Were you doing some cleaning in the "roll" of your Samsung smartphone and accidentally deleted some photos you didn't want to delete? Don't despair, it's not the last word yet. If the portion of memory on which the images were stored has not yet been occupied by new data, you have a good chance of recovering your shots.
You can use various applications to do this, some of which can be used directly on your mobile phone and others can be downloaded to your PC. They can work with all the main Android smartphone models and can work both on the internal memory of the device and on microSD cards (in case you have a smartphone with expandable memory). Their degree of effectiveness is quite good but - it is always good to point out - they do not work miracles. The results they achieve depend exclusively on the state of the memories examined.
What else to add? If I were you, I wouldn't waste any more time trying to recover deleted photos from Samsung using one of the software listed below. In cases like these every second can be vital for the recovery or ultimate loss of an image!
Before you get into the heart of the tutorial and find out how to recover deleted photos from Samsung devices, let me give you a couple of "tips" that could help you get your photos back without using data recovery software.
Restore photos from Google Photos
As trivial as it may seem, the first piece of advice I feel like giving you is to open Google Photo and check if the photos you are desperately trying to recover are not stored in the recycle bin of the application. Google Photo, in fact, moves all the deleted photos to a temporary folder (called Trash) that stores them for 60 days and only then permanently erases them from both the phone memory and Google Drive.
To access the Google Photo Recycle Bin, all you have to do is launch the app, press on the ? icon located in the top left corner and select Recycle Bin from the left sidebar. Then browse the list of images contained in the folder, select those to be recovered by holding your finger down on their thumbnails and restore them by pressing on the arrow at the top right.
If you have enabled online photo synchronization (which I highly recommend you to do) you can also recover your photos via PC using the web version of Google Photo.
All you have to do is open the browser, connect to the service's home page, press the ? button located at the top left select the Trash item in the left sidebar. At this point, you have to select the thumbnails of the photos to recover by clicking on them and you have to press on the arrow icon that appears in the top right corner. The recovered photos will be returned to the main Google Photo album.
Restore backups from Smart Switch
If you use Smart Switch, Samsung's official application for syncing Android devices with your computer, and you have created a backup of your smartphone or tablet before deleting photos, you can use it to restore the device to a previous state and then restore the photos you deleted.
To restore a backup with Samsung Smart Switch, connect your smartphone or tablet to your computer, start the program and click the Restore button first and then Restore Now to start restoring data (including photos). If you have more than one backup saved on your PC and/or want to select the data you want to restore more precisely, after clicking the Restore button, choose the Select a different backup folder option, choose Samsung Device Data from the drop-down menu at the top left, choose the backup you are interested in from the other drop-down menu and make sure that there is a check mark next to Pictures. Then click OK and Restore Now and you're done.
App to recover deleted photos from Samsung
If you have not been able to recover your photos via Google Photo or Smart Switch, you need to switch to more advanced solutions such as deleted data recovery apps that work directly from Android, here are a couple of the most effective ones.
When you want to recover deleted files you have to make sure that the portion of memory on which the data was stored is not occupied by other information. This means that you shouldn't install new software, however, I can't help but recommend DiskDigger: a free application for Android that in numerous circumstances allowed me to recover photos that seemed lost forever.
Of course, like all apps of this kind, it doesn't work miracles. It can only retrieve images if the areas of memory that housed them have not been rewritten, but I can say it's one of the best in its field. And above all, it's one of the easiest to use since it works directly from Android. Its only real flaw (if we can define it that way) is that it expresses its full potential only on devices subject to the root procedure. Otherwise it can only perform a limited scan and recover very few images. If you don't know how to root on Android and you want more information about it, see my tutorial on the subject.
So, what do you say? You want to try this app? I'd love to. To use DiskDigger, download the app from the Google Play Store and launch it. Then click on the Grant button that appears in the middle of the screen to grant administrator rights to DiskDigger (this operation is necessary only if you have a smartphone undergoing the root procedure), answer No, thanks to the request to upgrade to the paid version of the application (which allows you to recover other types of files in addition to photos) and wait a few moments for the smartphone memory to be examined.
Now, select the entry for your mobile phone's internal memory (e.g. /data) or the SD card on which the deleted photos were stored, place a checkmark next to the JPG entry and press the OK button to start searching for the recovered photos.
When the scan is finished (it may take quite some time), select the thumbnail images you want to restore, press the Recover button at the top right and choose how to recover deleted photos from Samsung: you can export the images to one of the applications installed on your smartphone (e.g. Dropbox, your email client, etc.) by pressing on the cloud icon; or you can save the images directly to the smartphone memory, in a location of your choice, by selecting the folder icon.
