How to Recover Bad Pictures

Restore pictures - how does it work?

Digital photos can be checked immediately on the camera and, if necessary, deleted again immediately. Unfortunately, every now and then it also happens that an important or valuable picture is accidentally deleted. When handling a new digicam, it can also happen that the memory card is inadvertently formatted.

A surefire way to prevent such mishaps is:

+ Delete pictures only on the PC

+ Secure the memory card against accidental deletion in the camera's menu

+ Use the memory card as a backup copy of the images on the hard drive

+ Always archive photos on different storage media

+ Have photos printed / developed regularly. You cannot delete a real photo print. It's even free of charge, as you can find out here

+ Only delete pictures from the memory card when the memory is running out

+ Print the most beautiful pictures on canvas and give them away 🙂

If the pictures on the memory card have been deleted or damaged, there is no reason to despair. Many memory cards have various and reliable methods of recovering their images.

Digital image data is more susceptible to damage than photos exposed from analog film. For example, incorrect image data can be triggered by improperly removing the camera from the computer.

An interrupted write process can cause file system damage or read / write error messages. Unintentional switching off of the camera can also cause such errors.

Should such a problem arise and the images appear irrevocably lost, the question quickly arises:

How can I recover my photos and pictures?

There are many good, professional programs such as B. Phoenix Photo Recovery from Stellar, which makes it possible to easily restore deleted or damaged pictures. You can find a list further down this page.

First of all, it is important to distinguish between two cases: Recovering photos from a memory card - or from a hard drive:

How can I recover pictures from the memory card?

In case pictures on the memory card have been deleted, moved or damaged, the most important thing is NO MORE DATA TO WRITE TO THE MEMORY CARD!

Depending on the formatting of the memory card, there are suitable programs for restoring the deleted images. Most of these recovery programs are intuitive and easy to use, a list can be found further down this page.

Usually the camera is simply connected to the camera or a card reader to the computer, or a memory card slot of a notebook is used.

The software searches the memory card and displays the images it finds. Also the pictures that have already been deleted. The images should then be saved on the hard drive of the computer, as saving them again on the camera could overwrite the intact image data.

Whether the restoration of the pictures was successful can be seen when you can open the photos in the preview. In general, it can be said that images that have become unusable due to file errors on the storage medium can be restored more easily than photos that are on a memory card that has been damaged by external influences.

In this case, only sending the memory card to one of the numerous providers on the Internet who specialize in restoring defective photos will usually help. In addition to recovery attempts with special professional software, other physical processes are also used. For example, photos from memory cards with water damage or similar external damage can also be restored.

In the vast majority of cases, however, the images were accidentally deleted or damaged. Then even free programs can help you succeed and save the pictures.

Deleted pictures on the hard drive - what now?

If images on the hard drive have been deleted, moved or damaged, it is first important to NO MORE DATA TO WRITE TO THE HARD DISK! Each new file reduces the chance of being able to restore all images.

You can search for the image files with a free program such as Recuva - it is always advisable to perform a deep scan in order to be able to restore all files. If the pictures are damaged after they have been recovered, there are other ways to save these pictures as well.

Therefore, it is best to use the data recovery program to restore all image files it finds - simply filter for the desired file extension such as .jpg, .JPEG, .gif, .png, .raw etc. where .jpg means is the most common format used by digital cameras.

The files must be restored to a new data carrier, under no circumstances can the data be restored to the same hard drive or memory card. Of course, we recommend taking regular backups of your files (online or on a local hard drive) - but if you did, you probably wouldn't be on this website.

Some professional providers of picture recovery programs:

Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery (professional / semi-professional)

A particularly user-friendly program for the recovery of deleted or damaged photo files, videos and audio files. All common formats are supported.
DigitalPhoto tested the tool in the 12/2012 issue and rated it as "very good".


O&O DiskRecovery (professional)

This data recovery professional finds and reconstructs deleted or incorrect data of all kinds. Pictures, videos, office files, e-mails, other program-specific files and even system files. The all-rounder also has the option of restoring destroyed hard drives or partitions. Information is also available from Computerbild.
The Professional Edition of the O&O tool scored high in the PCPraxis test (issue 9/2011
Single test) with a grade of 1.4. The trade magazine com! awarded the Professional Edition a grade of 2.0 (edition 8/2011).


