I accidentally formatted my memory card before realizing I hadn't copied the photos and video from it. Since I realized right away, I had not used the card and there is no chance for overwriting having occurred.

I have tried various free recovery software including recuva, photorec, icare-recovery, and a few others. None of them find any files on the card, though the software says it should be able to recovery data from formatted cards.

Is my data lost forever, or am I doing something wrong?

  • I wonder if this is off topic? I suspect it is discussed in detail on some other SE. For photo cards though you can assume a particular usage pattern. – JDługosz Jul 17 '15 at 0:18

There are two ways a card (or drive) may be re-formatted "quick" (which simply reallocates the space taken by old files), and complete, in which zeroes are written over all files.

If your camera (or PC) did a quick format, it's possible file data may still be on the card, but if a complete erasure and format was performed, it's doubtful anything could be recovered, even with forensic tools.

A quick check of the card with a hex editor will show if there is any data -- if you see any recognizable file names (perhaps with first character changed to sigma), there's a chance to recover data. There are a number of free hex editing tools, such as Disk Investigator. Be sure to check with VirusTotal after downloading, particularly for disk editors, which have low-level access to disks. The editors are safe enough to use if you do not save any changes to the disk.


If it's a "quick" format, Restorer2000 (for Windows) can find the files even in cases with repartitioning or various DISK layouts that might be the case. If the new format has different parameters than the old, a simple scan might not work.

It has a free trial: if it finds the files then you can buy.

I expect the images to be contiguous files. So, they can be recovered easily even if the old directory is not found or usable enough.

You can clone the card as a block device to a hdd file, and work on that. It will make scanning much faster, and you can save the blob for working more on it later.

If a sector reader (hex editor) shows all blocks as zeroed, then there is no way to recover. If blocks are filled with the old data, then a program (like Restorer) can figure out where each jpeg starts and ends, easily.


If the recovery softwares are not finding any data on the cards, it sounnds like yo may be in need of a physical recovery....that is, a data recovery lab may need to take over now. Have you tried RescuePRO or PHOTORECOVERY recovery software?


I'm sure you've recovered your data by now, but just in case others do not know about data recovery companies, I thought I would throw in my two cents. I had a disk that would not read in any type of device. I tried two different drives, two different card readers, and two identical cameras. Nothing would read the disk. I searched the internet for solutions, and tried every DIY option out there. I couldn't use recovery software, because there was nothing for the software to see, little less recover, so I had to take the next step and look for a good data recovery company.

I searched the internet, and called many places within the US, and could not find one that was reasonably priced (it can cost quite a bit to recover data) or one that cost less, and had favorable reviews. I did however find a company called Recoverfab in Germany, that had great reviews, with costs that were much lower than the companies in the US. I was apprehensive about sending my disk to Germany, but I really had nothing to lose since the disk was worthless to me. I am so glad that I took the risk. I had a great experience! They were friendly, and once they had my disk, they recovered 100% of my data within 2 days. One price covered everything, regardless of what they had to do to retrieve the data. Even micro surgery. Most US based companies priced their services by what they did. The more they did the higher the cost. I knew my disk was going to require more that just software to recover my photos, but did not know the extent of the damage. It was nice to know that they covered it all in one price. Especially since the price was reasonable.

I highly recommend this company, and I will definitely use them in the future, should the need arise. If you do use them, understand that mail takes a while to get there. It took two weeks for my package to arrive. I've heard it can take up to 3 weeks. Well worth the wait!


The first thing to do is create a 1:1, block by block binary image of the medium. Preferrably, use the hardware lock feature on the card to ensure the OS doesn't attempt to even write filesystem housekeeping stuff, metadata, etc to it. Store that binary image away safely, before attempting the use of any recovery tools.

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