Recover Images from a Damaged SD card

Recover Images from a Damaged SD card

A friend turned up today with a curly question. She’d been using a SD card in her point and shoot camera for some time and now the card had stopped functioning. If she put it in her computer she was told to format the disk to use it – sensibly she didn’t do this. However, she was sure she’d lost the shots she’d taken on her recent vacation.

She took the card to a camera store and was quoted $25 to look at the card and then $15 for every 25 pictures recovered from it. Even though she only wanted the most recent images – some 30 or so – she’d have to pay for all the images they recovered. As she had over 1,000 images on the card – the math wasn’t pretty – over $600 to get her images. The shop owner explained the process was time consuming and complex – hence the cost.

For my friend, the thirty or so photos just didn’t justify the expense. Luckily she called by to ask if she should she simply put the disk in the trash or was there an alternative? I grabbed the disk and sent her to get coffee – before she got back I had her images off the damage disk and burned to a DVD.

Here’s what I did:

The program I used is called Zero Assumption Recovery or ZAR. You can find it at I opted for this program because it allows you to recover digital pictures from digital camera memory free of charge – for other uses it is a for fee program.

Start out by downloading an installing the ZAR Recovery software. Insert the damaged disk in the card reader and launch the software. When prompted that antivirus software may impact performance, click to accept the warning and go and disable your antivirus software.


When prompted, click the Image Recovery (Free) option.


The program looks for devices that are installed. This is probably the most confusing portion of the exercise because you’ll need to identify which of the devices in the list is your camera card. It’s not really that difficult and, in my case, Disk 4 shows as an SD card with 1,876 MB of data on it – pretty clearly it is the SD card. Select the disk and click Next.


Wait as the program analyzes the disk. You’ll see a list of the recovered files. In my case I wanted all of them because not only did I not know which images she wanted but this dialog really isn’t the place to start getting fussy about which images you want and which you don’t – it’s simplest to take them all. So click the Root checkbox to select all the images.


Click Next and you can then select the folder into which the recovered files will be placed. Because I selected the Root folder on the SD card these images will all go automatically into a subfolder called Root. Make sure you always recover files onto a disk other than the one they came from – it sounds self-evident but the busted SD card is not the place to put the recovered images.

I left all the options set to their defaults and simply clicked Start Copying the Selected Files. The software copied 1099 files to my hard drive in a few minutes.


Open the folder in Windows Explorer and set it to view thumbnails to see what you have. I found a handful of images were unreadable and a few images were only half full of data with half the image missing but well over 1000 of the files were there and most of those my friend remembers taking on her vacation.

The moral of this post is to never throw out a camera card until you’ve tried to recover the data from it. There is good and free software out there that can do the recovery for you and it isn’t difficult or time-consuming to attempt it yourself. Oh! and don’t format a card if it has images on it that you want to download – even if your computer prompts you to do so – it’s not being helpful and the results might reduce your chance of recovering your images.

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Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at

Some Older Comments

  • Bob September 22, 2013 11:48 pm

    I downloaded and installed ZAR, found my SD card, ran the image recovery function, waiting an hour or so . . . nothing but the corrupted files I had earlier! Very disappointed.

  • Sam September 16, 2013 05:19 pm

    What happens to an SD card that has over 600 picture that was formatted by accident
    Are the pictures lost?

  • Audi September 14, 2013 02:34 am

    My disk doesn't show up...any advice? I have the same problem that Grace (post before me) has! HELP PLEASE!!

  • Grace September 5, 2013 08:57 pm

    I installed this but it doesn't detect my sd card? Any other options which I can do? HELP PLEASE!

  • Grace September 5, 2013 08:55 pm

    I installed the ZAR but it doesn't recognize my sd card. Any other options which can I do to recover my files? HELP!

  • Dawn East August 31, 2013 10:27 am

    Thank you so much - I just recovered all my photos from my memory card after it downloaded half of them and then the card corrupted. I didn't think the software was working at first as it took a few goes before it would find my memory card at all - so it is worth persevering!

  • harold August 28, 2013 12:50 am

    Thank you so much, Helen. I am helping a friend to recover their vacation photos from the SD card that can't be read anymore and right now, it copying is in progress. I am sure, they would be happy to see their pictures. Thank you for very much for the article.

  • Debbie August 26, 2013 04:35 am

    Thank you so much. I had intended to delete some files from my ipad to create some space and inadvertenly deleted them from my SD card, along with pictures from a China trip that I had not yet downloaded. (I'll blame the jetlag for my user error!) I found your advice and it worked perfectly. Thanks for helping to preserve some precious memories.

  • Sandra August 24, 2013 07:09 am

    I love the program it recovered my photos from damaged SD CARD thank you so much

  • angela August 15, 2013 04:35 am

    So excited to try this! I too have the galaxy s3 and suddenly got the message about damaged sd. I tried everything I could think of with no avail. Could have cried. Google led me here. My card had some 5000 photos, I'm talking 2 years of my kids life I didn't make copys of. Program is runnin right now. . . Praying it works. :)

  • Satsuga August 14, 2013 11:51 pm

    You have no idea how thankful I am to you for posting this. I almost lost 400 precious shots. Then I came across this article and managed to salvage about 70-80% of them with ZAR - the rest are corrupt and unreadable (thank goodness I always shoot duplicates - I used to look at it as a waste of space, now I see it as a useful habit). Anyways,, thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you~ I'll kiss you if you're here right now LOL~

  • andrew August 12, 2013 06:21 am

    saved me! great application. Phew. Thank you!!!

