Everyone can delete important photos by mistake, but not everyone knows how to react correctly to such an event. Many people panic. In the hope of getting their data back, they call up old system restore points, install supposedly miracle applications found on the Internet and spend hours and hours waiting for their precious images to jump out again. Some even disconnect the computer from the power supply, but of course it all ends up with a hole in the water (and in the heart, given the emotional value that photos can have).
There are actually two things you should do when deleting important files: search your backup disks for the most recent version of your lost data (assuming you have a habit of making backup copies of your data) and try to recover the deleted files with software that is really suitable for the purpose. This operation requires the earliest possible timeliness.
As long as the portion of the disk that housed the data is not rewritten, i.e. it is not occupied by new information, it is in fact possible to recover the deleted files using ad hoc programs, the ones I mentioned earlier. But which ones? I tell you right now, with this my own guide on how to recover deleted photos from PC (as well as Mac). So take five minutes or a little more free time and find out with me what resources to use to succeed. I can't promise you anything, be clear, everything depends on the condition described above, but, as they say, trying doesn't hurt. Do you agree?
Have you ever heard of PhotoRec? Probably not, so I'll introduce it to you. It is an open source application whose purpose is to recover data from hard drives, USB sticks and SD memory cards. It is completely free and its success rate - I assure you - is considerably higher than many commercial software. It is available for all major computer operating systems: Windows, Mac and Linux. Note that along with PhotoRec, TestDisk, a data recovery and lost partition recovery software is also downloaded, but you don't need it at the moment.
To use PhotoRec, go to its official website now and click the name of the operating system you are using (e.g. Windows or Mac OS X Intel) under TestDisk & PhotoRec x.x at the bottom to download it to your computer.
When the download is complete, if you use a Windows PC, extract all the files contained in the ZIP archive you have just obtained and start the program qphotorec_win.exe.
In the window that opens, expand the drop-down menu at the top and select your PC's hard drive (e.g. Drive C:). Then choose the main partition of the drive (e.g. NTFS xx/xx GB ) and put a checkmark next to the FAT/NTFS/HFS+/ReiferFS and Free options to "tell" the program to only control the free disk space.
Now you have to choose the file types to recover, i.e. digital photos. Then click on the File Formats button at the bottom, press Reset to reset the initial selection of file formats to be recovered and - in the window that opens - check only next to the extensions related to digital images: JPG, PNG, BMP, GIF etc.
When the operation is completed, press OK, select the folder where you want to save the photos recovered from PhotoRec by clicking Browse button and press Search to start data recovery. All the pictures found by PhotoRec will be automatically saved in the folder you specified.
If you use a Mac, you must use the PhotoRec version that works as a command line. After you extract all the files contained in the ZIP archive downloaded from the program's website, start the photorec application and type the password of your user account on macOS.
At this point, choose the drive from which to recover photos, indicate its main partition and select the Other option (to invoke the recovery features suitable for FAT/NTFS/HFS/ReiserFS formatted drives).
To finish, select Free, specify the folder where you want to save the photos (by pressing the Enter and C keys) and wait for the software to complete its work. Again, all the pictures recovered from PhotoRec will be saved in the folder you specified.
RePicvid Photo Recovery (Windows/Mac)
Another excellent program that you have on your side to try to recover deleted photos from your PC is RePicvid Photo Recovery. It is a free tool (but possibly available as a paid variant that allows you to recover other types of files as well) and works on both Windows and Mac which is able to scan every ravine of your computer looking for the removed photos and restore them without any particular difficulty. It also has a nice user interface and its operation is quite simple.
Are you asking me how to do it so that you can use it? I'll tell you right now. First, connect to the program's website and click on the button with the logo of the operating system you are using to download the dedicated version.
When the download is complete, if you are using Windows, open the file GIHO_RePicvid_V2.exe, click on Yes/Run and select I accept the agreement. Then click Next four times in a row, click Install and finish the setup by pressing Finish.
On Mac, however, open the obtained .pkg package and follow the on-screen installation wizard by always clicking Continue and typing the password for your macOS user account when prompted.
Once the installation is complete, start RePicvid Photo Recovery (if it hasn't started by itself), close the warning that appears regarding the possibility to upgrade to the paid version of the same and click on Photo/Graphic. Then select the drive you want to scan and press the Scan button.
