Deleted photo recovery for Mac and Windows: how to recover deleted photos

By Katrina | Posted to Data Recovery on on March 13th, 2019 |

Summary: Have you ever been troubled by deleting important photos, pictures or word documents on Mac or Windows? Tried many deleted photo data recovery solutions, but found that none do what they claim to? This guide is going to show you a couple of ways to recover deleted photos on both Mac and Windows.

This article will focus on the following contents:
1. Possible scenarios in deleting photos
2. Things you should know before deleted photo recovery
3. How to recover deleted photos on Mac?
4. How to recover deleted photos in Windows?
5. Read more: Why can you recover deleted photos?
6. How to avoid data loss due to accidental deletion?
7. Conclusion

Nearly everyone has accidentally deleted a file from a Mac or PC before. Whether it's a family photo or a working document, all those files can't be accessed after you delete them. Don't panic! Actually, those files don't exactly go away, and there are plenty of ways to recover deleted files.

Possible scenarios in deleting photos

> Simply use the Delete key or right click on a photo and choose "Move to Trash" or "Delete". Such a temporary deleted file will go straight to the Mac Trash or Recycle Bin where you can restore them in a few clicks.

> Delete a photo by pressing the keys Control + Alt + Delete on Mac or Shift + Delete in Windows. Photos deleted in this way are erased immediately without placing them into the Mac Trash or Recycle Bin.

> Delete a photo and empty the Mac Trash or Recycle Bin. All photos will be removed.

> Delete a photo from USB drives, memory cards, external hard disks and other external devices. The deleted photos are not moved to the Mac Trash or Recycle Bin. On Mac, these deleted photos will be hidden by default, while they will be deleted permanently in Windows.

> The deleted photos are overwritten.

> Photos are deleted as a result of malware/virus infection.

Things you should know before deleted photo recovery

There are series of peculiarities you should take into account before you begin recovering deleted photos:

1. Deleted photos can be easily retrieved before they get overwritten with new data. While the deleted photos have been overwritten entirely, even professional deleted data recovery software or specialized data recovery labs cannot restore them. So, you should protect the deleted photos from overwriting. Try to stop using the data storage device from which you have deleted the photos, for example, saving new files or editing existing files, downloading or installing any new software, etc.

2. If deleted photos were saved on the disk’s system partition, you should turn off the system as soon as possible and connect the hard disk to another computer for data recovery immediately. Regardless of your actions, the operating system writes various data for its own needs and may write over your deleted photos, making data recovery impossible.

3. The safest way is to use a professional data recovery software as soon as possible. With advanced algorithms, they will rebuild the file directory and scan any types of deleted/lost data of the target drive. More importantly, they are read-only and won’t write any new data to recover the deleted photos with high chances of success.

4. Solid-state drives work differently in Windows. When you use a TRIM-enabled SSD (all modern SSDs support TRIM) in Windows, deleted photos are removed immediately and can’t be recovered. If you delete a file on a SSD, the Windows operating system will completely erase all files from memory cells to speed up the read and write performance, excluding all chances for deleted data recovery.

How to recover deleted photos on Mac?

Solution 1: Check the Trash Bin

After hitting the"Delete" button on Mac, the operating system doesn't actually delete photos but send them to the Trash. Then you can manually empty the Trash to get rid of them forever. If you haven't emptied Mac Trash in a while, you can recover deleted photos from Trash on Mac. In this situation, the recovery process is straightforward as all you need to do is right clicking on the Mac Trash, viewing a list of files that you've deleted recently and dragging it back either to the Desktop or any folder.

Recover deleted photos from Mac Trash

However, you can only restore deleted items if the items are still in the Trash. If you emptied the Mac Trash, this method cannot help you and you should move to the next solution.

Here is a video that show you how to recover deleted photos emptied from Mac Trash in detail:

Solution 2: Check the other Trash Bins

If you delete photos on a USB drive or external hard drive, those files have their own Trash where you can check for deleted photos. But they are hidden by default, here is a way to enable hidden files in Finder.

