Photos can bring back memories and remind us of the moments spent with those who are closest to us, which is why losing just a single important photo can feel utterly devastating—almost as if you lost the memory itself.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens to countless people every day. Hardware malfunctions, malware infections, or user errors are among the leading causes of photo loss, and they can’t always be reliably avoided.
The good news is that most lost or accidentally deleted photos can be recovered using photo recovery software, and we know which applications are the best.
No time to study the whole article? We got this! Here’s a quick recap:
Best FREE Photo Recovery Software:
- PhotoRec (Windows/macOS/Linux/DOS/BSD/Sun Solaris)
- Recuva (Windows Only)
- Exif Untrasher (macOS Only)
- Undelete 360 Photo Recovery (Windows Only)
Best Paid Photo Recovery Software:
- Disk Drill Photo Recovery Software ($89.00, Windows/macOS)
- Remo Recover ($39.97, Windows/macOS)
- CardRecovery ($39.95, Windows Only)
- Picture Rescue ($49.99, macOS Only)
- Easy Digital Photo Recovery ($59, Windows Only)
- Recover My Photos ($39.95, Windows Only)
- Disk Doctors Photo Recovery ($49.97, Windows/macOS)
- Odboso Photo Retrieval ($39.50, Windows Only)
- Stellar Photo Recovery ($39.99, Windows/macOS)
- RecoverIt Photo Recovery ($49.95, Windows/macOS)
- EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard ($69.95, Windows/macOS)
How to Select Photo Recovery Software?
Different photo recovery software applications offer different features and recovery capabilities. If you choose the best photo recovery software available, you have a good chance of restoring your photos on the first try. This is what you should pay attention to when selecting a photo recovery application:
- Operating system compatibility: There’s no point in downloading the best photo recovery software application if it’s not compatible with your operating system. Remember that just because a photo recovery software application claims that it’s compatible with Windows or macOS doesn’t necessarily mean that the version you use is supported. If you use, for example, Windows 10, make sure the application is actually compatible with Windows 10.
- File format and storage device support: Virtually all photo recovery software applications can restore all common photo file formats, including JPG, PNG, GIF, and TIFF, from internal and external hard drives, memory cards, and USB flash drives. To restore more exotic file formats, select an application with extensive file format support.
- Ease of use and stability: Most regular users understandably shy away from command-line tools and photo recovery applications with an unintuitive user interface. Even if you don’t count yourself among them, there’s still no reason to use a photo recovery application that makes the recovery process more difficult than it has to be.
- Reputation and user reviews: Any photo recovery software application can promise guaranteed results, but you should trust only applications with excellent reputation and raving user reviews.
- Price: The cost of photo recovery software applications varies greatly. Paid applications typically offer a polished user experience with multiple extra features, whereas free solutions tend to be rather barebones. Many paid photo recovery software applications let you preview files before recovery for free so that you can be certain that your money won’t go to waste.
Best Photo Recovery Software in 2020: Our Picks
Disk Drill is a popular photo recovery software application for Windows and macOS. It has been downloaded more than 10 million times by home users and professionals alike, who like its powerful recovery capabilities and one-click approach to recovery, among many other things. With Disk Drill you can recover all popular image file formats, as well as image file formats you’ve probably never heard of.
Recovering photos with Disk Drill is a piece of cake because all you need to do is click the Recover button and wait for the photo recovery software to take care of the rest. Included with Disk Drill are multiple extra tools intended to safeguard your images and other files against data loss and help you keep your storage devices in good shape.
The latest version of Disk Drill can recover deleted photos even from Android and iOS devices using the same reliable recovery algorithms that have made it possible for thousands of business and home users to recover images and other files that competing recovery software solutions were unable to recover.
You can download both the Windows and the Mac version of Disk Drill for free and use it to scan any storage device to find missing photos and images. Windows users can recover 500 MB for free. Mac users can preview and unlimited number of files, but they can recover them only after upgrading to Disk Drill PRO or Enterprise.
