How to recover deleted photos?

Download iBoysoft Data Recovery, the best free photo recovery software, to recover deleted or lost photos from computers, external hard drives, SD memory cards, USB flash drives and much more.

By Jessica | Updated to Data Recovery on June 18th, 2019 |

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 found or open after you delete them. Where did those deleted photos go? Can you recover the permanently deleted images? Can you undelete the pictures that you dumped a few seconds ago? Actually, those files don't exactly go away, and there are plenty of ways to recover deleted files.

This article will focus on the following contents:
1. Things you should know before deleted photo recovery
2. Can I recover deleted photos? And why?
3. How to recover deleted photos without software?
4. How to recover deleted photos with photo recovery software?
5. How to avoid data loss due to accidental deletion?
6. Conclusion

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. Stop using the data storage device from which you have deleted the photos. For example, stop saving new files or editing existing files, downloading or installing any new software, etc. It is because those actions could increase the risk of data overwriting. Deleted photos can be easily retrieved before they get overwritten with new data. While the deleted photos have been overwritten entirely, even professional deleted file recovery software or specialized data recovery labs cannot restore them.
  2. Stop using your computer imediately, if deleted photos were saved on the disk's system partition. 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. Impossible to recover deleted files from a TRIM-enabled SSD. Solid-state drives work differently in order to to speed up the read and write performance. When you use a TRIM-enabled SSD (all modern SSDs support TRIM) and deleted a file, the operating system will completely erase all files immediately, excluding all chances for deleted data recovery. All windows computers have TRIm support, but it is not necessarily for Mac computers to have TRIM support. You can go to About this Mac and then System report to check if the TRIM is enalble on the SSD on a Mac.
  4. Use read-only photo recovery software. Many data recovery software in the market will write new data on your drive when they are scanning or recoveing deleted files from the drive. That could possibly result in data overwriting and make some of your files unrecoverable. If you want to use a data recovery program to help you out, make sure the software is read-only and doesn't write any data on your drive.

Can I recover deleted photos? And why?

In most situations, you can restore the accidentally deleted or lost pictures, photos or images.

First, let's see what happens when you delete a file.

When you delete a file, it isn't really erased but continues existing on your hard drive. The "delete" action is actually to remove the file to another location (Recycle Bin or Trash). Therefore, you can restore them by removing them out of Recycle Bin or Trash.

Even after you emptied it from the Recycle Bin or Mac Trash, the file could still be held on their original location on the drive.

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.

Let's embark on the journey to bring your lovely photos back!

How to recover deleted photos without software?

No matter whether you are using a Windows PC or an Apple Mac, you have a couple of ways to restore deleted photos and other files through the built-in programs or backup copies.

Recover digital photos on Windows PC

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 deleted file or folder will be moved to the Recycle Bin on the Desktop. To restore them:

1. Open the Recycle Bin by double-clicking its desktop icon.

2. Right click the deleted file you want and select "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.

Tips: Four more scenarios that you can't find files in Recycle Bin:

1. You deleted a photo by using the Shift + Delete key shortcut. The deleted photo will bypass Recycle Bin.

2. You deleted photos from SD cards, USB flash drives and external hard drives. Those photo files will skip Recycle Bin.

3. If you turn on Delete files that have been in the Recycle Bin for over 30 days under Settings, your deleted photos and other files will be emptied from Recycle Bin automatically after 30 days. Therefore, you had better recover your deleted photos soon after you deleted them by accident.

4. Photo files are lost due to unexpected power off, virus attack or malfunction of software when you are editing or transferring the photos.

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

If you can't find any deleted photo in Recycle Bin, go ahead to the next solution.

Solution 2: Recover permanently deleted photos from Windows backups

First of all, it has to be made clear that you didn't "permanently" deleted the photos even you have emptied the Recycle Bin. The original files are still held on their locations on a drive before they are overwritten.

That is the reason why photos recovery is possible. But how can you recover the deleted or lost photos if you can't even see them in the Recycle Bin?

Keep reading.

Recover deleted photos through File History:

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

Recover deleted photos from Previous Versions:

Alternatively, you can recover permanently deleted photos using the Restore previous versions 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

Recover deleted photos through Backup and Restore (Windows 7):

Step 1: Click the Start button, select Control Panel in Windows System (you can type “Control Panel” in search section in order to find it quickly)

step 2: Select Backup and Restore.