1. If you are using Sierra or later

If you are using macOS Sierra or later, you can view hidden files in Finder by simply using the Shift + CMD + . (The period key).

2. If you are using older OS X version

You can enable hidden files in Finder by running the following commands in Terminal. Press Command + Space and type "Terminal" to open it. At the prompt, paste these two lines:

  • defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
  • killall Finder

Show hidden files on Mac

After running these commands, you should be able to see the "Trashes" folder. From there, you may see those photos deleted from external drives.

Solution 3: Restore deleted photos from Time Machine Backups

The macOS Time Machine is a great, built-in backup feature of your Mac to automatically back up all of your files, including apps, music, photos, emails, documents, and system files. If the Time Machine has been enabled, you can restore files from Time Machine Backups even though the original files are ever deleted from your Mac or the storage devices. Here are some steps to use Time Machine to restore deleted photos:

Step 1: Click the Time Machine icon and select "Enter Time Machine". If the icon isn't in the menu bar, then click the Apple menu and choose the "System Preferences...", select "Time Machine" and then choose "Show Time Machine in menu bar".

Step 2: Browse the Time Machine Backup folder. Use the up/down arrow keys to navigate through time to find the required file.

Step 3: Select the file that you want to recover and then click "Restore".

Restore deleted files from Time Machine Backups

But if you didn't set up or update Time Machine, you are unable to find deleted photos through the steps above. Just try the next solution.

Solution 4: Recover deleted photos with Mac Terminal

Experienced Mac users will firstly think of recovering deleted files with Terminal, which allows you to control your Mac. But using the Terminal can be really difficult if you don't have a good knowledge about various commands. Just use these command line with caution!

Step 1: Go to "Finder" > "Applications" > "Utilities" and double-click "Terminal".

Step 2: Type cd .trash and hit "Return". Then type ls and tick "Return".

Step 3: Type mv FILENAME ../ and hit "Return". (You would need to replace FILENAME with the name of the file that you are trying to restore.)

Step 4: Type "Quit" to exit the Terminal window.

Step 5: Go to Finder and enter the name of the file you want to recover in the search bar at the top-right corner of the window.

Recover deleted photos with Terminal

Step 6: In the result, you can see the deleted file you just recovered. Move it to any location as you like.

If you fail to recover deleted photos with Mac Terminal, that means these photos have been permanently deleted. Unfortunately, there is no way to recover permanently deleted photos unless you download a free deleted photo recovery app.

Solution 5: Recover deleted photos with a free deleted photo recovery app

Even when you empty your trash, deleted photos won't be removed from your hard drive right away. iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery knows exactly what to do to undo emptied Mac Trash as well as recover deleted photos. Even though you empty your Trash or use the Control + Alt + Delete keys, our data recovery software can brilliantly recover photos, documents, music, videos, notes and more from hard drives, external hard drives, USB flash drives, SD cards, memory cards, etc.

In addition, this program is able to recover data from formatted, unmountable, inaccessible, unreadable hard disks with ease. What's worth mentioning is that iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery can recover lost data even when your MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Mini, MacBook Air won’t turn on and recover data from APFS (including encryption) drives. It is compatible with macOS Mojave 10.14/High Sierra 10.13/10.12 and Mac OS X 10.11/10.10/10.9/10.8/10.7.

Guidance to get deleted photos back with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

Step 1: Download, install and launch iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

Recover deleted photos with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

Step 2: Choose the drive where you have lost files, then click "Next" to scan for all deleted photos on the drive.

Recover deleted photos with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

Step 3: Preview the scanning results, choose files you want to recover, and then click "Recover".

Recover deleted photos with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

How to recover deleted photos in Windows?

Solution 1: Check the Recycle Bin

Deleting a file by accident hasn't been a problem for PC users since the Recycle Bin first appear in Windows. When you use either the Delete button or right-click on a file or folder and choose Delete, such the deleted file or folder will be moved to the Recycle Bin on the Desktop. To restore them, just open the Recycle Bin by double-clicking its desktop icon, right click the deleted file you want and click "Restore" option.