Operating system compatibility: Windows and macOS
- Reputable photo recovery software with excellent user reviews.
- Support for nearly 100 image file formats.
- Comes with multiple extra tools.
- Android and iOS recovery capabilities.
- Easy to use and reliable.
Price: $0 for the basic version of Disk Drill and $89.00 for Disk Drill PRO.
PhotoRec is the best photo recovery software distributed under GNU General Public License (GPLV v2+). Being a command-line application, it can easily scare away less computer-savvy users, who prefer the comfort of a graphical user interface. However, the absence of a GUI is also one of PhotoRec’s biggest strengths, allowing its developers to port it for all popular and not-so-popular operating systems.
Judging by its name, you might think that the only purpose of PhotoRec is to recover photos and images, but that’s not the case. In fact, PhotoRec can recover hundreds of file formats from FAT, NTFS, exFAT, ext2/ext3/ext4, and HFS+ uses read-only access. Make sure to also check out TestDisk, a companion to PhotoRec whose purpose is to recover lost partitions and/or make non-booting disks bootable again.
Operating system compatibility: Windows 10 and older, Linux, macOS, DOS, *BSD, Sun Solaris
- Outstanding portability.
- Open source photo recovery software solution.
- Works even with severely damaged file systems.
Recuva is a photo recovery software tool from the developers of CCleaner. It features a similar user interface, so all CCleaner users should feel right at home. Recuva can recover photos from damaged storage devices, and its advanced deep scan mode is intended to recognize even minute traces of deleted photos.
Recuva used to be completely free, but that changed when its developer was acquired by Avast. After the acquisition, a Pro version of Recuva was introduced, featuring virtual hard drive support, automatic updates, and premium customer support. Paying for extra features and premium support would be fine if Recuva was still in active development. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, which is why we recommend only the basic version, which is still available for free.
Operating system compatibility: Windows 10 and older
- Virtual hard drive support.
- Automatic updates.
- Deep scan for buried files.
Price: $0 for the basic version of Recuva or $24.95 for Recuva Professional
Previously known as Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery, this photo recovery software recovers deleted photos, videos, and audio files from all storage devices. It supports image file formats used by leading camera manufacturers, such as Canon, Nikon, Sony, Kodak, GoPro, and Olympus. Enterprise users apricate its ability to recover lost photos and other data from BitLocker encrypted storage drives. You simply select the encrypted drive and enter your BitLocker password.
Stellar Photo Recovery works even with extremely large storage devices, and it can instantly obtain SMART information of your storage device, volume, or partition. Its user-friendly interface takes no time getting use to, and all features supported by this photo recovery software are presented in such a way that even users with minimum data recovery experience can figure them out on their own.
Operating system compatibility: Windows 10 and older plus macOS Catalina 10.15 and older
- Recovers from formatted, corrupt, and encrypted storage devices.
- Restores photos with original date-timestamp and names.
- BitLocker photo recovery.
Price: $39.99 for Stellar Photo Recovery Standard, $49.99 for Professional, and $69.99 for Premium.
5. Remo Recover
With Remo Recover, you can get your photos back in just four steps. First, you select the drive on which the photos were stored before you lost them. Then you start a scan and preview recovered photos. Finally, you save the recovered photos to a different drive. The advanced recovery algorithms that allow Remo Recover to do its magic can retrieve photos from corrupted or formatted partitions, inaccessible volumes, and an emptied Recycle Bin.
Remo Recover supports all Windows file system (NTFS, NTFS5, FAT16, FAT32, exFAT), as well as file systems used by Mac computers (HFS, HFS+, APFS). You can save your recovery sessions for later and resume them at any later point in time.
Operating system compatibility: Windows 10 and older plus Mac OS X 10.5.x and above
- Photo recovery takes just four steps.
- Supports multiple image file formats.
- 100% safe and secure recovery.