If, in addition to photos taken with your smartphone camera, you want to try to recover screenshots, images from your browsing history or images from various apps, you can also tick next to the PNG entry on the DiskDigger home screen. GIF, TIFF and other image formats can only be searched with the Pro version of the app, which costs 3.37 euros.
If DiskDigger has failed to recover photos of your interest, you can try Undeleter - it is a deleted data recovery application that allows you to restore photos at no cost. There is also a paid version (6.49 Euros, to be unlocked through in-app purchase) that adds support for files other than pictures, but for the moment I would say you are not interested. As well as DiskDigger, Undeleter gives its best when used on a device subjected to the root procedure, so if you haven't done it yet, root on Android.
After installing Undeleter from the Google Play Store, launch the application, press the Next button and give it root permissions by "tap" on the Grant button. Now, press Next again, choose the Restore files option and select the drive from which you want to recover the photos (e.g. Internal storage for the device's internal memory).
On the screen that pops up, select the Deep Scan option, put a check mark next to JPG and/or PNG items (depending if you only want to recover photos that you have taken with the camera or even screenshots and other image types) and press the Scan button to start searching for files that can still be recovered.
When the scan is finished, locate the thumbnails of the photos you want to recover, select them by keeping your finger pressed on them, press on the button (...) located at the top right and select the Save file item from the menu that appears to choose the output path and recover the selected photos. Generally it would be advisable not to save the photos on the scanned drive, so if you have a device with expandable memory and you have searched the photos on the SD, try to save the photos on the internal storage.
Retrieve deleted photos from Samsung via PC
If your smartphone is equipped with expandable memory, and then the deleted photos were on the MicroSD installed on the device, you can insert the card into your computer and try to recover the pictures with PhotoRec: a free, open source, multi-platform application that allows you to recover data from drive/partitions formatted with all popular file systems. It comes paired with TestDisk, another free app that serves to restore lost partitions and make damaged drives bootable again.
To download PhotoRec (and TestDisk) to your computer, go to the official website of the software and click the link for the operating system installed on your computer. In this tutorial I'll focus on Windows, which is the only operating system for which PhotoRec comes complete with a graphical interface (on macOS, for example, it should be used as a command line).
When the download is complete, open the zip archive that you just downloaded to your PC, extract the contents to any folder and start the file qphotorec_win.exe. In the window that opens, expand the drop-down menu at the top to select your computer's SD drive (or USB drive if you used a USB adapter to insert the microSD into your PC). Then choose the primary partition of the microSD (it should be the one named FAT32 or exFAT), tick next to FAT/NTFS/HFS+/ReiferFS and Free and press the Browse button to choose the folder where you want to save the recovered photos from the card.
At this point you need to choose the types of files you want to recover. Then click on the File formats button, press Reset to reset the default selection and check only next to the JPG entry (assuming you only want to recover photos taken with your phone's camera, otherwise also select PNG and other file formats of your interest).
When the operation is complete, click OK and Search, wait for the program to do its job (it may take quite a while) and open the output folder you selected before to find out if the photos recovered by PhotoRec include the ones you are interested in.
If you have a Mac and need to use PhotoRec via command line, do so.
- Open the tar.bz2 archive that you downloaded from the PhotoRec site, extract the content to any folder and launch the photorec executable by right clicking on its icon and selecting Open from the menu that appears;
- In the window that opens (the Terminal), press the right arrow on your keyboard to select the Sudo option, press Enter and type the password of your user account on macOS;
- Use the keyboard to select the drive from which you want to recover photos, specify the partition to focus on and the file system with which it is formatted (Other for NTFS, FAT and HFS+ formatted partitions) and choose the Free option;
- Select the destination folder where you want to save the recovered photos, press the C key on the keyboard and patiently wait for the end of the data recovery procedure.
PhotoRec may also be able to work with smartphones without expandable memory (so they save photos directly to their internal memory). If you have such a phone, however, before connecting it to your PC, unlock the options for developers and enable USB debugging. If you don't know how to do it, you need to go to the Settings menu > Phone info, you need to press the Buid number seven times and select USB Debugging from the Developer Options menu.
In case PhotoRec is unable to detect your smartphone's internal memory, make sure that the right drivers are installed on your PC (just check if the device is accessible from My Computer). If so, I'm sorry, but you have one of those phones that protect access to the internal memory and therefore do not allow PhotoRec to do its job. To bypass the problem you could create an image of your smartphone's internal memory, convert it to a VHD file and feed it to PhotoRec, but it's quite a long process and doesn't seem to work with newer Android terminals. To learn more, read this tutorial available on the XDA website... or, even better, have one of your tech-savvy friends read it: I'm sure they'll be able to make good use of it!