Were you cleaning up the photos you took on your Android phone and accidentally deleted some of the shots you were supposed to keep? Don't despair, there might still be a chance to recover them. If the portion of memory that your pictures were stored on has not yet been overwritten with other data, you may be able to restore your photos even if you've deleted them. Just use the right apps.
If you want to give it a try, below you can find out how to recover deleted Android photos using some apps that you can run directly from your smartphone/tablet or PC. As a general rule, the ones you run from your computer would be preferable, because this way you don't copy new data on your phone (or tablet) and therefore reduce the risk that the photos to be recovered are overwritten by other data, but even the apps that run directly from Android are very reliable (as well as very comfortable to use).
Another important thing to know is that apps that run directly from Android need root. Don't know what I'm talking about? I'll try to explain it briefly. Rooting is a procedure through which you bypass the standard Android protection measures that normally don't allow users to act on certain advanced aspects of the system (e.g. adjust the CPU frequency, block the execution of apps while the device is on stand-by and, in fact, deeply scan the memory of the phone/tablet to look for files to recover after deletion). It's not always easy to do, but thanks to the instructions in my tutorial on how to root your Android you should be able to understand more. But enough talk, let's roll up our sleeves and get right to work!
Before we get into the heart of this guide, I'd like to ask you a small question: do you have the Google Photos app (the one with the colorful pinwheel icon) installed on your smartphone? If the answer is yes, you may be able to recover some photos and videos without resorting to more complex solutions.
You may not know it, but Google Photos has a handy recycle bin, similar to the one on a PC, where all the photos and videos you delete from the app automatically go. To access it, open Google Photos, click on thehamburgericon at the top left, and select Recycle Bin from the bar that appears at the side.
Now, locate the photos you want to recover and keep your finger pressed on one of them to activate the selection mode. Then place a check mark next to the thumbnails of all the images you want to restore and click on the arrow icon located in the upper right corner to complete the operation.
If your Android smartphone/tablet has a microSD card on which it stores photos and videos, the most effective solution you can use is PhotoRec. It is a free software for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux that restores all recoverable files from external storage drives. It comes bundled with TestDisk, another free program for recovering lost partitions and repairing damaged disks at the software level, but you are only interested in PhotoRec.
Go to the website of PhotoRec and TestDisk, click on the Windows tab under TestDisk & PhotoRec 7.0 and the two programs will be automatically downloaded to your PC. Once the download is complete, insert the microSD card you want to recover the photos from into your PC (you can also use SD or USB adapters, no problem), then open thezip archive you just downloaded from the Internet, extract the content into a folder of your choice and run the executable qphotorec_win.exe.
In the window that opens, select thedrive relative to the microSD from the dropdown menu at the top, click on the item relating to the primary partition of the card (should be the one named FAT32, FAT16 or exFAT) and put a check mark next to the entries FAT/NTFS/HFS+/ReiferFS and Free.
At this point, click the File formats button and, in the window that opens, place a check mark only next to the JPG or PNG entries so that PhotoRec will try to recover only images in these two formats. To reset the default selection of all extensions, click the Reset button.
Finally, click OK, select the folder where you want to save the recovered photos by PhotoRec by clicking the Browse button and start scanning your microSD card by clicking the Search button.
At the end of the scan (which could go on for several minutes) you'll find all the photos recovered by PhotoRec in the folder you selected by clicking the Browse button. Simple, isn't it?
If you have a smartphone or tablet that doesn't support microSD, you could create a VHD image of their memory and use the image file in PhotoRec to attempt photo recovery. This is a fairly complex and time-consuming operation to complete. If you'd like to learn more, you can check out, or maybe pass along to a friend who knows more, this English-language tutorial posted on the XDA forum.
If you don't have Google Photos or the images you want to recover are not in the app's trash, you can use the DiskDigger app that allows you to recover deleted Android photos in a very intuitive way.
The app is available in two versions: a free one to recover JPG and PNG photos (which should be enough for your purposes) and a paid one that also allows you to recover RAW images and other file types. It requires your device to be rooted in order to work properly.
To recover your photos with DiskDigger, launch the app and grant it root permissions by responding affirmatively to the SuperSU or Superuser warning that appears on the screen. Next, click on the No, thanks button to continue using the free version of the app and choose thedrive to scan for file recovery: it should be the one with the largest capacity and the name in bold.
Next, place a check mark next to the JPG item if you want to recover only photos taken with the camera, or next to the JPG and PNG items if you want to restore screenshots as well, and click the OK button to start the search for deleted files.
When the scan is complete (which should go on for several minutes), click on the OK button, check the thumbnails of the photos you want to restore, click on the Recover button in the upper right corner and select one of the icons in the menu that opens: the cloud if you want to send yourself the photos via email or save them on a cloud storage service (recommended), the folder if you want to save them on the memory of your device or the arrow if you want to upload them to an FTP server.
Undeleter is an application very similar to DiskDigger, it performs a deep scan of the memory of your smartphone or tablet in order to recover all the data that have not yet physically disappeared from it. It's available in two versions: a free one that only allows you to recover images, and a paid one (€4.39) that also allows you to recover videos, music tracks, documents, archives, apps and books.
How Undeleter works is pretty intuitive. After installing the app on your smartphone or tablet, you have to launch it and select Restore files from its home screen. Next, you have to grant it root permissions by clicking on the Grant button that appears in the middle of the screen and you have to select the drive to scan (e.g. Internal Storage to recover photos from the internal memory of the device).
At this point, choose to perform a deep scan, tick the JPG and PNG options (or just JPG if you want to recover only the photos you've taken with your phone/tablet's camera) and click on the Scan button located at the bottom right to start the image search.
Once the scan is complete (it may take several minutes), select the thumbnails of the photos you want to restore and click on the floppy disk icon located at the top right. Then choose whether to save the file on your device's memory or export it to Dropbox or Google Drive, click the Restore button, and you're done.
Note: By default, Undeleter's deep scan also shows photos that have not been deleted from your device's memory. To view only the deleted ones (i.e. hosted by free areas of the disk), click on the second icon located in the top right corner (the one with the three vertical bars and the arrow below) and put a check mark next to Hide existing files in the box that opens.