  • Spike August 6, 2013 01:31 am

    I had 542 images on a card which I started in 2006 (and never backed up). As to be expected it all went pear shaped but downloaded this program and it said it recovered almost all of them. However, although the thumbnails were complete many of the images were corrupted when opened. That being said it did save a good 60% of them which is way better than losing the lot

  • Melanie August 5, 2013 02:11 pm

    THANK YOU!!! My husband tried numerous recovery programs to save our lost vacation pictures that included family pictures on Lake Michigan. This was the only thing that worked!!! Thank you a million times over!!!

  • brenda July 31, 2013 02:09 am

    the android phone's micro SD HC disk was put into a adapter to print photos & download selections on dvd at a retail store. He crammed it into machine outlet and chipped off an edge. is this a lost cause or photos be retreived? Some data is for work purposes..

  • Shell July 28, 2013 07:55 am

    Brilliant - saved all my photos of daughters last day at primary school. So pleased really easy to follow and my SD card was really knackered :-)))))

  • Jameson July 26, 2013 03:02 am

    Did you try PhotoRec? Place the SD card in, hit cancel to formatting, and load PhotoRec.

    Let me know.

  • ALI July 24, 2013 01:24 pm

    Hello, I have download and tried the solution that you have but its still does not working. I can't locate the broken SD drive because it does not show in the program. I have the same problem which is your friend does and when I click the SD drive it is asking to format it. I have took it several places but they couldn't able to do it. They and I try to format it but it couldn't finish it because end of the formatting we got error problem. I also took the Best Buy but they asked too much money($250) but they are not sure if it will work. Anyway, please let me know if there are other option to fix this problem, thank you for time....

  • Rob V July 23, 2013 11:10 am

    Thanks for the tips and advice. I too was the victim of a low quality SD card (Transcend- never again!!!) and perhaps an inherent design flaw in the Nikon (D40x) and several other digital SLRs. I was on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, and suddenly the card, less than one week old, failed after just over 100 great shots. "Card not formatted. Format the Card". Sure.

    So after multiple attempts at this & that- including testing 9 recovery programs (which I now need to cleanse 8 of from my computer)- I was tempted to send the card off to a place in Colorado which promises recovery with 98% chance, for a vaguely unspecified total sum of funds- at least they appeared more reasonable than the place that posts its name all over the place from Germany. But I hadn't given up yet.

    I went to Fry's Electronics and found a high-end Sony MRW card reader on sale for just $10. Brought it home, plugged in the bad SDHC card to the reader, the reader to a USB on the computer, & the Zero Assumption Recovery (ZAR) program free for non-commercial use recognized the reader. Amen. After running the program, which was quite user friendly- it fully recovered 98/103 photos. We're so thankful!

  • Malik July 16, 2013 12:23 am

    I am sorry to inform that like all the other softwares, your ZAR also didn't work for my micro sd card.

  • Kar Yi July 15, 2013 12:55 am

    My SD card damaged and cannot be detected by my PC. What should I do?

  • Veronica July 9, 2013 12:55 am


    Thank you for making the ZAR programme available and easy to use. You've saved my pictures.

    With my deep gratitude.

  • Danielle July 8, 2013 10:40 pm

    We recently had a problem with an SD card which suddenly stopped working with a message to say that there were 'no partitions available' and prompting to reformat the card (we obviously didn't do this!). We tried all of the freeware options mentioned in previous posts but all we could was recover was one massive data file which could not manipulated or opened. After our lack of success we suspected that the SD card was physically damaged so followed the recommendation of others and sent it to Recoverfab from Australia.

    Well I am pleased to say that Recoverfab were able to recover 1,971 photos from our recent European and Northern Lights trip and I couldn't be happier! The service was quick, reliable and the cost was worth it given the irreplaceable nature of the photos. I would definitely recommend the service to others.

  • Deborah July 7, 2013 03:07 am

    Thanks for this post! I just recovered 254 photos from a vacation from four years ago. It's such a relief! I've always held on to the card "just in case" and I'm so glad. There are pictures of my dad's 60th birthday, the kids with their great grandmother, and photos of a family friend who has since passed--those were of the last time we actually saw her. I'm so happy to say this worked for me and I hope it will help a lot of other people. Thanks for these tips, Helen!

  • Saurabh July 4, 2013 07:03 pm

    Wow!! Thanks Helen...this really saved the day!! My sd card got corrupted and it had pictures from my last holiday!! Thanks a tonne!!

  • Roger Culverhouse June 29, 2013 08:51 pm

    I too can confirm that for those case's where it is not possible to read-off data from a damaged SD card, then it is certainly worth availing ones self of the services of Recoverfab. Their site provides, in a clear and concise manner, all the info one needs to be confident of their service. Within minutes of sending off an enquiry e-mail I received a reply from them. Having posted my damaged SD card to them, I was amazed to receive their e-mail shorty after notifying me of receipt. The following day I received another e-mail notifying me that my data could be viewed and the total cost of service. Although it's not cheap, compared to the price of an SD card, for those who place great value on their works of art (photo's/videos), it's unquestionably a great service.

  • Charity June 21, 2013 12:26 pm

    THANK YOU so much... I was devistated when my phone's SD went all crazy.. I have over 700 pictures of my kids on it... with your helpful infomation I was able to recover most of the pictures,, again Thank you!!!

  • Keith June 20, 2013 01:43 pm

    Very helpful posts. What if my camera or my computer can't read my SD Card?

    On my trip, all of a sudden my SD card (Sandisk Ultra SDHC) in my camera (Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS15) said, "insert SD Card again". I'm not sure why but then I couldn't even take pics or view my photos on my camera or on my laptop. Have you guys ever had this error or know how to fix it?? I heard maybe you have to buy an SD card reader so that I the comptuer or recovery software can identify the external card? I went to a store on my trip the day after and bought a new SD card which worked for the rest of my trip, but I want to recover the photos on my old SD card.