If you think it is necessary, you can limit the search to certain file formats only. To do so, click the Advanced Settings button at the bottom and then select the formats you are interested in and press OK.
Once the analysis procedure is complete, select the reference position from the bar on the left side of the window and on the right side you will find listed all the identified photos that you can restore. If you would like to preview them before starting the restore procedure, simply click on them.
To finish, select the photos you want to recover by unchecking the ones you are not interested in and press the Recover button. There you go!
In the unfortunate case that PhotoRec and RePicvid Photo Recovery did not meet your expectations, you can try to recover deleted photos from your PC with Recuva, a free data recovery application made by CCleaner developers themselves (I told you about it in detail in my tutorial dedicated to the topic). The only negative note, if you want to call it that, is that it is only available for Windows.
To download it to your PC, go to its official website and click on CCleaner.com under Recover Free. The download should start automatically, if this doesn't happen click on the Start Download button in the middle of the page in order to force it "manually".
Once the download is complete, launch the software installation package (rcsetupxx.exe) and click the Yes button. In the window that opens, select the language from the language menu at the top right, click Install, wait for the program files to be copied to your PC and press Run Recuva to finish the setup and start the program.
Now that you see the software window on your desktop, click Next and check the box next to Pictures (so you're only looking for digital images, not other file types) then click Next again. Choose the I'm not sure option to scan all the disks on your computer or select one of the other available options (e.g. In My Documents) to scan to a specific location and press Next again.
Now, check the box next to Enable Thorough Scan (which is much more effective than the standard scan for digital photo recovery) and press the Start button to start searching for files.
When the scan is finished, select the photos you want to recover by placing a check mark next to their thumbnails (the really recoverable ones are the ones you can see the thumbnails of, the others are almost always damaged) then click on the Recover button..., select the folder where you want to save the images and you're done.
If you prefer, you can also switch to the advanced mode of the program by clicking on the appropriate button at the top right of the window. Selecting the images that interest you from the list on the left you can then get more information about the reference file and you will be able to understand exactly if they are recoverable or not. Files with a green dot can be recovered, while those with a red dot cannot.
Easy Digital Photo Recovery (Windows)
None of the programs to recover deleted photos from the PC I told you about has convinced you in a particular way? Then rely on Easy Digital Photo Recovery and you'll see that you won't regret it. This is another tool available only for Windows operating systems that allows you to recover deleted images (intentionally or accidentally) not only from hard drive but also from pendrives, memory cards and any other media. It uses very powerful algorithms and is usually quite effective. It is free but it is also available in a paid variant with additional features.
To use it, connect to the program's website and click the Download button, so that you can start downloading it right away.
When the download process is finished, open the EasyDigitalPhotoRecovery-x.x-Setup.exe file just obtained and click Yes. Then click OK, Accept and Install. Finish the setup by clicking on Finish.
Now that you see the software window on your desktop, select the drive that you want to scan and press Next. Then wait for the scanning process to start and finish.
When you are shown the list of files that have been found, place a checkmark next to the name of the files you want to recover (you will see a preview of them on the right) and press the Next button at the bottom. Then press the Browse... button, select the folder where you want to save the items you are about to restore and click Next.
DiskDrill is one of the best data recovery software on Mac. Unfortunately it's not very cheap, it costs 79 Euros, but you can often find it on offer in promotional bundles and then there is a free trial version (the one I used to write this step) that allows you to test its effectiveness in the field (it shows a preview of the files that can be recovered, but to really recover them you need to buy the full version of the software).
To download the DiskDrill trial on your computer, connect to the official website of the program and click on the Download for free button. When the download is complete, open the .dmg package that contains the software and copy its icon into the Applications folder of macOS.
At this point, start Disk Drill by right-clicking on its icon and choosing Open twice in a row, in order to circumvent Apple's restrictions on unauthorized developers.
Once the program window appears on your desktop, click the Start button, type the password for your MacOS user account and press Enter to access the main screen. Then locate the drive you want to act on and click on the Retrieve button next to its name or reference partition.
Once the analysis procedure is complete, all you have to do is find the files to recover by expanding the folders listed in the Disk Drill window or using the search bar at the top. If you want to preview the files, press the eye icon next to the name of each item in the list.
To finish, click the Recover button at the top right and after purchasing the full version of the program, indicate the destination folder. And voilà!