Recovering Deleted Photos


Today’s Question: Accidentally formatted a 16 MB CF card that had (many) photos. I immediately withdrew card and have not done anything with it since. Is there a way to read that card without damage to the photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: As long as a “normal” format was performed for the card, there are a wide variety of software tools that can be used to recover photos. For example, SanDisk recommends RescuePro software for photo recovery, which includes the ability to recover photos that have been deleted (including when a card is formatted).

More Detail: In most cases when you delete a photo from a media card, or even format that media card, the data for your photos isn’t actually removed from the card. Instead, the table of contents for the card is updated to indicate that the space occupied by those files is free. Until you write new data to the card, the “deleted” data can generally still be recovered.

There are a variety of software tools available for data recovery in this type of situation. One that is recommended by SanDisk is RescuePro. You can find the Macintosh version by following this link:

The Windows version of RescuePro can be found here:

With software such as RescuePro, the card you’re having an issue with can be scanned for photos that can be recovered.

Some cameras provide a “secure” option for formatting a card, which involves overwriting the card with empty data to ensure that data on the card cannot be recovered with software such as RescuePro. If that type of format was performed, the data on the card generally can’t be recovered.

However, most cameras use a more basic format option that will still enable you to recover the photos that were “deleted” by the format operation. The key is to use software such as RescuePro before any other data is written to the card.