    Let me know if you have any possible solutions or advice!

    Thanks so much!

  • albana June 19, 2013 06:18 pm

    oh thank you thank you thank you. you are me hero

  • Brian June 18, 2013 04:57 pm

    Thanks for this, worked great. Pretty slow, zar took 6h to scan the card (perhaps because I didn't disable the anti-virus), but it got there. I lost one file, I guess the one that was corrupted, everything else (300+ pictures) fine.

    Highly recommended.

    Now does anyone know if I can reformat and reuse the SD card? It won't reformat using the normal method via explorer.

    Thanks -- B

  • Robert Maguire June 17, 2013 08:18 am

    Thank you so much for this. Managed to recover all of the photos from a weekend trip we had just been on for our 20th wedding anniversary. I had put the SDHC card straight in to the port on my Mac, but it said it couldn't read it. Tried it in my PC and it said it needed formatting. SO glad I didn't do that. I can't thank you enough for your help.

  • Tyler Kennedy June 14, 2013 02:52 pm

    I'm very excited to try this based on peoples replies but my biggest fear is the videos I had on my SD card of my sons 1st day after birth :......( will this or any known software do what this program does but for video/music??

  • Kirsty June 11, 2013 11:08 am

    This is amazing!!! I just recovered my photos from a wedding I went to this weekend!! Thank god for this.

    Thankyou thankyou thankyou!!!

  • Steve June 8, 2013 05:00 am

    Hey, I have just dropped my sd card somewhere in a store where I was buying my camera battery. Can I recover pictures that I had just been viewing from the sd on my laptop? Thanks to help.

  • V June 7, 2013 01:02 pm

    Thank you so much !! I felt terrible when I was not able to download 6 month's worth of my toddler daughter's photos (including her Halloween with cutest ladybug outfit) Your tutorial and ZAR helped me recover most of them. Thanks again :)

  • Robin June 6, 2013 10:44 pm

    Thank you so much! I did not disable my anti-virus when it prompted me. It still ran fine and only took about 5 minutes to recover all my photos!

  • Corey June 6, 2013 01:51 pm

    My microsd card full of photos and other data suddenly died on me in Samsung Galaxy S3. Evidently, it's a reoccuring problem with Samsung and Sandisk....though I read other manufactures cards have malfunctioned also in Samsung devices. I'm going to give this a try and cross my fingers. I really hope this works. Kicking myself for not backing up.

    Cesar, any luck?

  • Mejse June 4, 2013 03:10 am

    Thank you SO MUCH... All my photos now recovered!

  • Cesar June 1, 2013 12:22 pm

    Just came across this. I'm going to try this in a minute. My SD card all of a sudden gave out on my Galaxy Note 2. Don't know if it was damaged somehow when I transfered it from my Motorola RAZR Maxx to the Note 2. I took pictures with it on the new phone but something went wrong. I'm about to have a heart attack!

  • Andrew May 28, 2013 09:12 am

    I cant thankyou enough, my sd card full of pics from the day my daughter was born two and a half years ago until today have been saved thanks to your generous sharing of information, took a few hours but more than worth it to safe all those precious memories..... again a big thankyou : )

  • Jameson May 14, 2013 01:21 am

    You will need to consult a recovery expert, depending on how bad the sd card is burned your data may be lost. In theory if the chip is undamaged, you might be able to recover the data.


    Or something similar. Google is your friend.

  • gloria May 12, 2013 04:33 am

    What if my sd card is burned,can i still recover my pictures?..Please help me.This pictures mean alot to me...

  • Karol April 18, 2013 08:26 pm

    This is awesome! Thank you!

    The whole process - including guidance on how to install teamviewer - took 39 minutes.

    You deserve a medal!

  • ncae April 15, 2013 04:04 am

    It just happened to me last night and i almost cried :( because i had so many family photos on my sd card that it hurt me just to think i could of lost them. My galaxy S3 just all of a sudden told me i had a damaged SD card and after trying do nany things i just could'nt recover any photos. My SD card would not work on any other device either. After looking around i came across your post here snd i have to thsnk from the bottom of my heart because i did everything you said and IT WORKED!! Thank you thank you i got all my pics back....oh and i got some that were deleted from a long long time ago. THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS! :)

  • canalskater April 15, 2013 01:48 am

    Got home from my best friend's birthday party and started downloading from a brand-new 32G CoreMicro SD card that I have been using for the last few months - still had more than half of its space free. After 3 photos, I suddenly got an error message, then one to format my card. Not sure if it was the new card or my fairly-new card reader, but it wasn't looking good. With my go-to tech expert out of town, I just freaked! So happy to have found this tutorial and ZAR. I would not have had the courage to try this on my own otherwise. It took several hours (probably from using a slower card reader and copying to an external hard drive), but worth every high blood-pressure inducing moment. BTW, only lost a few photos. THANKS!!

  • bobby April 14, 2013 01:50 pm

    I tried this recovery but I can't find my sd card. Is there anything else I can do?

  • Sheree April 4, 2013 07:51 pm

    Hi Helen

    I placed an sd card in another older camera and it only showed two photos that i'd just taken. In hind sight, I should have double checked for deleting (as I accidentally deleted others too). After hunting for about three hours and not finding any decent free software, I came across your site and tried your suggestion. Luckily I was able to recover all my photo's. Thank you very much.


  • Jeannine March 22, 2013 12:31 pm

    THANK YOU! Out of 760 images only a few were not readable.

  • Anna March 20, 2013 03:02 am

    You saved all my sons wedding photos thanks

  • Misty March 3, 2013 02:10 am

    I photographed a wedding last night, looked at the pics several times from the camera during the evening, and was excited to download them as soon as I got home. After putting the SD card in the card reader, I got a message saying the card was corrupt and that all files had been deleted. Luckily my husband found this conversation & downloaded ZAR. It was able to retrieve the wedding pictures and many others, over 1900 photos in total! It was a lifesaver & I will be recommending it to others. Thank you!