Price: $39.97 for Remo Recover Windows Basic Edition and $59.97 for Remo Recover Mac Basic Edition
As its name suggests, the purpose of CardRecovery is to recover photos from memory cards used in digital cameras and smartphones. It supports all memory card types and formats, including SD, micro SD, CF, xD, Memory Stick Pro, Duo, Pro-HG, MMC, XQD, Sony XQD, and others. Because CardRecovery is designed to be a read-only software applications, it cannot possibly overwrite lost photos and make them unrecoverable.
The company behind CardRecovery, WinRecovery Software, has been developing data recovery software solutions for many years, and its unique SmartScan technology can quickly diagnose difficult data loss situations and provide the most optimal recovery method.
Operating system compatibility: Windows 10 and older
- SmartScan technology.
- Supports all memory card types and formats.
- Fast recovery speed.
Picture Rescue has been helping Mac users recover digital images for many years now. Even though its development is no longer as active as it used to be, it still survives a direct comparison with most leading photo recovery software applications that are currently available.
Since the very first version, Picture Rescue users have been praising its intuitive user interface and excellent usability. All recoverable pictures are displayed as pictures, so you can easily find those that you want to recover, select them, and get them back with a single click.
Operating system compatibility: Mac OS X 10.8.0 or later
- Recover lost digital pictures after deletion, reformatting, or corruption.
- Previews photos before recovery.
- Can securely delete photos so they can’t be recovered.
This easy to use photo recovery software offers multiple scanning modes to tackle all kinds of photo loss scenarios. You can initiate a Quick scan to locate recently deleted photos or run a Deep scan to perform a thorough search of your storage device. Regardless of which mode you select, RecoverIt Photo Recovery will always provide thumbnails for photos and other image files, allowing you to preview them with a simple click.
Hard drives, memory cards, USB flash drives, and other commonly used storage devices are supported, and all you need to do is select your device and initiate a scan. RecoverIt Photo Recovery will then list all recovered files so that you can choose exactly what you want to undelete and what you want to leave behind.
Operating system compatibility: Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP and Mac OS X 10.9 – Mac OS X 10.15
- Multiple scanning modes.
- Restores all commonly used image file formats.
- Provides thumbnails for image files.
Price: $49.95 for a lifetime license.
Developed by Carsten Blüm, a Germany-based software developer, Exif Untrasher is a straightforward and lightweight Mac utility for recovering photos in the JPEG file format. Because it does just one thing, it’s exceptionally easy to use and reliable. It really takes just two steps to recover your photos with Exif Untrasher: select the source (such as a memory card or USB flash drive) and specify the destination folder.
Exif Untrasher is localized in English, German, French, and Italian, and you can download it free of charge directly from Carsten Blüm’s personal website. Just like when installing all other apps that don’t come from the App Store, make sure to enable the installation of the app from the Settings & Privacy menu in System Preferences.
Operating system compatibility: Mac OS X 10.10 or higher
- Localized in English, German, French and Italian.
- Support for all storage devices recognized by macOS.
- Straightforward and lightweight utility.
Since 2004, EaseUS has been offering a broad range of software tools intended to help users manage their data. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is a complete data recovery solution for Windows computers, featuring support for over 1,000 file formats, including those used to store photos.
The basic version of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard can be downloaded for free and used to recovery up to 2 GB. Absolutely no computer skills are needed to recover lost photos with this photo recovery software, and you can preview files before recovery so that you don’t waste the generous recovery limit on photos you don’t care about.
Operating system compatibility: Windows 10 and older.
- Recovers data from various data loss situations.
- Trusted by millions of users worldwide.
- Requires zero technical knowledge.
Price: $0 for the basic version of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard and from $69.95 to $149.95 for the Pro version.
Featuring specialized algorithms capable of quickly recognizing a multitude of image file formats, Easy Digital Photo Recovery is intended to help both professional and amateur photographers recover deleted and lost pictures. It delivers a great speed and ease of use, but it lacks support for file systems used by Linux and macOS.
Easy Digital Photo Recovery also doesn’t officially support Windows 10, but it seems to run on the operating system just fine. You can download a demo version of this photo recovery software application for free, but be ready to pay $59 for a personal license and $99 for a business license.
