How to Restore Deleted Files on an SD Card

by Jeff Grundy
Deleted files on SD cards do not disappear from a drive completely until overwritten with new data.

Deleted files on SD cards do not disappear from a drive completely until overwritten with new data.

Many modern mobile devices such as digital cameras, MP3 players and smartphones include a limited amount of internal memory for storing data. One medium often used to expand storage capacity in mobile devices is a Secure Digital card. Using a USB cable for your mobile device or a card-reader for the SD card, you can transfer data between your computer and the card relatively easily. When working with data on the SD card, though, you may delete files inadvertently and discard a music track, photo or video you want to keep. Depending on how you deleted the file, recovering it might be as easy a few mouse clicks. Other times, you may have to use third-party software to restore files deleted on an SD Card.

Restoring Files from the Recycle Bin

Connect the data cable for the card reader to an empty USB port on your computer, if your computer does not have an SD card reader built in. Wait a few seconds for Windows to configure the device and install a driver for it automatically.

Insert the SD card into the external or built-in card reader, then wait for Windows to detect the card and configure it as a removable storage device. If the Windows AutoPlay window opens, close it by clicking the "X" in the upper-right corner.

Right-click the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop, then click "Open."

Highlight and select the deleted files on the SD card you want to restore to the device.

Right-click one of the selected files on the SD card and then click "Restore." Windows restores the deleted file to its original folder on the SD card.

Restoring Files on a SD Card Deleted Outside Windows

Open your Web browser and navigate to a site that offers a free undelete application that enables you to restore deleted files on an SD card. Applications such as EaseUS Free Data Recovery, Easy File Undelete and Panda Recovery are free and provide relatively simple user interfaces. These enable you to recover deleted files from SD cards and other types of flash drives or external hard drives, and usually can recover deleted files on an SD card even if you already emptied them from the Windows Recycle Bin. Download the undelete program's setup file (links in Resources) and save it to a folder on your computer.

Click Start, then "Computer." In Windows Explorer, browse to and open the folder where you saved the setup file for the undelete program. Double-click the setup file and then follow the prompts to install the undelete program. Restart your computer if the setup wizard or Windows prompts you to do so.

Connect the card reader and SD card to the computer if you have not already done so. Wait for Windows to detect and configure the devices automatically.

Open Windows Explorer again by clicking Start and then "Computer." Note the drive letter assigned to the SD card by Windows.

Launch the new undelete program, and then select the drive letter for the SD card in the "Drive to Search," "Drive with Deleted Files" or other similarly named drop-down list or list box. Click the "Search" or "Find Deleted Files" button and wait a few minutes for the undelete program to search the SD card for deleted or changed file indexes and tables. These indexes and tables indicate which files Windows or the portable device marked for deletion and removal. Depending on the size of your SD card and the number of files the device -- both active and deleted files -- the search might take only a few seconds or several minutes. After the undelete program finishes searching the SD card, it displays a list of deleted filenames. Some undelete programs may also display an icon or label indicating the chances of successful recovery for each deleted filename on the list.

Highlight and select the files on the SD card that you want to recover, and then click "Recover," "Recover To," "Save In" or another similarly named button or drop-down list. Select a folder on your computer hard drive in which to save files you recover from the SD card. Click "Start," "Recover" or "Undelete" on the program menu or tool bar and then wait as the undelete program attempts to recover the deleted files from the SD card and copy them to the folder you selected on your hard drive. If the undelete program is successful in recovering files from the SD card, it displays a message window with details of files recovered successfully. If the program cannot recover certain deleted files, it displays a messages with details about those as well.


  • With the Windows Recycle Bin, you can improve your chances of recovering deleted files on an SD card considerably if you attempt to restore them immediately after realizing you erased them inadvertently. The same applies to files you delete on your mobile device and attempt to recover using an undelete application. In most cases, the longer you wait to try to restore deleted files, the less the chance of a successful recovery. Your chances for recovering deleted files on the SD card diminish even further if you write or copy new files to the device. Therefore, it is best to attempt to recover files with Recycle Bin or an undelete program as soon as you realize you deleted them.


  • You can use the Restore function in Recycle Bin for files on an SD card only if you deleted the files in Windows and did not overwrite the device with new data. If you deleted the files on a cellphone, MP3 player or other device, you cannot restore them in the Windows Recycle Bin. Additionally, Windows Recycle Bin may not be able to recover files on an SD card if you reboot the computer before attempting to use the Restore function.

Items you will need

  • USB card reader

About the Author

Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Photo Credits

  • David Paul Morris/Getty Images News/Getty Images