Troubleshooting/SD Card Data Recovery

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How To Recover Data From An SD Card

My Samsung Galaxy phone had a 30 GB SD Card which was used by the camera for photos and videos. Other data had also been moved to external storage - the SD Card - to minimize the demand on the phone's internal storage.

Unfortunately, one day all the photos seemed to disappear. Gone. A couple of months since a previous backup too!

I removed the SD card from the phone, forced the camera and other apps to use the Internal storage, and tried to figure out how to recover lost data from a SD card which has been corrupted or deleted. The solution is here:-


Possible Solutions

I tried these steps first.

Use a card Reader
The SD Card was removed from the phone. Placing it in a card reader connected to my laptop with USB I used Windows Explorer to view the content. About 30 MB. Way short of what would have really been there! No photos or videos found. Folders empty. It would have been easy to overwrite the data I wanted to recover.
Recovery Software
There are a lot of software applications which are capable of recovering lost or deleted data from storage media including SD cards. I tried several 'free' ones. Each successfully identified several gigabytes of data - better than the 30 MB found by Windows Explorer - including all the photos. However, although advertised as free the software had to be registered before actually recovering the data. Finding the files was just a teaser. Worth considering if the data is critical, but there had to be an alternative.
Samsung Kies
This application is used to connect a Samsung phone to computer to synchronise data and more. Thinking it might read the SD Card I put that back in the phone, connected the phone to my computer and restarted it. Then looked at it with Kies. No joy. It couldn't see the lost data.


What Worked

The best working solution was to use the software application Recuva. It was developed by Piriform, the same company that developed CCleaner - a program I trust and use often. The free version really is free. A professional version is also available at a modest cost. I didn't know whether Recuva would work on an SD Card but downloaded it from here, and installed it on my laptop.

With the SD Card in the card reader connected by USB the Recuva application recognised the card and identified all the files that could be recovered. The recovered files were all copied to a selected directory on the laptop. The original file structure was lost, so videos, photos, music files and everything else was all copied to the same folder, but who cares! It was nice to see it work.

After checking that the recovered files were readable - photos opened in a photo viewer - I closed Recuva, ejected the USB card reader, placed the SD card back in the phone, formatted the external storage (the SSD card) in the phone, and life was good. Problem solved!


Why This Worked

Recuva is one of many software applications capable of reading data on all kinds of storage media, including deleted data. Unless data is over-written, a deleted file is still there, it just isn't indexed and can't be found by normal file browsers. Recuva scans a drive and looks for file headers which contain information about the file, like the file type. If the file is not fragmented then Recuva can assemble the data and copy it to another location where it will be indexed for us to view.

More information about Recuva, from the Piriform website, is here:- Recuva Documentation


Corruption of an SD Card can happen to anyone. You could lose the data, or you could lose the complete phone. Same result. So here are some ideas I've implemented:-:-

  1. Regular backup - I was already doing this so although there was several gigabytes of data on the corrupted drive it was actually only a small percentage of my total data. It's heartbreaking to hear stories of people who had their phone stolen and all their family photos are irretrievable. Copy all your photos to a computer. And then copy them to a portable backup drive.
  2. Use Cloud Storage - I already subscribed to a cloud storage service so by letting the phone synchronise data automatically all the photos would be somewhere safe and accessible from a computer. Balance privacy risk and security against convenience and this could work for you too. Some services are free, which makes it an attractive option. Just remember that if you delete photos or files from your phone they will also be deleted from your cloud storage. But if your phone is lost or stolen get to the cloud storage quickly and copy all the files to a computer - or have that happening automatically too. It's great for peace of mind. Particularly when travelling.
  3. Use Internal storage for critical files, like photos. It's not uncommon for external storage in a phone to be corrupted but if applications use an SD card for storage it really won't matter. Change the storage preference on the app or reinstall it and it will continue to run. But now I let the camera use the internal memory only. It is less likely to fail or suffer data loss.

I hope these ideas have been helpful.