At least once in our lives, we all experience a moment of utter idiocy. We click the "delete all" button on our camera, thereby wiping all photos on the SD card within camera. Or, we pull the card out of the camera while it's still on, corrupting all files on the card.
Regardless of how the files are lost, there are many free SD card data recovery software programs available to restore treasured pictures. These are top 10 picks for them.
Recuva is a free Windows-based tool which can recover photos, videos and other files deleted by user error from digital camera/mobile phone SD card. You can restore missing files using either the file-recovery wizard or the application's manual mode. The file-recovery wizard is handy when you're sure your data is gone but you're not quite sure where it went or how to get it back. The wizard lets you narrow your search type to pictures, music, documents, video, or all files, and you can set your SD card as the search location. If you don't need the wizard you can jump right into manual mode and get to work searching where you know the file should be. Recuva uses a green/yellow/red light system to indicate how probable the recovery of your files will be, and when available, it can provide previews image files available for recovery.
PhotoRec's creator claims it can detect and recover more than 390 types of files, and not just photos, as the name might imply. This app is also devoid of a GUI, but likewise is quite powerful at file recovery. Overall, PhotoRec is a powerful tool for quickly and safely copying your deleted files to another disk.
TestDisk is a powerful open-source tool for recovering your data. It's a command line tool, so there's no GUI, but the menus and the documentation in the wiki should get you started without much trouble.
Restoration is a tiny, no-frills, portable recovery tool. You can use it in all versions of Windows and Windows file systems. It lacks some of the advanced functionality of other nominees but does have basic file-name search and the ability to sort by file parameters such as size and filename.
The free version of ZAR (Zero Assumption Recovery) only restores photos. If other file types need to be restored, the full version of the program must be purchased.
PC Inspector will find files fairly quickly on a disk where photos have simply been deleted, but will not even try to scan a disk that is completely corrupted.
For beginners, this is not the best option on the list. You must know the difference between a logical and physical drive to start, then have a little technical knowledge to tweak the program as you scan.
In Windows 7, the program would not detect a Canon Rebel XS. It did detect a non-SLR Canon Powershot, though. It also detected a small Olympus camera. When files are just deleted or formatted, it seems to find them quite easily. Still no luck with the completely corrupted 2 GB SD card, though.
Pandora Recovery has a free photo recovery tool that can be used to recover photos from a variety of devices. Go ahead and download and install it. Once you open it, you'll see a wizard pops up automatically. Uncheck the box for the wizard, which will then take you to the main interface.
If deleting needed files is a habit, some of the other software on this list might be a better option like Card Data Recovery Tool than these freeware, since it has a nice GUI interface and the best reliability and speed. If you have any questions about any of the programs, leave a comment below. Enjoy!
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