Photo recovery: how to recover deleted photos from SD cards on Mac for free?

Accidentally deleted photos from SD cards? Want to recover deleted photos from SD cards? Just Download the best SD card photo recovery software - iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery to recover your deleted photos, videos, documents, etc. easily and free.

By Katrina | Posted to Mac Data Recovery, updated on July 10th, 2019 |

SD cards have become one of the most used flash memory cards among vast users to store additional amounts of information.

However, it can always happen that you deleted the perfect picture or even worse, you've accidentally deleted a whole album of vacation pictures from your SD card.

This is definitely a painful experience for everyone. Thankfully, you can still get deleted photos back, even if you have emptied the Mac Trash Bin.

From this complete guide, you can learn about how to recover deleted files or photos from SD cards on Mac.

Table of contents
1. What is an SD card and how does it work?
2. Tips before undeleting photos from SD cards
3. How to recover deleted photos from SD cards without software?
4. Top free SD card data recovery software
5. How to recover deleted photos from SD cards with best free SD card data recovery?
6. FAQ
7. Common SD card problems and solutions

What is an SD card and how does it work?

An SD card is a thin, light data storage device designed to expand your space for music, movies, documents or even apps. Its particular form factor makes them ideal removable storage for small devices, such as mobile phones, digital cameras, M3 players, and other popular digital devices.

What is an SD card

There are three defined form factors for SD card: MiniSD, MicroSD, and standard SD card. microSD took replaced miniSD, therefore, two form factors are more commonly found in the marketplace. They are no bigger than your fingernail but can store loads of data. In general, a standard SD card is used by the digital camera, while a MicroSD is mainly used in mobile phones, such as Android phones.

How does an SD card work? An SD card is a storage device that has many useful features depending on how and where it's used. Most of the time, when you insert an SD card, your device will automatically begin to scan the memory card at once. Then you can store files on the SD card, edit or review its contents.

I accidentally deleted photos on my SD card. How can I recover them?

Whether you use a standard SD card or Micro SD card, it will be filled up one day. You may want to delete some pictures to free up more space. But in this process, important photos could be deleted from SD card mistakenly, which will cause great loss. Here is a user asking for help in a forum:

Hi, I use SD memory card on my Canon Vixia HF digital camera to store all pictures I captured. Every time when I take some photos, I will connect the camera to my MacBook to transfer all these photos. Today, while viewing these images on my MacBook, I accidentally deleted some graduation photos. There is no backup copy of deleted photos and I cannot think of losing it. How can I recover deleted photos from SD card on Mac?

We all make mistakes and you wouldn't be the first person in the world to delete important files from an SD card accidentally. Well, congratulations! You've come to the right plce. We are going to tell you the exact solutions you need.

Tips before undeleting photos from SD cards

It's true that you have great chances to retrieve deleted photos from your SD card, but there are still risks that these files become unrecoverable. To improve the computer data recovery process as quickly and as possible, you should take the following two tips into consideration:

  1. Stop using this SD card once you delete or lost your pictures. Whether you delete these picture on your cameras or on Mac computer, the system will not remove your images from the SD card immediately. Instead, it will mark these spaces as available for saving new data, that's to say, your photos will not be erased until they are overwritten by new files.
  2. Don't make any improper operation after photos are deleted, for example, formatting the SD card on Mac, or saving new files on the card. This will only make things worse because recovering data from formatted SD card will be more difficult.

Deleted photos are still on this SD card

How to recover deleted photos from SD cards without software?

If you deleted photos from the SD card which is connected to your Mac through a card reader, the deleted pictures were only moved to Trash. It means you can try your luck to restore the deleted photos from Trash, without software.

Step 1: Find Trash on your desktop and open it.

Step 2: See if your deleted photos are there. If so, right-click on them and select "Put Back".

Recover deleted photos from SD card without software

Step 3: Open your SD card and check if the deleted files are recovered.

However, what if you can't find your deleted photos in Trash? Why does this happen?

  1. You have emptied the Mac trash after deleting photos.
  2. You have right-clicked the deleted photos in Mac Trash and selected the "Delete Immediately" button.
  3. You have deleted photos by pressing the following keyboard shortcut: Option + Command + Delete. This will instantly and permanently delete the photos.
  4. You have deleted photos from your camera, mobile phone or another device. The photos won't be moved to the Trash.
  5. You have set your Mac to automatically remove items from the Trash after 30 days. If your photos are older than 30 days, they will be automatically removed from Trash.