Recover deleted photos from Recycle Bin

Whereas, this handy feature only works if the Recycle Bin hasn't been emptied manually or automatically. If you can't find any deleted photo in Recycle Bin, go ahead to the next solution.

Solution 2: Recover permanently deleted photos from File History backups

When you deleted a file by using the Shift + Delete key combination or empty the Recycle Bin, the file is permanently removed from the system. File History is a tool available in Windows 8.1 and later, which works with a number of devices to back up your data. If you backed up using File History, check your recent backup and restore permanently deleted photos in Windows.

To perform this operation, connect the backup storage media to your Windows and follow these steps:

Step 1: In the search box on the taskbar, enter Restore files, and then select Restore your files with File History.

Step 2: Look for the file you need, then use the arrows to see all of its versions.

Step 3: When you find the version you want, select "Restore" to save it to its original location. To save it in a different place, press and hold (or right-click) "Restore", select "Restore to", and then choose a new location.

Recover deleted photos from a File History backup

Solution 3: Recover deleted photos from Previous Versions

Alternatively, you can recover permanently deleted photos using the "Restore previous version" feature in Windows. The feature is also known as shadow copies of files and folders as a part of restore points. If you have such backups, you can recover deleted photos with the following steps.

Step 1. Open the File Explorer and find the file containing deleted photos.

Step 2. Right-click on the folder and select Restore previous versions in the context menu.

Step 3. Now you can view the list of available versions. Choose the version you would like to restore and click Restore.

Restore previous versions

Solution 4: Use free deleted photo recovery software

If you tried the first three solutions but in vain, you can still try free deleted data recovery software like iBoysoft Data Recovery. Available for both Mac and Windows version, this free deleted file recovery software can perfectly perform deleted data recovery, formatted drive data recovery, RAW file data recovery, corrupted drive data recovery in Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP and Windows Server 2016/2012/2008/2003.

Simple steps to recover deleted photos with iBoysoft Data Recovery:

Step 1: Download and install iBoysoft Data Recovery on your computer.

Step 2: Launch iBoysoft Data Recovery and choose the drive from which you deleted your photos.

Recover deleted files with iBoysoft Data Recovery

After choosing the hard disk, iBoysoft Data Recovery will start searching for all deleted or lost photos.

Recover deleted files with iBoysoft Data Recovery

Step 3: You are allowed to review the scanning results, choose the photos you want to get back and then click "Recover" button.

Recover deleted files with iBoysoft Data Recovery

After that, have a check to ensure you have recovered all lost data.

Read more: Why can you recover deleted photos?

When you delete a file, it isn't really erased but continues existing on your hard drive, even after you emptied it from the Recycle Bin or Mac Trash. What happens when you delete a file?

Each file and folder on your hard disk has a pointer that tells the operating system where the file or folder locates. While you delete a file, the operating system only removes the pointer and marks the space containing the file as available. Although the file is no longer present on your hard drive, the deleted file still exists on the hard drive. A data recovery program is able to scan a hard drive for those deleted photos and restore them.

How to avoid data loss due to accidental deletion?

It's a good practice to make backups and update regularly of your critical files. You can use the cloud storage or a local drive to set up a backup. Alternatively, you can enable the built-in backup service, like Windows File History or Mac Time Machine, which will also help you recover deleted files you really need. Moreover, a professional deleted data recovery program such as iBoysoft Data Recovery also comes handy in such a data loss situation and beyond.


After trying these solutions above, you may hopefully perform deleted photos recovery. Which solution helps you the most to recover deleted photos?

Should you know other solutions or have any question about how to recover deleted photos on Mac or in Windows, please contact us via email. Much appreciated!


Katrina is a data recovery expert @iBoysoft who loves to help readers solve various data recovery problems.

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