  • J. King February 21, 2013 04:45 am

    So your computer is not recognizing your card at all then? Is it not showing up in the list of drives?

  • Yaneik Thomas February 20, 2013 02:38 pm

    I tried it and its still not reading my SD card whats the next step you recomend?

  • Diane February 18, 2013 08:26 am

    A.W.E.S.O.M.E.!! I recovered nearly 3,000 pictures.

    Thank you!

  • RITAINNJ February 14, 2013 12:27 pm

    Please help!
    I have so many photos from a recent trip.
    I attempted this program recovery but it wont even read the sd card when i insert it...the card get very hot when i take it back out!!!!

  • Nikkie February 12, 2013 12:05 am

    Thank you so much for this information with step by step instructions! My computer crashed and i hadnt backed up my honeymoon photos yet and i had already deleted my SD card, with this program i recovered most of the honeymoon phots and photos that were deleted almost 2 years ago. . . . . i will tell everyone i know about this program!

  • Mark February 11, 2013 03:19 am

    You saved me over 2000 family photos. I was just about to reformat the card... THANK YOU!

    To those that did not recover their photos, don't give up. If you really want them there usually is a way to get them back. However, you may need to hire a professional data recover service.

    Thanks again!

  • Fred February 10, 2013 04:20 pm

    Wow, how can this be? I take photos, move the photos to my laptop, then format the card. I had ten photos that wouldn't download from the last shoot, even though it registered 40MB remaining on the card. I used this program and recovered 402 photos, including about three hundred that were moved and then the card was formatted. That's an eye-opener. Got the ten photos that were lost too. Good program!

  • Kathryn January 23, 2013 08:07 am

    I was really hoping this would work for me. I took engagement photos and am so upset that they could be gone. I got a message about a severe error. Unable to continue, Not a bug - data is probably beyond repair, or something is misconfigured. PLEASE HELP.

  • Hayley January 19, 2013 01:35 pm

    It didnt work :'( hardly found any and the ones it did find say they cannot be opened :'( so many of my little boy and precious family times :'(

  • Dani McColli January 14, 2013 11:00 am

    This was wonderful, thank you! It worked perfectly to get back all the pictures from my son's first birthday that my husband corrupted on accident. Life saver!

  • Melanie January 8, 2013 06:05 am

    Thank you so much for this forum!! I was just quoted $199-$999 to recover my photos. I followed these instructions and recovered the majority of my photos from Switzerland and Christmas. I was very sad thinking they were gone for good, so thank you sooo much for providing this info and website!

  • anna January 7, 2013 12:37 am

    Thankyou for this informative post...but when I get to step 3: Click the Image Recovery (Free) Button, a window comes up saying 'Analysing GPT volume table' and the program freezes (it says 'Not Responding'). What should I do? Please help - my Christmas photos are lost!

  • Michelle Alver January 5, 2013 05:03 pm

    OMG...Thank you so much Helen. I was about to give up on recovering my photos from my SD card. The website you recommended totally worked. Thank you so much for posting this!!!! You're an angel!!!!

  • dama January 5, 2013 09:49 am

    So I'm able to do all steps up until I click image recovery (free) it loads for a long time and says not responding after a while .. I tried doing this without the sd card and it loads up quick to the 2nd file to find the program but obviously it doesn't have the sd card so its useless.. can someone help me .. my sd card was corrupted and I've lost a lot of meaningful photos I've been trying to recover them but it seems impossible! Sad girl right now! Should I just wait even if it says program not responding ???

  • Kriss January 3, 2013 04:53 am

    Will this program work on MAC?

  • Felicity December 26, 2012 06:27 am

    Thank you so much for this post! My family and I were able to recover all the Christmas photos we took on my camera but had been corrupted from my SD card! We really appreciate it! Merry Christmas!

  • krista December 24, 2012 10:04 am

    Ok, so will this help me with my issue. I have had my sd card in my phone and it has videos and pictures in it. I shut my phone off and turned it back on and it said that my sd card was damaged. It is telling me to format it and I have not done so. I really hope someone can help me out. Please let me know thanks

  • kelly December 13, 2012 10:49 pm

    I tried a few software but still no luck. Can somebody help me out please?

    Some of my images are unable to playback in my camera. I insert the sd card in my computer card reader, but still cannot view them. I have never delete or edit the images. They just suddenly became "unable to display" shortly after I took the photos. These photos are very important to me.

    Thanks in advance

  • Amy December 12, 2012 11:28 am

    I hope this works i have pictures of my husband that passed away in august in a fishing boat in Alaska , would totally make my day ?

  • Darren December 7, 2012 06:28 pm

    As Lexi mentioned above, sending your SD card to RecoverFab to recover the data really works!
    In case the ideas above don't work because your SD card won't mount, this may help you.

    I had a Transcend 16GB MicroSD card that just stopped working (would not mount in the phone or with a PC) and this is my story as to how I recovered my pictures and videos:

    I purchased my Galaxy S3 (Verizon) in July 2012. At that time I backed up my MicroSD Card that I was using in my HTC Incredible. I used my MicroSD card for almost 4 months in my S3 and it worked just fine. Then one night there was a notification (exclamation point on the top of my phone) that the SD card was not detected. After rebooting my phone a couple times, using the MicroSD adapter, and testing the SD card on a different phone, the SD card would not mount. It was as if the SD card didn't even exist. I even had a friend at work try to get it to work using his laptop and Linux (not Windows). The computer could see that an SD card was inserted in the slot, but it was not readable.