"Can I recover emptied Trash on a Mac?" "How can I undelete files on Mac?" You may ask. Don't worry! No matter how you delete your photos, you can recover them using a file recovery utility. Let's move forward.

Top 3 free SD card data recovery software

Fortunately, some free SD card data recovery software can be a true lifesaver, allowing you to recover deleted photos from SD cards with a few clicks. Check out the list of three best free SD card data recovery software:

No.1. iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery is one of the best free SD card data recovery software for Mac. It can recover deleted or lost photos from memory SD cards of SanDisk, Lexar, Samsung, etc. and recover lost data from micro SD card, SDHC, SDXC, CF card, and memory stick, etc. Except for SD card photo recovery, it can also recover videos, audio files, documents, emails, and many other file types from SD cards with ease.

Best free SD card data recovery software with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

The powerful tool can recognize more than 300 various file types, including photos, videos, Word documents, emails, and applications to name a few. It supports APFS (including APFS encryption), HFS, HFS+, HFSX, FAT32, exFAT. It can work on Mac machines that run macOS 10.7 and later.

iBoysoft Data Recovery uses two different powerful scanning algorithms: Quick scan and Deep scan. The Quick scan will quickly detect recently deleted and lost files on your drive, while the Deep scan feature does a thorough search of your entire drive to find and reconstruct lost files.

An easy-to-use graphic interface makes this data recovery tool very simple to use. You just select the device where you have deleted or lost files, and then iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery will scan and show you all recoverable files on the disk. It also delivers some useful filtering features that help you quickly target the right content. Furthermore, it is developed with strong preview functions. You are able to preview almost all file types that your Mac computer supports. Finally, you can choose those files you want to recover and click the "Recover" button.


  • Over 300 file types are supported
  • Support different types of SD cards, such as Micros cards, CF cards, memory cards, etc.
  • Works on APFS (APFS encrypted), HFS, HFS+, HFSX, FAT32, exFAT
  • Advanced Deep scan mode
  • Compatible with macOS 10.15/10.14/10.13/10.12/10.11/10.10/10.9/10.8/10.7
  • Preview screen before final recovery
  • Easy-to-use and intuitive user interface
  • Free tech support


  • Recover up to 1GB data

No.2. Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery

Lazesoft Mac data recovery allows you to recover unlimited data without paying one penny. It lets you search for and recover all kinds of files, whether they were accidentally deleted or lost in another way. This program offers several search options. These include a Fast Scan and Deep Scan and you can utilize them based on your actual needs. With this free data recovery software, you can recover lost data from resized partitions, formatted hard drives, SD memory cards, and iPod. You can also recover photos, videos, music, documents and applications on Mac.

Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery


  • Free unlimited recovery
  • Simple user interface


  • Doesn't allow you to preview files
  • Doesn't update frequently or support the newest macOS
  • No tech support

No.3. PhotoRec

PhotoRec is an open source and data recovery freeware which is specialized to recover deleted or lost files and photos from your digital camera's memory or any similar memory device. But don't fool by its name. PhotoRec can also support recovering documents, emails, videos, and other file types. It offers users 8 recovery modes for users to restore Mac files due to accidental deletion, formatting, virus attack and lost partition.

PhotoRec Data Recovery


  • Completely free
  • Preview file before recovering data on Mac


  • Command interface. It is too complicated to use for beginners.
  • Slow scan and recovery speed
  • No tech support

To conclude, iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery is the best free SD card recovery software that can help you recover deleted photos from SD cards on Mac in only 3 steps. It is so intuitive that requires no professional skills in computing and technology. Let's see the detailed tutorial to recover deleted photos from SD cards with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

How to recover deleted photos from SD cards on Mac with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery?

1. Video tutorial: how to recover deleted photos from SD cards?

This video tutorial will show you how to recover deleted photos from Mac Trash. If your photos are deleted from an external device, you also can follow this tutorial to get your photos back.

2. Guidiance to recover deleted photos from SD cards on Mac

Let's walk through the SD card photo recovery on Mac in some simple clicks.

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

Step 2: Connect your SD card to your Mac computer with a card reader and select the SD card where you deleted your photos.

recover deleted photos from SD card on Mac with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

Step 3: Tick "Deep scan" at the bottom, and click "Next" to start scanning for all lost data. Then the software will start to scan your hard disk and storage. It will take for a while to deep scan and search your lost data.

Note: If the capacity of the SD card is smaller than 128GB, the Deep scan mode will be selected automatically. If your SD card capacity is even larger, please click on Preferences (the gear on the top left), tick File Types and then tick Deep scan.

