So you just learned that photo recovery software may be able to recover your deleted or lost pictures? Whether you accidentally deleted these photos from a camera memory card, or they became inaccessible because the card or hard drive had corrupted.
Worse yet, you don’t have a backup. Anyway, you need to retrieve your lost “digital memories”, desperately. I felt you.
Not all digital photo recovery software is created equal. In our experience, some are good at recovering deleted pictures, some are good at recovering images from crashed hard drive. Some took less time to scan the drive, while others can take you hours to finish a scan.
We tested 20+ dedicated photo recovery software on our PC and Mac (yes, you need a computer to run those programs), and handpicked a list of the best ones that stand out.
- The Best Photo Recovery Software Reviewed
- 1. PhotoRec (Windows/Mac/Linux)
- 2. Stellar Photo Recovery (Windows/Mac)
- 3. Recuva (Windows Only)
- 4. RecoverIt Photo Recovery (Windows/Mac)
- 5. Exif Untrasher (Mac Only)
- 6. CardRecoveryPro (Windows Only)
- 7. Picture Rescue (Mac/Windows)
- 8. Remo Media Recover (Windows/Mac)
- 9. Easy Digital Photo Recovery (Windows Only)
- 10. Recover My Photos (Windows Only)
- 11. Disk Doctors Photo Recovery (Windows/Mac)
- 12. Odboso Photo Retrieval (Windows Only)
- How to Choose Photo Recovery Software
The Best Photo Recovery Software Reviewed
Note that all the software below have been tested by our team and we confirm that they are safe to download and use, some are free some require to pay (we’ll make it clear), some programs can only be run on Windows or macOS, while some support both. The software won’t succeed in every case, your luck may vary 🙂
1. PhotoRec (Windows/Mac/Linux)
Don’t be fooled by its name, PhotoRec not only retrieves photos and media files, but it also can recover numerous file formats including ZIP, Office, PDF, HTML and many more (full tech-specific is here).
It’s free to download and use on Windows, macOS, and Linux.
However, the learning curve for handling the program might hold many people away as it’s a command-line tool (above is its main interface).
So, the photo recovery program is best for computer people who are comfortable running on the Microsoft DOS environment.
However, if you are willing to spend a bit of time following this official tutorial, chances are you will learn how to use it and maybe recover your lost pictures.
2. Stellar Photo Recovery (Windows/Mac)
As one of the oldest data recovery service providers since 1993, Stellar, provides a photo recovery software that’s capable of recovering images, videos, and audio files. It supports both general image file formats as well as camera raws.
It can recover these files that are deleted or due to other common issues such as virus infection, corruption, and formatting. Stellar has an easy-to-use interface that makes video recovery quick and efficient.
The file recovery features on this program are in-depth and work great. Best of all, the preview ability of Stellar Photo Recovery makes the program stand out, as it even allows you to preview audio sounds before they are recovered — which is a huge time saver.
It has a deep scan feature that can work with a variety of different devices including computers, phones, SD cards, hard drives, and many more. The company also offers excellent technical support if you run into any issues during the recovery process.
Stellar Photo Recovery comes with both Windows and Macintosh versions, so you can run the software on a PC or Mac.
3. Recuva (Windows Only)
Recuva used to be a free undelete program developed by Piriform, later acquired by Avast back in 2017. The small utility got its word of mouth as it’s super simple to use thanks to the step-by-step guide as shown on the main interface.
Note though, the new maker added a new pricing structure that tries to persuade you to pay but frankly, the value of the Pro versions is limited and we don’t recommend you purchase them unless you really need premium support.
Recuva can work with any rewriteable media you have like memory cards and external hard drives. It can also recover video from damaged disk drives which is a nice feature that not every data recovery program can perform.
Currently, Recuva is for Windows only. Those claim Recuva for Mac is false and misleading.
4. RecoverIt Photo Recovery (Windows/Mac)
If you need to recover photos from several different types of devices, check out recoverit — a well-developed program that may get your photos back from accidental deletion, system crash, or other photo loss situations.
This software will work with almost any device including computers, phones, tablets, SD cards, USB sticks, and many others. It can support a variety of media formats and will work effectively on dozens of different photo/video file types.
Just install the software on your PC or Mac and open it, select the location you want to recover files from. Then click the “Recover” button, RecoverIt will show you the scanning time it needs to complete.
While it’s very intuitive, we did find one issue with the program: it’s very resource-huggy while scanning for a drive, the fan of our PC ran out loud and the computer heated up very quickly.
5. Exif Untrasher (Mac Only)
There are many free data recovery software out there, few are for Mac users. Exif Untrasher is one of the few apps out there.
Developed by a German software engineer who accidentally formatted his camera’s memory card and deleted images erroneously, and he was using a Mac machine!
The utility is able to scan your memory card or external drive for photos in JPEG format and try to recover them.
Note: after you install the app on your Mac. The correct way to open and run it is: go to Finder > Applications, locate Exif Untrasher app, right click and select “Open”.
6. CardRecoveryPro (Windows Only)
CardRecoveryPro, originally designed to retrieve memory cards for lost photos, now also supports recovery of lost photos from a computer’s hard disk drive or solid-state drive.
