These days, more and more memories are being captured with the convenience of a digital camera. While this makes taking and sharing photos and video simpler, it also makes it easier to accidentally delete those captured memories. Like my friend whose daughter accidentally deleted her photos of a Jonas Brothers concert, you can imagine the heart-stopping anxiety (and pressure) of thinking you’ve lost precious shots forever. . .
So what can you do? If you’ve read the tips on Prepping Your Computer for Disposal, then you know that just like with your computer’s hard drive, when you delete a file, it doesn’t instantly disappear forever. It actually remains stored in your camera’s memory card until it’s overwritten by another piece of data – in this case another picture or video file.
Should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of losing that first-day-of-school photo, or those once-in-a-lifetime vacation shots, the first thing you should do is STOP using your camera. The lost pictures are often still there, and you could risk overwriting them by taking additional photos or video.
Depending on the sophistication of your camera, it may have the ability to recover deleted photos built-in. So check your camera’s manual first. If your camera does not offer this feature, then there are software solutions available for Windows PCs and Macs.
I found one good free program, Pandora Recovery, which runs on Windows PCs and recovers deleted files. But if your files are stored on a memory card that doesn’t work (it could be corrupted), or if you have a Mac, you’ll have to try a paid program. Keep in mind that while you can try many photo recovery programs for free to see if they’re capable of recovering your lost files, most require you to pay for the product in order to actually recover your photos.
Originally published September 15, 2009. and updated October 25, 2010 with new software information