Canon Photo Recovery: Everything You Need to Know

girl taking pictures with a Canon camera

So you just hit the delete button on your Canon or formatted the memory card, only to find there was still a batch of precious pictures yet to be transferred? Well, there is no need to panic. You can retrieve almost any photos or videos you've erased, provided that you use the right Canon photo recovery software and follow a few simple steps.

In this article, we're going to show you how to "undelete" Canon or "unformat" the card in order to pull back your lost photographs. Note that there is not really a button or function within a Canon camera that enables you to undo such operation, but you can use the technique we're going to show you below to recover your Canon files.

What happens when I delete pictures off a Canon camera?

No matter you delete the pictures via the camera or a computer, the delete function doesn't get rid of the files immediately. What happens is that the data included in those files are now marked as available to be written over — meaning it just tells your camera (memory card) to write new photos or videos to them whenever necessary.

Formatting your Canon camera is similar, it does not erase the data right away unless you continue using the same camera to take more photographs. The newly generated data can overwrite the old data. Once your lost photos are overwritten, it's safe to say they are gone for good.

Why deleted pictures are still recoverable?

As we explained above, although you can no longer access your images from your Canon, they are still there. If you haven't taken any new photos yet, it's almost guaranteed that you'll be able to recover the lost pics. Bottom line — it all depends whether your previously deleted files are overwritten or not.

The good thing is the overwriting activity can take quite some to take place if you are using a high-volume secure digital (SD) or Compact Flash (CF) card. Also, it's extremely hard to tell whether overwriting has occurred or not.

What should I do now?

Stop using your Canon for further shooting. Immediately remove the memory card from your camera or computer (if it's connected), set it aside and make sure it's not going to suffer any physical damage.

Next, it's time to download a recovery software to recover pictures from your Canon camera memory card.

What is the best Canon photo recovery software?

It's hard to say, and it doesn't really matter that much. As long as it works and finds your deleted pictures back, it's good. We've reviewed a list of photo recovery tools in another article, and we found Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery stands out of the crowd with several merits over other alternatives.

Get Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery

It's an easy yet powerful digital camera photo recovery tool specially tailored to restore photos lost from digital media including Canon cameras. According to Stellar, it supports all Canon camera models such as PowerShot G1/SX30/SX150/A1200, EOS 60D/50D/60D/5D/7D/Rebel T3/Rebel T3i, IXUS 220/230/1100, etc. The software supports a range of file formats including not only common image formats like JPG (JPEG), PNG, TIFF, but Canon RAW photo formats such as CR2, CRW. Both a PC and Mac version are provided.

Canon file recovery: step by step guide

With only 3 steps: Connect -> Scan -> Recover, you can get back your deleted or lost pictures effortlessly.

  • Step 1: Download Stellar Photo Recovery and install the software on your computer. Now connect your Canon camera (memory card) to the computer via a USB cable or a card reader. Note: if the card is full-size, directly insert it into the card adapter on your computer as most modern PCs or Macs have it.
  • Step 2: Open the software you've just installed. Click on the blue button located in the center to start. Highlight the drive your Canon card represents and select the photo file types you want to retrieve from the 'Advanced Scan' option (Pro tip: you can also recover RAW photos in the .cr2 or .crw format). Then click 'Start Scan' to initialize a scanning procedure.
  • Step 3: Preview and recover the found images. When the scan is complete (you can also cancel the process anytime you want), preview those found photos and evaluate if they are the ones you have deleted. Then click Recover to save them to the desired destination.

A couple of things to remember

  • The moment you found your photos got deleted or lost, immediately stop taking more photos or videos with your Canon camera immediately and do not save more files to the camera memory SD or CF card.
  • For those who meet memory card errors with your Canon camera, use the photo recovery software to retrieve photos first. Then reformat the card by connecting it to your PC or Mac. After that, try the recovery application to see if more pictures can be found as formatting won’t erase the data immediately. This article how to fix memory card not formatted error for more.
  • If your Canon camera or memory card can’t be recognized or detected, make it work first before you proceed.
  • When it comes to the last step, do not save the recovered photos back to your memory card again to avoid partial data overwriting. Instead, save the files to your computer hard drive first, then transfer them to your external drive if necessary.

Now your feedback

Have you successfully retrieved your Canon pictures using the above technique? Let us know by leaving a quick comment below. We appreciate any feedback you would have or any problems you encounter during the recovery process.

Cover image courtesy to Zorah in Flickr.​

Chris Hwang

Chris is a certified computer technician since 2008. He writes everything related to computer issues and loves helping people solve problems. Currently, he's extending his interests into cloud computing.

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