    I tried using software (PhotoRec) but since the MicroSD card couldn't be recognized, the software would not work. I researched the internet and came across Recoverfab: fix repair CF SD SDHC memory card/flash drive-format error software
    They are a professional SD recovery firm.

    I called Recoverfab and spoke to the owner, Leopold Hiersche. I explained my issue and he said to fill out the order form and additional instructions would be emailed to me. I did that and instantly received an email back with further instructions as to how to send my MicroSD card to him. I went to the US Post Office, bought a padded envelope, stuck in my MicroSD card that I taped to my folded over business card for protection, included a copy of my order confirmation page, filled out the customs form (said that the package was a broken memory card and claimed it was work $1), and mailed the package to Germany for less than $5 (envelope included). I did not pay more for it to be registered mail per the suggestion in the FAQ on the Recoverfab website.

    I mailed the envelope on Wednesday and the next Tuesday (6 days later) I received an email from Recoverfab that they had received my MicroSD card and that they would have an update for me within 1 week. 24 hours after they received my MicroSD card I received an email that said they recovered 684 photos and 40 videos. I logged into their site and sure enough they provided thumbnails of 100 pictures that they recovered!! I was very relieved to say the least!

    Getting this type of recovery done for less than $300 is pretty awesome. I highly recommend Recoverfab if you can no longer access your SD card and you have important pictures/videos that you would like to recover. And if you send them your SD card and they can't recover the data, you are only out the cost of shipping (~$5 via USPS) to send it to Germany. You don't have to pay for the data recovery until data has been recovered!

    I learned my lesson that I should always backup my data. I am considering backup options like FolderSync, but for now I have been copying pictures to my laptop manually, and then backing up my laptop to an external HDD. I am also going to start to upload photos to either flickr or Shutterfly so I at least have a copy (lower resolution) in the cloud. I hope that this post is helpful to you!

  • rob November 4, 2012 10:56 pm

    helen you are a absolute genius thanks to you i have saved my wifes 1400 shots on our trip, THANKS SOOOOOOOOO much

  • Ayl November 3, 2012 05:00 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I fully recovered all photos from my corrupted micro sd card.

  • SD October 22, 2012 10:45 am

    Thanks a lot for posting this. Nearly had a heart attack when I discovered all my jpeg files in the sd card were corrupted. Followed the steps and was able to recover all files.

  • EJS October 17, 2012 04:15 am

    Thanks for the post... You just saved the last memory of our sweet Gram..

  • andy October 16, 2012 10:07 pm

    all i can say is, when i thought all hope was lost, this was a god send!! it got most of my pictures back (some only came half recoverred, half a picture) but god im happy! thank you for this! a Great post!!

  • Symone October 14, 2012 03:25 pm

    Thank you, this was so much help!!! I didnt need to stop my anti virus either : )

  • Jakes October 14, 2012 09:13 am

    Thank you. Thank you! It worked beautiful.

  • John October 11, 2012 12:56 pm

    Absolutely brilliant. A real life-saver! Managed to recover my daughter's college work (photography A-level) and holiday photographs. Thanks a million.

  • Sarah October 3, 2012 02:45 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I just recovered basically the first year of my twins' lives from a damaged micro SD card on my smart phone. I almost cried this morning when I thought I had lost it all, but will now sleep very well tonight knowing that my pics and videos are now safely on my computer!

  • deepak September 12, 2012 01:36 pm

    thanks a lot for the post,,,,,,,,,,,, was really a great help.

  • davide August 25, 2012 09:46 am

    nobody replied but I download the program it worked beautiful and I recovered 15,742 pictures

  • davide August 24, 2012 10:39 am

    My sd card is corrupt in my Sprint EVO 4G Android phone. Will this software help? I had almost 2300 pics for business on my phone and I am in deep trouble. Please help me!!!!!!

  • JRay August 13, 2012 11:37 am

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU! this program recovered all of my pictures, for the most part.... and I was ready to throw my phone in the garbage.

  • sreejith August 8, 2012 04:47 am

    my recovered image is not working.....showing invalid

  • Lex L August 5, 2012 07:34 am

    Thank you so much for your advice. I just recovered a week's worth of photos from a wonderful holiday with my fiancee. I nearly cried when my SD card packed up but I got them all (barring one or two) back with ZAR (by the way, I didn't need to disable antivirus software, it's just faster if you do, but I could wait!). Indispensable! Thanks again!

  • Lindy Ling August 1, 2012 03:46 pm

    Hi~ Greeting from Malaysia, thanks for saving my pictures. Is the progress of my work place (hotel) 's renovation. I will be in dead meat if it lost. huhu.. Thankyou. =)

  • Sam May 30, 2012 08:29 pm

    Hey, i have an SD card with about 500 photos from a trip to Oz and the card became corrupted and cant be read in my laptop. Ive been told to send it away where they can open the card and fix it? Do any of these programs find the card on my laptop? I dont even get told to format it!

    Any help would be amazing. Thank you


  • Jamie May 28, 2012 12:14 pm

    Hi there! So, my card will not read in my computer, camera or the card reader I just bought! The card does not appear to be physically damaged nor was there an incidence of physical damage, so I am not sure why it wont read! So, I got excited after googling for hours and found this tutorial however to my dismay, it did not work :( The program showed the little red dots for I guess file malfunction...Anyone have any suggestions? There are tons of photos still "on" there or atleast I hope they are! I guess my main questions are, if nothing will "read" the card, how can I attempt to retrieve the images? Please and thankyou for all responses!


  • Stix May 13, 2012 06:20 pm

    @Jon Winter, @Suzi - the CR2 files that are recovered get recovered as Tiff, open them as a TIFF file. Or Rename them .TIFF and they will open .

