I have a Nikon D3100 SLR camera. Recently bought a new SDHC card but forgot to format it before using, so all photos wen to camera internal memory. I only realised this when we went to upload on the computer and said no images, but when the card was out of the camera we saw the images. We then formatted the SDHC card whilst in the camera and now have no images at all. We have downloaded the Nikon recommended recovery software, but it does not find the device only the hard drives - can anyone help, these were photos from my daughters first Army Cadet trip :( Thanks in advance

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    According to this website, the D3100 does not have internal memory: pcworld.co.uk/gbuk/… Also, I think by default the camera is configured to not take pictures if there is no SD card. – Unapiedra Mar 2 '13 at 19:41
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    All SD cards come preformatted. There is no need to format before using. Something else went wrong here. – mattdm Mar 2 '13 at 20:28
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    The pictures were in the card. Try as many recovery software as you can. Most give you a free preview and guaranty you than anything previewed will be recovered. – Itai Mar 2 '13 at 23:38
  • The last thing anyone should do when trying to recover data is to format anything. At the very least, formatting will remove inclusion of the data's existence and location on the card from the card's directory. A more complete formatting will actually overwrite the data. – Michael C Mar 2 '13 at 23:43

The D3100 has a "demo mode" which is mainly there so prospective buyers in shops can snap pictures and review them without having to insert cards.

Page 147 of the manual says:

Selecting "Enable release" allows the shutter to be released when no memory card is inserted, although no pictures will be recorded (they will however be displayed in the monitor in demo mode).

How my Nikon D90 works:

  • with no memory card in, take a picture, you can review in the LCD
  • switch camera off and back on, image is still there
  • insert a card, and the camera displays "no images" and the demo image is gone
  • remove the card, image gone

So based on that, you probably never had any chance of getting those images back, but once you insert a formatted card, the camera has no need of storing "demo" images and they are gone.

  • They have disappeared :( I have tried both your ideas before from some other advice and neither worked, If I take to a camera shop will they be able to retrieve them as surely if you can get software for this, it must be possible?? Thanks – Alicia Wilkin Mar 2 '13 at 19:53
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    I'm afraid probably not. The software recovers images that are corrupt, or even deleted, off memory cards, but the internal memory is only there really for demo purposes in the camera shop, and it's probably not accessible to the download software. Google tells me some brands might let you copy from internal memory to the card, but I'm almost certain Nikon doesn't allow that. – MikeW Mar 2 '13 at 20:14
  • Can the memory card be removed from a D3100 without turning it off first? Does opening the cover of the memory card slot not turn the camera off? – Michael C Mar 5 '13 at 5:59
  • Probably won't help the original poster any more, but what about connecting the camera to PC while demo images are still in memory? – Imre Mar 6 '13 at 12:06
  • I had suggested that, but they had already tried and it couldn't find the images. Maybe should reinstate those ideas for anyone else who might have the problem, but it seems unlikely that it works – MikeW Mar 6 '13 at 17:08

Do not format again or write anything to the card! This will only make recovery either more difficult or not possible at all.

1) There are many data recovery utilities available online. Be sure to download them through a reputable source such as download.com. You can search by OS and several other categories. You will probably find a utility that specializes in recovering photo files easier to use.

2) I've had good results with Piriform's Recuva in the past. It will see a Canon .cr2 file as a TIFF. Once I change the file extensions to .cr2, the images will open using any .cr2 compatible RAW convertor. I'm not sure how Recuva would see a Nikon .nef file. If your camera was recording to JPEG it should see them as such. It should also recover the JPEG thumbnail as a separate file. Recovering those would be better than nothing.

3) Use a card reader, rather than the camera, to allow your computer to access the card. It may take several hours for the program to complete the scan of your card.

There are many other data recovery programs discussed at How can I recover deleted photos from an SD Card?


i have gone through this same fix once . The camera's demo mode saves its image to its internal storage.(not more than 10 photos)...... formatting or not formatting the memory card has no effect on the retrieval of the images. When you turn off the camera the images are lost forever.there is no scope of recovery. however i don not know if it is possible if the camera has not been turned off(which i suspect stands a very slim chance) by connecting the camera directly via a data cable to your computer and trying ...... i am very unfortunate to inform you that the pictures cannot be saved....

being it an important event ,it is an equally important tip to be learnt.


The following worked with my P300: Take out the SD card and connect the camera to your computer. The "hidden" pics now appeared, don't know why but it works...

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    If you have the same camera then I can understand your short answer, but with different models you should try to explain why this might work, otherwise, it's just a lucky guess. – Itay Gal May 16 '13 at 20:00
  • This will generally work on cameras with an internal flash storage. That's relatively common on P&S cameras (like, it seems, your P300), but is not the case on the D3100 (or on most DSLRs). – mattdm May 16 '13 at 21:01

The d3100 does not have internal memory. When you formatted the card, you actually erased all the images.

  • That seems likely, except for the weird detail where Alicia says the images were visible on the camera while the card was out. Alicia, are you sure about that? – mattdm Mar 3 '13 at 0:12
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    Not quite. The D3100, like most Nikons, can take pictures with no SD card, and display them in "demo mode" on the LCD. So there is some sort of internal memory/buffer. – MikeW Mar 3 '13 at 2:22
  • Any digital camera has some amount of internal memory where image(s) are stored until fully written to a more permanent storage, or disposed of. – Imre Mar 4 '13 at 21:04
  • @MikeW: Aren't the demo images lost when the camera is turned off? Can you remove an SD card from a D3100 without turning it off? Most cameras turn themselves off when the memory slot door is opened. – Michael C Mar 5 '13 at 6:03
  • See my edit. My D90 retains them when you switch on and off (and you can remove the SD card with the camera on). But as soon as you replace a formatted card in the camera, it disables the demo feature and the in-memory images are gone. – MikeW Mar 5 '13 at 8:23

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