Recovering files from your SD Card using Recuva – A Quick Tutorial

A few days ago our daughter came downstairs and asked where all the pictures on her mobile phone had gone, and if this was anything to do with the fact she’d just “formatted” her SD card. Silently I screamed to myself and tried to not look like a desperate father. Now although I know that a “quick format” normally doesn’t destroy the files on an SD card (it just rips out the index of files) I must admit I’ve never had to recover a file from a formatted disk before. Google wasn’t much help, as many of the top links were all trying to sell me a data-recovery service. It would have been worth it – the most recent photos our daughter took are from a recent try to New York. These were all, naturally, not back up to a PC or the cloud, or anywhere. In the end I found the very-Yorkshire sounding “Recuva” software from piriform (As we say in Yorkshire “Ay Lad, Do you wanna Recuva yer files ?”). Cutting a long story short I managed to rescue the files, but before I return the SD card to our daughter I though it was worth doing a short tutorial on the Recuva software, so that if you are in the same situation you may be able to avoid a family crisis.

The first thing you need to do is not panic. Shutdown the device with the SD card in and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to safely remove it.

Then it’s time to go to your PC and grab the Recuva software. It’s available at the piriform network via either the filehippo download platform or from piriform’s own website. As the screenshot below shows, there are a number of versions of the software. I used the free version.

I’ve never been a fan of registry cleaners, so stick with the free version or take the professional version if you want to than the developers for saving your digital life.

At the time of writing this the most recent version of the software is v1.57.1087 published on the 8th Jun 2016. The software is also available from a number of other sources (I grabbed mine from the PC Pro magazine download site, because I’m a subscriber there). You will find this version of the software provides you with an executable named rcsetup153.exe.  To install the software just double-click on the downloaded file, and accept any standard warning messages from your Operating System about installing software.


The other thing you’ll probably need is some form of adaptor to allow your PC to read/write to the SD card. The small SD card that’s stuck in your (android) phone is actually an micro SD card. Normally you will need either a USB adaptor that you can plug your micro SD card in, or if you have an SD card reader you can use a microSD to SD card adaptor, which you may already have got from when you bought the microSD card. The later adaptor looks like the one illustrated (available from Amazon and other fine retailers):

Now you are all set to plug the miscroSD card into your PC and fire up the software (and clikc past the message asking you for permission to change your PC). Clicking on the Recuva icon will offer you the chance to run the Recuva wizard (see below).

If you don’t like running “Wizards” you can disable this at start-up.

As I’m not a big fan of using a wizard to guide you through software, click on “Cancel” to bring up the main Recuva software screen. You will need to select the correct drive location from the drop-down box on the top-left of this screen (see below). This bit really needs you to know where to find the microSD card you just inserted.

In my case the microSD card is now in drive I:. Select the correct drive then click on the Scan button (top-middle of the screen.) You may well end up with the following dialog box. Don’t worry you will need to perform a Deep Scan.

Don’t panic. This happens

Having formatted the microSD card it’s very likely that your files won’t show up immediately. It’s time to perform a Deep Scan, then go and get yourself a sandwich whilst you wait. It’s also a good point to talk to your family about back-up policies. Once you kick off the deep scan you should see the far more reassuring dialog box like below:

Good News and Bad News. Recuva has found files (396), but it’s going to take a while to find them all.

At the end of the Scanning. You will be presented with a list of all the found files:

The found files – showing their original directory paths.

Only two important steps to go. Select the files you want to recover – click on the check-box marked Filename (top-left) and then click on recover. This will bring you to the standard dialog box for your Operating System asking you where you want to save the files to. It’s probably a good idea to, in the first instance, save your files somewhere safe on your PC and then begin the process of copying the files back to the microSD card. You will finally then see the most comforting of dialog boxes telling you that your lost files are being “Recuva’d”.

Now you may do your happy dance.

Final screenshot is when you’ve finished recovering the files. As you can see our daughter was lucky to recover over three thousand files.

Seriously, you SHOULD have this card backed up.

Is there something I should know ?

  • I like to put Duran-Duran puns in my blog.
  • You need to run Recuva as with administrator privileges under Windows.
  • The software bundle, or at least the one I downloaded, generously installed CCleaner Pro. If you don’t want it you can uninstall it.
  • There is an option (under Options -> Actions -> Recovering) that allows you to “Restore Folder Structure”. This is useful if you plan to return all your recovered files back to the microSD card.
  • I have no relationship with Piriform, the developers of Recuva, other than as a user. I neither solicited or received any payment for this blog. I wrote it because I thought it was useful software.
  • Sorry I can’t do support on Recuva. If you have a problem that you cannot fix yourself it’s worth investing in your local PC support person/organisation. It’s probably going to be cheaper than losing those important files you forgot to back-up.
  • If you don’t want this to happen in the first place think about a cloud storage solution. Dropbox automatically uploads every picture I take.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve read all the way through this tutorial, it may have occurred to you that this software could be used maliciously against you. Think, for example, when you get rid of that old PC that you send for recycling. Make sure that all your old data is properly deleted before you give it away. There are lots of great solutions out there for this. Consider Darik’s Boot and Nuke, Eraser, Bleachbit, Paragon Disk Wiper and O&O Software SafeErase.




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1 Response to Recovering files from your SD Card using Recuva – A Quick Tutorial

  1. Jason William says:

    I used recovery software like Recuva, Stellar Photo Recovery in my previous experiences. Both software recover lost or deleted files from SD card. Thank you very much!

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