How to recover deleted photos from a freshly formatted sd card

I arrived home less then a week ago from weeks of traveling to find an SD card awaiting my attention.  From time to time my geeky side comes to the front and I do a little data recovery for people if it is possible.

The Situation:

I received an email from a friend who had bought a new 16gb SD card some time ago and placed this straight in their SLR camera.  After using their camera for a couple of months and accumulating approximately 14gb of personal holiday photos they then decided it was time to move them to the computer.  In doing so, they used a card reader to transfer the photos (often what I also do).  This is where the problems started - when the sd card via the card reader was plugged in to the windows computer that they had it popped up a message asking a question.  This question ended up wanting to initialise/format the SD card - not a good move!  Not knowing what they were doing they just pressed yes and the end result was a completely clean card with no photos - that heart wrenching realisation that you have just lost all your personal memories.  Trying to solve the issue themselves, they decided to place the SD card into the camera and see if the photos would be viewable from the camera but still no luck, though the camera then wrote more data to the SD card to create the folders needed be the camera.  The next step was when they emailed me and I told them to not use the SD card till I could look at it in the hope that some data was recoverable.


I generally have a range of tools and methods that I use to recover data under Linux (yes my choice of operating system for this sort of work).  This time I decided to install a new open source piece of software called PhotoRec which is included with Testdisk - available from  There are versions for most operating systems but I used the version for Linux.

This software was fairly easy to use and it was able to recover over 1500 jpeg images from a formatted SD Card without any user interaction at all.  I have included a couple of screen shots below.  I did run the software in the Linux terminal so am unsure as to whether their is a graphical user interface for the software under other operating systems.

Please do note that any attempt to recover data from a drive does require knowledge of the process and further damage can occur, so if you are unsure of what you are doing then do not write any further data to the SD Card and consult someone for help.

Choosing the windows partition to search

A good final result



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