  • Robert May 12, 2012 03:09 am

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! You have helped me recover 1/3rd of the photos from a recent trip to Spain with my family. We were so disheartened to learn that our pictures would be lost after memory card went bad and was asking for reformat. I tried it on every computer and operating system, and were it not for this software you turned me on to, those memories would have been lost in a soup of zeros and ones!! Thank you for taking the time to report on this.

  • Noriko May 9, 2012 08:03 pm

    Helen Bradley, I could kiss you! I had 6 months of photos on my SD card which I ironically was trying to copy onto my PC when it got corrupted by the 'scan and fix' option, these included the birth of my son 3 days ago and I was certain they were gone forever. I was about to start crying when I found your website article and downloaded the Zar recovery program. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! They were all there! You are a hero!

  • Tim April 30, 2012 07:33 pm

    Thank you so much for putting this up here where Google could find it quickly. I'm a professional baby photographer, and just about had a heart attack this morning when suddenly, none of my pictures for the week showed up. It had been a bad week, and now I was quite sure I wasn't even going to get paid for it!

    This little tutorial and link saved my life. My files are back, and now I certainly know better than to take a full week's pictures on one card!

    Thank you a million times over.


  • Jameson April 30, 2012 03:59 am

    Wendy, I would try PhotoRec for your situation, it's a little frightening because it is command line, but there are directions provided. It should be able to get you your photo back without much effort, and for free!.

  • Wendy April 29, 2012 09:32 am

    I have a slightly different problem. when I was at a camp with some friends, and we needed a couple a pictures from the camera, a friend took the SD card out of the camera while it was on (we didnt have the camera-computer cord) and the images were visible on the computer then.but now whenever i try to access the card (on computer, camera etc) i get a message asking me to format it. luckly i havnt as i would have lost a lot of pictures. but i dont know which programs to try, because i dont want the computer damaged or hacked, and perfer not to send the card overseas. do you know what i could do?

  • Ella April 22, 2012 05:52 am

    Jameson - Recuva worked perfectly! Thank you so much!

  • Dawn April 1, 2012 07:40 am

    Thanks so much for the tutorial and help..... i lost all my kids Easter Bunny photos today! I think your site just enabled me to get them back!


  • Suzi March 28, 2012 04:07 pm

    @ Jon Winter - Have you had any success? I am in almost the exact same boat and am struggling to recover images tonight!

    I would be grateful to anyone with suggestions!

  • Jon Winter March 21, 2012 08:53 pm

    Any Help would be gratefully received....

    I photographed a fairly major concert at the weekend and about 3/4 of the way through had to start using my back-up SD card.

    It's a kingston card and doesn't seem to write as quickly as it's class would suggest, hence why it's my back-up. Anyway, I got to the end of the concert and had been able to play images back for setting checks whilst using the card, but as I finished my final shots of the evening 150 0f the 225 or so images started saying Cannot Playback (there was still loads of memory left on the card at this point). I got home and transferred my pictures onto my PC hard-drive, they show up as CR2 files and all have correct sizes, but fail to load a preview or open with any software. They are clearly still there but I can't seem to recover them, I've tried: Zar, Pandora, Hetman, Photorescue, stellar and no results.

    If anyone has any suggestions i'd be grateful.

    Thanks in advance

  • Rose February 27, 2012 02:39 pm

    Thankyou! Got all my photos back that I really didn't want to have to pay someone to do it when I could do it myself!

  • Tabetha Fischedr February 20, 2012 04:16 am

    this program worked great for me, It recoverd all my pictures from my photoshoot today . i wish i would of found this a few months back when it did the same thing but i totally threw the disk away but THANK YOU

  • Pedro January 28, 2012 11:41 pm

    Thanks so much ,It's a life saver ,I could recover the pics from my wedding .

  • Rev. Francis Vara Kumar January 27, 2012 04:09 am

    I am so much thankful to your site, as i could able to recover all the ministry pictures. I thought it is lost, but with ZAR it is.

  • Simon January 12, 2012 11:21 pm

    NEED HELP. My SD has some video files in avi format. ZAR and photorec recovered the files, picture files are fine, but the quality of the video files is very bad and there is no sound. Do I have anything else try, or should I contact a professional data recovery company, or I am out of luck?

  • Claire December 27, 2011 02:29 pm

    Thank you so much Helen. All Christmas weekend I was taking pictures of my beautiful grandchildren, such precious moments, and at night when I was checking my pictures I was missing quite a few. I would take the card out of the computer and put it back in and some more would show but not all. That is the first it happens to me. I thought they were gone for sure. I decided to do a google search on it and it brought me to your post and thanks to you I was able to recover all my pictures for FREE..... you really made my day Helen ..... Zar is my must have program for sure! Thank you, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year :)

  • Sally December 26, 2011 11:44 am

    Before finding this amazing article I had downloaded Pandora. When I ran the program I was able to recover 180 pictures. The pictures I was most interested in recovering only 12 of the 28 were recovered. I searched more and found this article. When I ran the Zar program I recovered 883 photos. My new favorite FREE photo recovery program is Zar. Thank you so much for taking your time to screen shot and describe everything.

  • Luis Romero December 12, 2011 03:05 am

    Thanks, Helen. This was soooo helpful!

  • Rosie October 22, 2011 05:47 pm

    I have tried about 3 different programs on a mac, Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery, Test Disk, and DiskDrill. I settled with DiskDrill but the few images I can recover are nothing like the original! They remind me of old cell phone pics, small and blurry. Also, half way through the recovery the mac automatically ejects the card and says it was not ejected properly, so i can't finish the scanning process, I need suggestions! PLEASE!!!

  • Gracie October 14, 2011 11:42 pm

    I have a similar problem but it's with the SD card of my phone some one please help me!

