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

Last updated: Jun. 22, 2017

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.

In fact, different camera brands have different raw file types. For example, Canon has CR2, Nikon NEF, and Olympus ORF.

It's often hard to recover those items lost. But, for camera raw images, maybe not. Whether your Raw files are accidentally deleted, corrupted or even disappeared for no reason, chances are you can get them back, if you act quickly.

What You'll Need:

While there are several good programs for recovering JPEGs, a good RAW recovery program is a bit harder to find. We've reviewed a list of best digital photo recovery tools in another post (see here).

Frankly, few are capable of handling raw images.

We thus recommend Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery because it's the capabilities (Stellar supports recovery of a wide range of raw images), plus the software offers both a Windows and Mac version so you don't have to worry about compatibility issue.

Of course, you'll also need the SD card or hard drive loaded on your digital camera.

Once you get those items ready, follow the guide below and start the recovery process.

How to Recover RAW Photos?

Step 1: Visit Stellar Phoenix's official website and get its photo recovery program. Once you download or purchase it, install the software on your computer.

Step 2: Launch the program, click on the "Recover Photo, Audio And Video" button located in the center. Make sure that your SD card or hard drive that the lost images were stored is plugged into the computer and can be detected.

Step 3: Locate the drive that your camera card (or hard drive) represents 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 want to recover. This is optional, but selecting the file type you want specifically will speed up the scan 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 seconds to minutes.

Step 5: Once the software has finished searching for files, a Scan Result window will appear. All found files are automatically sorted by type in folders on the left — you can double click on the folder to view them one by one.

Step 6: Click on the files that you'd like to recover, then hit the Recover button. 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, input the username and activation key you receive.

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

Losing precious photographs can be devastating, especially those high-resolution RAW files that mean a lot to you. I hope you find this guide useful, and more importantly you've retrieved your lost files.

One last tip: always back up your photos!

Cover image credit to MIUI.

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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