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How can I recover deleted photos from an SD Card?

I spend a day in and around Verona, Italy past weekend and was shooting around with a lent Nikon D80. I used a 2G SD card for storage. I was shooting FINE/L JPEG photos. When it got to 161 photos before it was full I started getting a CHR/CHA (since it's digital display I can't really say whether it's an A or an R) reding on the mono display. Anyway. It was blinking and after every shot the number increased back from 160 to 161 so I realised that something has been going on.

I tried replying my photos but camera wouldn't show me anything. Anyway. For the last 30 minutes of shooting I changed SD card to at lest be able to continue shooting but the shocker came afterwards.

When I inserted the SD card in my computer it started behaving badly because I wasn't able to get any photos off of it. When I tried to do a disk error checking, it dis something quickly and now when I try to put the card it it says it needs to be formatted before it can be used.

I'm afraid all my photos are now lost.

I wonder whether you're ever experienced anything similar? Which camera did you use and were you ever able to recover those photos you've taken?

It wasn't something so very important but I wonder what I would do if I took some photos of something I know I'd do only once in my life like a super special vacation somewhere and then loose all photographic memories?! I hope this kind of thing never happened to any of those wedding photographers. What an embarrassing moment that would be! Saying: "Would you please do the whole day again please, because I lost your photos?" is probably out of the question.

  • Sorry, that sucks. We've got some existing answers on trying to save files from memory cards with errors. See photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1125/… and photo.stackexchange.com/questions/3323/…
    – mattdm
    Mar 27, 2011 at 23:21
  • 1
    Also, I want to add that probably doing disk error checking was a mistake. If you have problems on a memory card, flip the read-only switch immediately, and then make a recovery image before doing anything else.
    – mattdm
    Mar 27, 2011 at 23:23
  • @mattdm: You could put your comments into answers because they seem (especially the second link) to be helpful. I'll try one of those in the morning actually and see what can be done (and hope for the best). Mar 27, 2011 at 23:36
  • I figured the first comment just points to other people's answers, so they should get the credit. And the second comment might be helpful, but sounds like it's too late to be an answer now. :) Anyway, I hope you're able to salvage something.
    – mattdm
    Mar 27, 2011 at 23:37
  • @mattdm: Please put your first comment links in an answer because I will accept it. It helped me big time. And I'll go and vote those up as well. Mar 29, 2011 at 9:41

3 Answers 3


Making this an answer by request. This post is basically a duplicate, although that's not necessarily a terrible thing.

Earlier questions are:

  • 1
    Thanks Matt. I used PhotoRec program as recommended in both links and I was inseed able to recover photos from a currupt file system SDHC card. Thank you. Mar 29, 2011 at 13:10

Although the above answer covers the recovery perfectly - I'd add that after recovering any images from this card, I'd destroy it and be very careful regarding replacement.

I have seen cheap cards that mis-report their capacity: They say they are 2 gig, they are actually 1 gig, once you write more than 1 gig - they start from the beginning again, wiping the initial data.

I have seen cheap "no name brand" cards that just plain failed (sadly, this was an actual case of losing almost all the only set of pictures from a wedding - I kid you not).

But in any case, I wouldn't ever trust those cards again with any images that were worth me firing the shutter hence destroying the card.

I would then be sure I bought a genuine, big-name (Sandisk, Kingston etc.) replacement from a reputable source. Think what you are risking for the sake of a little extra cash.

Once it arrived, I'd see if I could register it using the serial number on the manufacturer's site.

SanDisk allow you to do this for example. Though it's a little obscure, so here's how:

  • Create an account at http://kb.sandisk.com/
  • Go to "My Sandisk"
  • Then to "Register/Update your product" and register the cards (a magnifying glass is handy here!)

Personally, I am now so paranoid (after seeing the above incidents for myself) that I always fill up a new card (by plugging it into a card reader attached to a computer and dragging images onto it) and then do a disk check (in Windows that's under; right-click -> Properties -> Tools -> Check now...).

  • This card wasn't mine nor was camera. I prefer SanDisk as well for personal needs. Mar 29, 2011 at 13:13

I've had this issue twice, once using a Canon IXUS 2 and once using a Canon 1000D. On the case of the 1000D it was with a cheap ebay card (which I promptly threw away) and I was out walking so I retook the photos. On the other day was a college event, I don't know what caused that but luckily others had similar photos.

As with the answers mattdm linked above there are ways to recover these photos in most cases, but as a matter of habit I use multiple smaller cards now. I suppose I'm more likely to lose a card or drop my camera while changing a card, but atleast then it's in my hands and if an error does occur I can swap in another card without worrying about causing further damage to a corrupted card!

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