How to restore lost pictures from a digital camera

Digital cameras are perfect for quick snapshots and even video recording. The quality of the cameras has improved a lot over the years, and as a result of high megapixel CCDs, the picture quality is great. Luckily the storage capacity of digital cameras has also increased, since high resolution pictures require big files to store them in!

Normally you would transfer your pictures from your digital camera to your computer before you erase them and start storing new pictures. But it can happen that a picture is accidentally removed, or was copied and removed on a different computer. And once the picture is removed from the internal memory of the digital camera, it is gone… or not?

Actually, the pictures can often still be restored from the digital camera, as long as you did not make too many new pictures with the camera. The image data is preserved on the internal memory as long as the there is no new picture data that overwrites the space. That means the pictures can be restored by using data recovery software.

Here are the steps to use Quick Data Recovery to restore files from a digital camera:

Step 1 – Download and install the Quick Data Recovery software.

Click this link to download the software installer, and once the download completes, double-click the file to install the program on your Windows computer.

Step 2 – Connect the digital camera to the computer.

Most digital cameras have the option to connect to a computer using a USB cable, as shown in the following picture.

Connect digital camera to PC using USB

But for the lost pictures to be restored by the recovery software, it is necessary that the memory in the digital camera is accessible by the computer as a logical drive. When a USB cable is used to connect the digital camera to your computer, Windows does not assign a drive letter to the digital camera.

No drive letters for digital camera storage

You will see the camera, and both the Fixed storage and Removable storage are visible, but not with a drive letter assignment.

So the best way to restore the pictures from the digital camera, is to remove the memory card from the digital camera and insert it into the computer directly. Most digital camera’s use a SD card (SD, SDHC, SDHX, either in original, mini or micro size), so you need a PC or laptop with a SD slot.

Here is how the card and SD slot, or card reader, will look when being inserted into a laptop.

SD card in laptop card reader

Make sure to push the SD card completely into the slot, so you hear or feel it lock into place. Windows will automatically recognize the memory and assign the device a drive letter.

If you laptop or PC does not have a card reader installed, you can also use a USB based card reader. The SD card or memory card is inserted into the USB reader and then you connect the reader to a USB port on your computer.

Step 3 – Start the Quick Data Recovery application on the computer.

You can double-click the desktop icon, or start the program from the Start menu.

Step 4 – In the first application window, click the Photo Recovery option.

SD card photo recovery

Step 5 – Select the volume to recovery data from and click the Scan Now button.

The volume is the disk volume, or drive, that will be scanned by the program. Here you need to select the drive letter that is associated with the SD card of the digital camera.

Next, wait for the scan to complete and the results to come up. Please note that the time taken to scan for deleted data will vary depending on the size of the memory card.

Step 6 – Search for the photo file to restore from the memory of the digital camera.

In the scan results you can see the folders in the left-hand side of the window. Deleted folders show with a red cross in the folder icon. Once you select a folder, the bottom-right-hand side of the window will show you the files in the folder, again deleted files showing with a red cross in the icon.

Select files to recover from digital camera memory

For image files, you can see a preview of the file contents by clicking the file name. The top half of the right-hand side of the window will show the file contents if available. For non-recognized file types, you will see a hexadecimal display.

Once you found the picture file to restore from the memory card, select it (or them in case multiple pictures need to be restored), and click the Recover icon in the bottom-right of the window.

Note: In case you have not registered the application yet, the program will prompt you to do so at this time.

Step 7 – Select the destination for the file(s) to be restored.

The last step is for you to select the drive and folder to where you want to restore the file. This needs to be a different location, do not select the memory card as the destination, as that would not allow future recovery attempts to take place. So select a hard drive and folder on it, and click OK.

That’s it, the file(s) you selected are now restored from the digital camera’s memory to the drive you selected. Use the Windows file explorer to navigate to the destination and open the files with an imaging application!

2 thoughts on “How to restore lost pictures from a digital camera

  1. When I click on the deleted file, the image is all letters and numbers, does this mean my photo is gone forever?
    Can it still be fixed,be located or recovered?

  2. @Melanie – If the preview shows all letters and numbers as you describe, it means the program shows a “hexadecimal” representation of the file. That generally means the file format is not supported for a preview.
    That means the image file can still be recovered, but after recovery you will need to open the file with a program that supports that image file format.

    If the image however, is in a supported file format (like JPG), then it be shown as a proper preview. In that case the likelihood of a successful recovery are smaller, since the image data or file header could have been overwritten by other data.
    Image repair software could still be of help in that case, but you would need to consider the importance of the image to go through such steps.

    Hope this helps.

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