the amount of sentimental value these files undoubtedly hold, should come as no surprise. What may well come as a surprise, though, is that, yes, you can usually recover deleted data from an SD card.

When data is deleted (accidentally or otherwise), the binary that forms it is not immediately removed from the device in question. Instead, the device earmarks the space within which it was stored (commonly known as sectors) as a location that can be used to store data in the future. As a result, this means that, provided you have noticed the problem quickly, that the data in question can be recovered. The likelihood of a successful recovery diminishes every time that new data is written on to the SD card, however, and this is true of all types of storage media. To put it another way, as soon as you realise you’ve deleted data you want to keep, power down the affected drive and take action.

So, we’ve established that deleted photos can be recovered from an SD card provided the original files haven’t been overwritten – but how? The answer: by putting the relevant files back together piece by piece.

All data is made up of individual bytes, each of which represents either a one or a zero. What our engineers must therefore do is identify the locations of the accidentally deleted files and then place the bytes in the correct order. Once this has been done, the files can once again be accessed and viewed.

With a high-definition image file usually several megabytes in size and one megabyte equating to a million bytes, doing this manually would be such a time-consuming and laborious task that it would simply not be possible to offer such services affordably. Fortunately, specialist software can- when used by an experienced and trained engineer – do a lot of the hard work making the process much more practicable.