Once you install the program on your computer, click “Start Scan”, select which drive you want to recover the files from, define your camera brand, and confirm the destination folder you’d like to save the found files, then the program is good to go.
Note: the program is NOT for Mac users.
7. Picture Rescue (Mac/Windows)
Made by Prosoft Engineering (a prestigious data software company based in California), Picture Rescue 2 is another powerful photo recovery software that can be used on either a PC or Mac.
This program is specifically made to recover media files from external storage devices like digital camera media cards and flash disks, which means you can NOT use it to recover lost photos from your computer hard drive.
When inserting your SD card, open Picture Rescue, and the name of your SD card will pop up on the main interface of the software. Getting started, you just need to select the location you want to recover and click the “Scan” button.
Side note: Navdeep Soni, a Pune-based wedding photographer, had a positive experience recovering his wedding pictures using this program and he recommends it.
8. Remo Media Recover (Windows/Mac)
Like its name indicates this photo recovery software is specifically designed to recover media items. Remo claims it’s able to identify and restore up to 50 popular media file types from memory cards, iPods, hard drives and SSDs.
It can restore RAW images from almost all popular DSLRs & camcorder brands.
Their official site offers a lot of useful step-by-step tutorials and troubleshooting guides. If you come across any technical issues during your photo recovery process, those resources are worth taking a look.
9. Easy Digital Photo Recovery (Windows Only)
Easy Digital Photo Recovery is a simple image recovery tool that works amazingly well to recover many types of graphic images (from JPEG, TIFF to many RAW formats).
What we like most about the software is that it scans quickly and allows you to preview all found images making it a lot easier to locate your wanted files.
The program incorporates multiple languages on the Interface including English, French, Spanish, German, etc.
Though the developer’s website has yet to update compatibility information about Windows 10, we tested it on our Windows 10 based PC and it worked perfectly well.
10. Recover My Photos (Windows Only)
If you want to use this simple-to-use photo recovery software, you have to check your Windows version because there are two different Windows versions for you to download – Windows 32-bit and Windows 64 bit.
The terms 32-bit and 64-bit refer to the way a computer’s processor handles information.
The 64-bit version of Windows handles large amounts of random access memory (RAM) more effectively than a 32-bit system.
Tips: If you can’t confirm the right version of your Windows, download the 32-bit system because Recover My Photos 32-bit version will still work for the Windows 64-bit though you may lose some processing efficiency.
In a word, Recover My Photos is still one of the best recovery software in the market. You may get all your lost photos back than you expected.
11. Disk Doctors Photo Recovery (Windows/Mac)
If you have tried all the above photo recovery software and you still can not get your photos back, Disk Doctors Photo Recovery may be your last chance.
This software might be more friendly to earlier Windows versions e.g. Windows XP or Windows 7, but by no means Windows 10.
When we installed the program on our PC (with the latest Windows 10), we found the instruction texts as shown on its interface are too small to read.
However, the software still worked to scan after some simple settings and it did find some photos afterward.
12. Odboso Photo Retrieval (Windows Only)
PhotoRetrieval is another photo recovery software worth trying. It’s developed to recover deleted photos (and videos & audio) from both computer hard drives and portable storage devices.
No matter you lose files due to accidental deletion, disk re-formatting, hardware malfunction, Odboso claims it has no problem handling these situations.
Supported media file formats include common picture (JPG/JPEG, PNG, TIFF), camera RAW image (Canon CR2/CRW, Nikon NEF, Fuji RAF, Pentax PEF, Olympus ORF), and multimedia (3GP, AVI, M4V, MOV, MP4).
How to Choose Photo Recovery Software
We analyze from five different criteria, i.e. security, recovery ability, supported devices, ease of use, and system compatibility. We’ll also include detailed explanations on why they are important.
All recommended software and apps on our site are virus-free, we do so by uploading downloadable files to Valkyrie — a sophisticated file verdict system built by Comodo to detect whether a program contains malware.
We also evaluate whether the program is nondestructive, as software designed for photo recovery should perform read-only operations and shouldn’t cause any damage to the original storage media.
A powerful photo recovery software should be able to recover as many kinds of image formats as possible. Besides standard JPEG, PNG, we also see if the program supports camera RAW formats.
Also somewhat surprisingly, most photo retrieval software available in the market claim they support recovering video and audio files as well.
If a photo recovery software is unable to detect the storage devices e.g. SD card, hard drive, etc. where your lost photos used to be saved, then the software is useless.
We did find several programs that are designed for restoring pictures from a PC hard drive only (NOT external media).
In short, the best photo recovery software should support popular media storage devices.
Ease of Use
Software UI/UX is another important factor we consider.
Some programs are poorly designed and even look alike, we knock them out because they are probably white-labeled products (except the brand name, everything else in the program looks extremely similar or exactly identical).
Also, we have to admit that we prefer GUI software than command-line tools. But we do include PhotoRec on our list because it’s free.
If a Windows photo recovery software is not compatible with the latest Windows, or a Mac photo recovery app can’t be run under macOS Ventura, we have to think twice before including it on our recommended list.
Any other good photo recovery software that we didn’t cover on this list? Feel free to let us know in the comment below.