RAW Photo Recovery: How to Recover NEF, CR2 and Other RAW Images

RAW files contain more data than a JPEG — but not every program can work with the larger images. Often, that applies to file recovery programs too. Factor in the fact that different camera brands have different file types from NEF to CR2 and recovery is difficult when files are accidentally deleted, corrupted or even disappear without an explanation.

But, RAW photo recovery isn't impossible — and that extra data may help you out in the long run. Here's how.

What You'll Need:

While there are several good image programs for recovering JPEGs, a good RAW recovery program is a bit harder to find. We recommend Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery because it's capable of recovering many different types of RAW files, plus there's both a Windows and Mac version.

Of course, you'll also need the SD card or hard drive that the image was last seen on, a computer and a way to connect that hardware with the computer — via a card reader or USB port.

How to Recover RAW Photos?

Step 1: Download Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery. Start with the free trial — using the trial, you can see if your files can actually be recovered before making a purchase. Once the file downloads, open it up.

Step 2: Once the application loads, click on the "Recover Photo, Audio And Video" button. Make sure that the SD card or hard drive that the image was lost from is plugged into the computer.

Step 3: Locate the device that the RAW files were lost from on the list and select it. Click on Advanced Settings in the bottom right corner. Inside the pop-up window, select the type of RAW file you are hoping to recover. This step isn't necessary, but selecting the file type you want specifically will speed up the process.

Step 4: Click Scan Now. The software will start looking for files to recover. Depending on the size of the device you are scanning, the advanced settings you selected and the speed of your computer, the process may take some time.

Step 5: Once the software has finished searching for files, the Scan Result window will appear. The files are sorted by type in folders on the left — double click on the folder to view the files that the program detected.

Step 6: Click on the files that you'd like to recover, then hit recover. If you haven't purchased the software yet, you'll see a pop-up window that says you need to activate the software to proceed. Click register, then put in the username and activation key you receive after checking out at the Stellar Phoenix website.

Once the full software has been activated, you can continue with the recovery process by selecting where you'd like to save your recovered files.

Troubleshooting: Still need help with the software? Try looking through the guide from the manufacturer or contacting technical support.

Losing any image is devastating, but the loss of RAW files can be particularly terrifying. Using software like Stellar Phoenix, however, many RAW files can be recovered after accidental deletion and even equipment failure.

Did you recover your files? Share with us in the comments below!

Cover image credit to MIUI.

Hillary Grigonis

Hillary is a technology writer and photographer based in Michigan. While her favorite tech brands are Apple and Nikon, she enjoys exploring all but the most frustrating new devices.

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