O & O UnErase

This software can also be used to restore images and all sorts of other deleted files. Whether from the internal hard drive or external storage devices such as other hard drives, USB sticks, memory cards and digital cameras. A demo version tracks down deleted files on a selected storage medium, but you need the full version to restore them.

In the individual test by PCWelt in issue 3/2010, O&O UnErase received a 1.6. The tool would do its job well.


Ontrack Data Recovery (professional)

This image recovery tool is easy to use and yet powerful. All other types of files can also be reconstructed on all storage media, i.e. hard drives, memory cards, USB sticks and removable media, Jaz and Zip removable media. The free demo version can show in advance which files can be saved.
C’t rated Ontrack Data Recovery in the test of 11 products (issue 20/2009) as "good". Read test report.

Auslogics Emergency Recovery

In addition to recovering images, the tool can also recognize and reconstruct all other common deleted file types. It works quickly and relatively reliably. What is special about the software is that it also outputs notes about their status in the list of files found. Information can also be found here.


Smart data recovery

The software belongs to the range of universal data recovery programs. Images can be restored, as can everything else that has been deleted. Even files removed from the trash. Hard disks (FAT / NTFS system), flash and USB drives, USB sticks, multimedia and PC cards, secure digital cards and floppy disks are supported. Chip also introduces the tool.

However, regularly backing up and archiving important images on various storage media is the safest way to protect photos in the long term.

We also recommend copying the data onto new CDs / DVDs, for example, as all data carriers have a limited lifespan of 2-20 years.



Some free digital picture recovery software providers:

DiskDigger (free)

The tool does not have to be installed separately and can be started e.g. from a USB stick. It restores data on hard drives (including external ones) as well as on USB sticks. DiscDigger is designed to be user-friendly, but is supposed to find fewer deleted files than other programs. Well worth a try as free software. Technology magazines also recommend testing the software if necessary.

Restoration (free)

Restoration restores deleted files on all possible storage media, including files that have been permanently removed from the recycle bin. The file systems FAT 12/16/32 and NTFS are supported. Special feature: On the other hand, the tool can also be used for targeted permanent deletion. Netzwelt also offers information, for example.

PC Inspector Smart Recovery 4.5 (free)

This software was written to rescue incorrectly saved or deleted files on flash memory cards. All common image file formats as well as video and audio formats are supported.
Test reports: The magazine DigitalPhoto selected the PC Inspector in the test of issue 10/2005 as the test winner of 3 products, with full points. In contrast, Chip Photo Video magazine rated the tool as "satisfactory" in the test in issue 9/2005.

Recuva (free)

This fast working tool is used for the comprehensive recovery of all possible file types on all Sstorage media. Recuva is considered to be relatively reliable when it comes to finding and restoring files. However, the tool has the disadvantage that it sometimes does not display the original file names, which can make the search more difficult.

The industry magazine GameStar rated the Recuva tool as “very good” in a single test in issue 6/2008. In the PCPraxis magazine, on the other hand, the tool was only able to achieve a grade of 2.8 in the test in issue 3/2010. However, the price-performance ratio is "very good". Recuva is recommended as a free first attempt at data recovery.

PhotoRescue (free trial version) Windows / MAC

As the name suggests, PhotoRescue is specially designed for image recovery. Also supports w

ground video and audio files. PhotoRescue can crawl all types of storage media and, unlike other programs, it even saves files from CDs and DVDs. The tool presents search results as thumbnails rather than a list that can be selected for recovery.
PCWelt gave the program a 2.4 in an individual test a few years ago. (Issue 5/2006).

Digital image recovery (free) - Windows

This program is specially designed for the recovery of deleted image files as well as videos. The following formats are recognized: TIFF, CRW, GIF, JPEG, MOV, AVI movie, WAV, CR2 and ORF. Memory cards but also hard drives and USB sticks can be scanned.

If no free software solution helps, professional paid programs can also be used to restore deleted or damaged images.

These mostly professional tools offer a more extensive range of functions and numerous intervention options to influence and refine the recovery process.

ChipPhotoVideo tested the tool in 2005 with the final grade “poor”. In contrast, DigitalPhoto rated Zero Assumption Recovery in a comparison of 3 tools (issue 10/2005) with 7 out of 8 points!