  • Lexi October 6, 2011 09:34 am

    I was recently in a similar situation, but had a physically damaged memory card (like some of the those who commented).

    I am a professional photographer and had just completed a paid shoot when out of nowhere, some of the electronic pins on the top of the card quit functioning. After having about 20 panic attacks, I calmed myself down and started looking into my options. I initially tried a camera chain store's data recovery, but they were unable to save all but 10 out of 300 photos.

    A colleague recommended a service called Recoverfab (, where they actually unsolder the memory card to access the chip inside and pull the data off. I looked into it and shipped my memory card off with my fingers crossed. Lo and behold, within a day of receiving the card, they saved EVERY SINGLE photo (in both .jpg and .nef formats). Not only did they save my photos, but they totally saved my reputation, too. I highly, highly recommend them if you want to get your images back.

    (I do not work for Recoverfab. I am simply a very satisfied customer.)

  • Dominika August 24, 2011 08:57 am

    Ive got the same problem. I cant open my SD card as it keeps asking to format it.
    Im afriad nothing worked for me :( ZAR scanned and restored some deleted files but never restored my pictures that are actually still on my SD. Recuva didnt even see my SD card neither did Pandora and few other programms :( Card reader didnt help either :(
    Is there anything else I can do to get my images out of my card?


  • Rafael August 9, 2011 12:27 am

    Helen, your amazing!! A very good friend of mine has been here two weeks visiting me and other friends. This whole time we took a ton of pictures and the card decided to die over the weekend. This article is a life saver! THANK YOU

  • Arne August 6, 2011 06:26 am

    Finally a tool that worked!
    Thank you very much :-D

  • AussieCoop April 29, 2011 07:22 am

    In '09 I got a Sandisk SD card with a free version of Rescuepro, used it for a friends card and it worked a treat. Then after 12 months they emailed me wanting to know if I wanted to update to the latest version, I looked into it and it turns out that the price you pay (mine was free at the time) is for a 12 month subscription only AND the program you originally purchased cant even be used. So the $20 or $40 you pay turns into a pretty expensive program if you want it active for "just in case" . . . kinda really turned me off sandisk 8-(

  • Reshma Pai April 28, 2011 02:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing this tip and step-by-step process!

  • litziena April 27, 2011 01:10 pm

    great info, i need to try this one. i had this problem before, we paid almost 3 million ( in Indonesian currency ) its about $ 300 to recover all the images very expensive....and still some of the pictures they recovered wwas damage...I wish Ireadthis one back then

  • iftee April 21, 2011 04:14 am

    nice idea!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jameson April 19, 2011 05:47 am

    Oh also, if you can't get all the images off the media, try running the command "chkdsk [Drive Letter]: /f", that will try and repair the file system and recover data that has been mislabeled as free space. Then run Recuva again, or whatever software you use.

  • Jameson April 19, 2011 05:44 am

    You could also use Recuva, a completely free program that will do the same thing. Just change the setting in options to deep scan. It will also recover files from any drive on your computer for free.

  • Michael April 19, 2011 01:44 am

    Zero assumption works pretty well for a free file recovery program, but was unable to recover 100% of the files from my deleted cards and flash drives. Still a great program for free though.

  • Mike @ Types of Photography April 4, 2011 06:13 am

    This article will be a lifesaver for many photographers who have messed something up and lost some data on their SD card they need recovered. I know a few times when photographers have gone into a panic after trying to open up a corrupted SD that has a whole shoot on it.

  • Don | Virginia Beach Wedding Photographer April 2, 2011 03:07 am

    I date my cards and I usually trash them after 2 years. The cost has really come down and they really are very inexpensive.

  • Allison March 31, 2011 02:11 pm

    I would totally call back the shop owner and grill him about why it would cost so much!

  • Kelly March 29, 2011 06:49 am

    I lost a bunch of photos I took when it snowed just north of Phoenix, AZ...the last time it happened was 5 years ago. I used this product:

    The PhotoRecovery was able to find the files. It was the third demo product I tried...the demo found the files, and I paid the $30 for the full version. They also have live support...I didn't need to use it, but it's there.

  • Paul Belanger March 28, 2011 09:43 am

    I highly recommend that when you reinstall the card, after downloading and backing up your picture files, that you use the reformat function on your camera. This will clear all old residuals and leave a clean slate, also if there are any problems that have developed on the card you will be notified then and there.
    Happy photo.s

  • Tiffany March 27, 2011 04:13 am

    My compact flash card is not damaged. I had opened it and dragged and dropped some photos into my picture file and they were there. When I took the card out of the card reader and looked at my picture file the pictures were gone. I did format the card right after I got done dragging the pictures over. I have tried about 5 photo recovery programs and none can help. I haven't used the card since. This program didn't help just shows my card has nothing on it. So you do you think I'm just out of luck

  • Steve Savoie March 27, 2011 02:46 am

    Also there is a program called RescuePro from sandisk that does the same thing and ti can also recover deleted files on a memory card or any hard drive. Although it takes a bit more time . The program recomends that the recovered files be sent to a drive equivalent in size to the initial drive . Other than that , it does wonders.

  • Gaurav March 26, 2011 10:39 pm

    Wow, that's great and informative.
    Can we recover deleted Data/photos also...?

  • LourdesM March 26, 2011 04:51 am

    This is amazing. I have a card that's damaged with photos on it. I can't wait to try this software to recover my
    pictures. Thanks so much.

  • noregt March 26, 2011 03:21 am

    If you have a mac, then Klix from Joe soft is the most affordable and reliable way to recover images. It's not free and costs 30 dollar, but was the best software I could find for an acceptable price.

    And you could of course use Parallels to retrieve the card through windows.

  • Ian March 25, 2011 11:15 pm

    ZAR is good (used it myself), but it couldn't recover *all* my photos - maybe 95%?