Step 3: If you are asked to set up backup, it is very likely you didn't do backups in Windows. If you did backup your deleted files, then hit Restore my files and follow the instructions on the wizard.

Recover digital photos on a Mac

Solution 1: Check the Trash

There is no "Delete" option on a Mac when you try to delete some files on a drive, regardless of a lcoal drive, a USB flash drive, an SD card or an external hard drive. You can delete a photo by selecting "Move to 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:

Step 1: Open the Trash on the dock.

Step 2: View a list of files that you have deleted recently.

Step 3: Right click the photo you want to restore and choose Put Back to its original location.

Recover deleted photos from Mac Trash

However, you can only restore deleted items if the items are still in the Trash.

Scenarios that you can't find files in Trash:

  • You have emptied the Trash after you deleted files.
  • Right-click the photos or videos in Trash and choose Delete immediately.
  • You press Option + Command + Delete key to delete the photos or videos.
  • You have enabled the option "Remove items from the trash after 30 days" in Finder preferences and the files you have moved into Trash over 30 days. Here is how to check: Open Trash, and go to Finder at the top-right corner, then Preferences... and click on Adcanced to see if the option "Remove items from the trash after 30 days" is selected.

If you can't restore photo files from the Mac Trash but have made Time Machine backups, you should move to the next solution.

Solution 2: 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 disk has been set up, 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: Connect the backup drive to the Mac computer.

Step 2: Open the folder that once contained your deleted files.

Step 3: Click the Time Machine icon in the top left menu bar and select Enter Time Machine.

Restore deleted files from Time Machine Backups

Tips: Did you know how to show Time Machine icon on the menu bar?

  1. Click Apple icon at the top-right corner.
  2. Select System Preferences… and then click on Time Machine.
  3. Check Show Time Machine in menu bar.

Step 4: Browse the items in the backup folder by using on screen up/down arrows or using the timeline at the edge of the screen. If you want to find files of older version, using timeline to navigate the files is faster. You will be able to see a lot of snapshots of this whole folder and how the folder changes.

Step 5: Select an item and prese Space bar or double-click it to preview it.

Step 6: Select the file you want to restore, and then click Restore.

But if you didn't set up or update Time Machine, you can recover deleted photos without Time Machine backups on Mac. Just try the next solution.

How to recover deleted photos with photo recovery software?

If you tried the solutions above but in vain, a free photo recovery tool is always by your side to help you.

iBoysoft Data Recovery is a free photo recovery program for Windows that can help you recover deleted photos, pictures or images sucessfully and effectively. It supports various image file formats including JPG, PNG, BMP, EPS, TIF, TIFF, PCD, RAW, JIF, JP2, GIF, FPX, etc. It is also capable of recovering videos, music, audio, documents and emails either from a computer hard drive or a remorable external drive. With iBoysoft Data Recovery, photo recovery is not a big issue and you can retrive your valuable family photos, work photography pictures and other images. It works amazing with 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 clicking Next button, 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 preview 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. If you don't see the desired images you want to recover, click on Back and check Deep scan to restart the scanning process for more files.

Tips: If you are going to perform photo recovery on an SD card, make sure to check Deep scan after you select the SD card on the drive list.

Want to use iBoysoft Data Recovery on Apple Mac computers? Free download iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac to recover missing photos.

How to avoid data loss due to accidental deletion?

Accidental deletion can be prevented in several ways. It takes a little bit extra effort every time you edit, transfer or delete your important files.

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.

Last, you can also change file permissions for different users and different files to avoid accidental deletion. Set up important files as read-only for other users and only you can read-write those files.


People download, transfer and edit photos on computers and removable drives millions of times a day. Accidentally deleting and losing photos happen very often. This post has covered most feasible and easy solutions to deleted photo recovery.

Moreover, with the development of digital cameras and smartphones, people love to take pictures with their Canon cameras and Android phones more than ever nowadays. Pictures and videos are stored in digital camera SD memory cards and removable micro SD cards in some Android phones. With iBoysoft Data Recovery, recovering deleted photos from digital cameras is not a problem either.

It is always a good habit to back up your important photos regularly. If you don't like to take the effort, data recovery software like iBoysoft Data Recovery is a helper you can count on.


Jessica, a data recovery expert @iBoysoft, loves to share free and useful data recovery solutions with people to help them get their important files back on Windows and Mac.

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