How to recover photos from a micro SD card

Written by jonas hogg
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How to recover photos from a micro SD card
Micro SD adaptors typically look like standard Secure Digital cards, only smaller. (sd - karte front image by Otmar Smit from

Micro SD, short for Micro Secure Digital, cards are the latest in miniature flash drives in 2010. Increasingly, digital cameras and cell phones are using these cards, as their small size (about the size of the nail on your pinky finger) takes up less space in the device itself. Unfortunately, like any memory device, Micro SD cards can be corrupted by anything from static electricity to improperly removing the card, causing whatever is stored on them to become inexplicably irretrievable. But it is possible to recover most of the data.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Micro SD adaptor
  • Memory card reader
  • FireWire or USB cable

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  1. 1

    Maintain the connection between your memory card or camera and the computer. At the first sign of trouble, many people's first response is to disconnect the camera or memory card without ejecting it. If a memory card is unplugged from the computer without ejecting, it is similar to yanking the computer's power cord from the wall, which can corrupt the data.

  2. 2

    Double check the connection between the camera or card and the reader. Also check the reader's connection to the computer. It might become necessary to unplug one of the components to check or reseat a connection. To do so, eject the drive by finding the icon in the bottom right of the screen if using Windows or by dragging the item to the trash bin on a Macintosh.

  3. 3

    Open the Recycle Bin (PC) or Dustbin (Mac) to see if the files are there. If they are, restore them by right-clicking or option-clicking and selecting "restore" or "undelete" from the menu. This will send the deleted files to their original location, but will cause an error if the card or camera is not connected.

  4. 4

    Utilise data recovery software to recover corrupted or damaged files. There are many companies offering do-it-yourself data recovery software available both online and in brick-and-mortar stores, and many offer free software trials. The free versions will have many features disabled but can be used on a try-before-you-buy basis. Some advanced data recovery options are available for power users, but most data recovery software has a simple point-and-click interface. Some examples of photo recovery programs can be found under Resources.

  5. 5

    Contact a data recovery specialist for the most thorough (and expensive) method. Professional data recovery specialists, using specialised hardware and propriety software, often can restore photos and data, even from damaged cards. Remember to pack your card or camera in a static discharge bag when shipping or dropping off for service. If shipping, also remember to pack them securely.

    Examples of professional data recovery can be found under Resources.

Tips and warnings

  • If you are having trouble disconnecting or ejecting the drive, try using Unlocker, a free program for Windows.
  • Never disassemble a Micro SD Card.

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