Operating system compatibility: Windows 2000 / XP / Vista / 7 / 8
- Support for many image file formats.
- Suitable for beginners and pros alike.
- Demo version available.
Price: $59 for a personal license and $99 for a business license
As far as image recovery software goes, Recover My Photos is fairly unknown, but that’s not a good reason to avoid it. In fact, if you have a very old Windows computer that’s still running Windows 98, ME, or NT, Recover My Photos could be your only option because not many image recovery software applications can be installed on a computer with one of these operating systems and just 128 MB of RAM.
Recover My Photos can recover deleted or lost images and videos from memory cards, USB flash drives, hard drives, and other storage devices—even if they’ve been formatted. The recovery process consists of just four steps, so most users should be able to figure it out without any help.
Operating system compatibility: Windows 98 / ME / NT / 2000 / XP / 2003 / Vista
- Very low hardware requirements.
- Compatibility with Windows 98.
- Simple recovery process.
Disk Doctors Photo Recovery can recover photos even from formatted or severely corrupted storage devices. Its simple user interface is so intuitive that anyone can instantly figure it out, but it’s clear that it comes from the Windows Vista era.
Disk Doctors Photo Recovery supports common lossy and lossless image file formats (BMP, PNG, TIF, TIFF, JPEG, JPG, GIF, PSD), as well as RAW image file formats used by leading camera manufacturers, including Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Minolta, and others. You can save recovery sessions and continue from where you left off.
Operating system compatibility: Windows 2000 / XP / Vista / 7 / 2003 or 2008 server and Mac OS X 10.4 / 10.5 / 10.6
- Three-step recovery wizard.
- Ability to save recovery sessions.
- Support for RAW image file formats.
Price: $49.97 for the Windows version and $69.97 for the Mac version.
Odboso Photo Retrieval works differently than most other photo recovery solutions. Instead of retrieving all lost or deleted files from a selected storage device, it looks only for a specific file format. As a result, you don’t have to go through thousands and thousands of recovered files just to find one missing image. On the other hand, it can be somewhat difficult to recover lost photos if you don’t know their exact file format.
In addition to common image file formats, such as JPG, PNG, and GIF, Odboso Photo Retrieval also supports several RAW image file formats and video file formats, and it can recover them from all standard storage devices. Windows 10 isn’t officially supported, but we didn’t experience any issues during our testing.
Operating system compatibility: Windows 2000 / XP / Vista / 7 / 8
- File format-based image recovery.
- Doesn’t write any data to the recovered storage device.
- Lets you preview the found photos.
Undelete 360 is a freeware picture recovery software application intended for home users. While it does support all commonly used storage devices and file formats, its recovery capabilities are fairly limited compared with other applications described in this article. Its biggest strength is its intuitive user interface with a large preview window and easily accessible search filters.
Thanks to its freeware license, you can download Undelete 360 free of charge and use it without any limitations. Unfortunately, the developers of this picture recovery software application released the last update in 2010. For the time being, Undelete 360 runs just fine on Windows 10, but there’s absolutely no guarantee that it won’t stop running in the future because the operating system isn’t officially supported.
Operating system compatibility: Windows 2000 / XP / Vista / 7 / 2003 or 2008 server
- Unlimited free image recovery.
- Intuitive user interface.
- Preview functionality.
If you’re looking for the best photo recovery software application for Windows or macOS, Disk Drill is an easy choice. Its straightforward user interface and one-click approach to image recovery make it easy for amateurs and professionals alike to recover all lost or accidentally deleted photos from hard drives, memory cards, USB flash drives, and other storage devices.
Did You Know?
JPEG was introduced in 1992 as one of the first image file formats to use the discrete cosine transform (DCT) technique for lossy compression. This technique, which was first proposed by Nasir Ahmed in 1972, makes it possible to compress image files down to much smaller file sizes. JPEG arrived right when the internet was just starting to take off, which only accelerated its adoption. To this day, it remains the most popular format for containing lossy and compressed image data.