    However, I did get *all* my photos back thanks to a colleague running Linux, who used a tool called 'testdisk' - if you know a friendly linux geek, this tutorial should make sense to them:

    Cheers, Ian

  • Amanda March 25, 2011 08:34 pm

    Will this work if the SD card has been physically damaged? I once had one fall out of its case while it was in my purse and it ended up getting banged up too much. I remember my computer didn't even recognize it, and trying to get the computer to recognize it would make it crash. I think I only got it to recognize once, but nothing was viewable.

  • Barry Cunningham March 25, 2011 11:46 am

    I had to solve the same problem this past weekend: I took around 700 photos at the 2011 Cleveland Autorama. When I got home I got the same message from my computer when I tried to upload the images from my 8GB Sandisk Extreme III. I looked up RescuePro, which is Sandisk's recommended recovery program. I downloaded a demo, which seem to do the trick, but only allowed me to actually see 25 of the images until I ponied up $40 to license the program. Fair enough I figured, but when I went to order it, it directed me to the Japanese only site! I left a note for them on Saturday night and did get an email from them on Monday with instructions.
    In the meantime, I found I could get a RescuePro CD for $3.49 from Amazon with free 2-day shipping through Amazon Prime. That was no brainer -- I ordered it. It came yesterday.
    However, being an impatient sort, on Sunday morning I found another open-source photo recovery program: Testdisk / PhotoRec. Downloaded and ran that and had my photos recovered by Sunday afternoon.
    When searching for open source photo recovery programs, I found there were quite a few to choose from. I simply picked one of the most likely looking ones (I think I saw a review of about 10 different ones that rated it highly) and it worked fine. Not a real fancy GUI interface, but I don't plan to spend a lot of time in it and it works. Besides, I have RescuePro now for my $3.49.

  • Kiran @ March 25, 2011 08:35 am

    I don't want to jinx my luck, but thankful for your tips. Amazing :)

  • MikeDaTech March 25, 2011 07:45 am

    Thanks for this post! I haven't had the need (yet) for this, but it is certainly good to know! I will definetly be keeping this one for future reference/

  • Lovelyn March 25, 2011 07:12 am

    I've been luck so far and haven't needed to retrieve any images for a damaged card. I hope my luck will hold out. If it doesn't I know where to go to find out how to retrieve my lost images. Thanks.

  • Adam March 25, 2011 05:54 am

    As a computer nerd and amateur photographer, this post caught my eye. I immediately noticed the [Limited Trial Version] in the screenshot and was unhappy.

    I highly recommend a completely free piece of software by Piriform called Recuva. It's extremely easy to use and does a great job Recuva`ing files (and photos).

    Windows only, however.

  • sillyxone March 25, 2011 04:57 am

    @mikmik: I've used photorec numerous times to help my friends and relatives too, and it works very well. Since the cards are usually small (comparing to HDD space), I usually make an image of the card using ddrescue and work on the image only, leaving the card alone in case it's damaged and can get worse with further read/write.

    More advanced instructions, should work on OSX too (but Apple is moving toward a more-closed ecosystem lately so I'm not sure if things are still the same):

    P.S. I like how Helen used the term "free software" instead of "freeware" (probably unintentionally) :-D

  • GradyPhilpott March 25, 2011 03:14 am

    Recuva is also a good program for recovering files that have been deleted or have been formatted over. It is a product of Piriform. The program has saved my photos and such a number of times.

  • Doug March 25, 2011 03:03 am

    Very timely post. I just recently had been working on my resume and had it stored on an SD card that was doing the same thing when I put it back in the card reader. Looking forward to trying this to recover it instead of rewriting it.

  • Marco Famà March 25, 2011 02:56 am

    Excellent post, thank you very much indeed for sharing.
    I honestly didn't know this tool... heard of a good OnTrack Easy Recovery one.. but this looks pretty, and free BTW!

    Marco Famà photography

  • Peter March 25, 2011 02:45 am

    A very good article.

    I used ZAR to recover a friend's photographs earlier in the year. If it is a simple case of the photographs, or any type of files, deleted then recovery software such as Recuva will normally do the trick, but like in your case the memory card had a serious fault and Recuva could not manage it, hence using ZAR to recover the photographs.

  • phillman March 25, 2011 02:35 am

    I would direct you to Pandora, Windows only I think. I found it easy to use, effective and it's free.
    It's worked for me on 2 occasions
    - first time my only lose your photo's once.
    - second time for a friend...who now thinks I'm a genius, and still thanks me for saving her photos.

  • Celesta March 25, 2011 02:25 am

    Also a good point to remember that even files deleted long ago can sometimes be restored from flash drives or memory cards using special software. Not that people routinely throw away memory cards these days, but think about any time you lend an empty(?) flash drive to someone.

  • MikMik March 25, 2011 01:59 am

    Very interesting post. I've had to do the same one or two times. I used a tool called photorec (I think there are more than one with the same name), and it worked fine. However, if the data to recover is critical, it might be better to leave the work to professionals, since trying to recover it at home could damage it and leave it unrecoverable. And by professionals, I mean data recovery companies, not anyone who will do the same as ourselves.
    BTW, I think I have another moral for this post: don't think your photo is gone after deleting it. If there's something you *really* need to destroy, use proper tools. Otherwise, someone wise enough might be able to recover it.

  • Ian Mylam March 25, 2011 01:46 am

    Might be worth mentioning that this won't work for the Mac operating system - only Windows.

  • Hamselv March 25, 2011 01:28 am

    Interesting. Don't like the When-prompted-that-antivirus-software-may-impact-performance,-click-to-accept-the-warning-and-go-and-disable-your-antivirus-software part, though.