Step 4: Double click the found pictures from the list and choose the pictures you want to get back.

It allows users to preview the found data before recovering it. This feature can better help users evaluate whether files are what they want.

Step 5: Click "Recover" to start recovering deleted photos.

preview deleted photos on Mac with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

So easy.

Most of the time, deleted photos are recoverable as long as you act quickly. However, in some situations, you will be disappointed. For instance, your deleted photos have been overwritten by new data, or your SD card is corrupted or damaged physically. Thus, compared with looking for deleted photo recovery software after deletion, do regular backup is always advised to avoid data loss.

FAQ about deleting and recovering deleted photos from SD cards

Q1: Can I recover recently or permanently deleted photos from SD cards?

Answer: Yes, you can. Keep in mind that photos deleted from SD cards aren't really removed. Instead, they will continue existing overtime or as long as there is no read/write actions performed.

When you permanently delete a photo from an SD card, it's not physically erased from the card. The simple delete command on most cameras or computers just removes the entry of the deleted photo and mark the space it occupied as reusable. As long as you don't record anything new onto the card, the bits and bytes are there and the information can be easy to recover.

Q2: Can I recover deleted photos from SD cards on Android phones?

Answer: Yes. Usually, Android phones use micro SD cards. If you can take the micro SD card out of your Android phone, you can insert it into a card reader and then recover deleted pictures with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery. But if the card is built in the phone body, you may need to look for some photo recovery app for Android.

Q3: How to avoid deleted photos being removed from Trash automatically after 30 days?

Answer: By default, photos, as well as videos, documents, music files, etc., that you move to the Trash from your Mac or SD card remain until you empty the Trash. To confirm, you can open Finder > Preferences > Advanced, make sure the option "Remove items from the Trash after 30 days" is unticked.

Common SD card problems and solutions

Apart from accidental deletion, there are some other common SD problems which will cause serious data loss, such as SD corruption. This issue can be caused by so many factors, such as connection issue, improper operation, corrupted driver, etc. The following part contains a list of three common SD card problems and fixes:

1. SD card corruption

A corrupted SD card has damaged data that prevents it from performing properly. If an SD card becomes corrupted, you may get some error messages from the computer system, which prevents you from accessing all photos stored on it. Additionally, you will find that most of the photos on your SD cards are missing. Last but not least, you may not add, delete, copy or save anything in your SD card. Such a stomach-churning and horrible moment. Relax! Let's see how to fix corrupted SD cards:

Solution 1: Run First Aid to repair the corrupted SD card

First Aid is a utility included with Disk Utility for checking and repairing file system errors. When you face with corrupted SD cards, you can use it to repair and fix some minor error on the card.

  1. Step 1: Open Disk Utility from your /Applications/Utilities folder.
  2. Step 2: Select the corrupted SD card in the left sidebar.
  3. Step 3: Select the "First Aid" tab. Click "Run".

Repair corrupted SD card via First Aid

Solution 2: Format the corrupted SD card on Mac

If Disk Utility tells you that it can't repair the disk, the last solution is to format the corrupted SD card on Mac. But this operation will erase all data stored on the card, please make sure you have backups or have recovered important files with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

  1. Step 1: Go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.
  2. Step 2: After launching Disk Utility, choose "View" from the upper right menu bar. From the drop-down menu, select "Show All Devices".
  3. Step 3: Select the corrupted SD card in the left sidebar.
  4. Step 4: Click on the "Erase" tab on the top of the window.
  5. Step 5: Enter the related info and then click "Erase".

2. SD card not readable/working

Sometimes, when you connect your SD card with your Mac, you can't open it. The system pops up a window saying: "the disk you inserted was not readable by this computer". Here is a real example from Cnet forum:

"My 4GB micro SD card is unreadable on my Samsung Galaxy S3, but there are lots of important files on this card. Connecting memory card to my Mac, it says memory card is not readable. Please help!"

the disk you inserted was not readable by this computer

Well, this issue can be easily fixed by formatting. But you may get shocked as their important files such as your precious photo are gone.

How to fix: This post will show you how to fix "The disk you inserted is not readable by this computer" error.

3. SD card not recognized/detected on Mac or in mobile phone

Picture this scene. You are a photographer who use your smartphone or digital camera to take pictures and videos, you go back home and try to transfer everything from the SD card to computer in order to backup or further editing. You insert the memory card to an adapter to your laptop, expecting to see the icon which represents SD card. However, the SD card does not show up in Finder or on the desktop. Thus you try again and end up with the same result.

How to fix: Click to see how to fix SD card not recognized/detected on Mac.


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