How Do I Get Back Deleted Photos from My Samsung Galaxy S3?

[Update August 3, 2016: this guide should work for Samsung Galaxy S4, S5, S6 too.]

A reader who's using Samsung Galaxy S3 phone sent me this question:

"I don't know whether I have chance to retrieve the accidentally deleted photos. Since I am always used to rely on my handy Galaxy S3 to take photos, yesterday I took about 100 shots in a friend’s wedding. Today when I was playing with my phone and due to misoperation, I couldn't believe I erased an important album which contained all the wedding photos. Oh my god. Can you tell me if it is still possible to get those precious pics back? They are urgently needed at the moment! Please help!"

After reading the question, I feel the panic she has experienced. Personally I've made several mistakes on my Android phone. One mistake was that I didn't lock my phone and a younger family member took it and erased some photos (I guess he tapped on the wrong buttons).

Anyway, back to the topic, it is still possible to recover some or all of the pics you've removed from the Samsung Galaxy S3. But there is no guarantee that chances can be 100% due to the nature of data recovery.

Why is that? Because the Samsung S3 phone is different from other storage devices. On one hand, it offers users 16-64GB internal memory; while on the other hand a MicroSD card slot is provided. So simply put:

If your deleted photos were stored on the mass memory (MicroSD card), they can be relatively easier to to be retrieved. In general, you only need several steps:
  1. Connect your phone SD card to a PC or Mac. You may need a card reader to load the MicroSD card first, and insert it into the USB port on your computer.
  2. Open your web browser and download a free photo recovery tool. If you're on a Windows PC, I recommend Recuva, see tutorial here (or Pandora Recovery is great too). For Apple Macs, check this post for some free Mac file recovery programs.
  3. Install the recovery program and launch it. Scan your phone sd card and recover those pictures it finds. The whole process should be quite easy.

However, if the erased photos were saved on the internal memory of the phone, things can be a little tricky. As you know, Galaxy S3 does not have UMS mode (USB Mass Storage), so no software is able to recognize the device as a USB mounted device. Therefore third-party programs like Recuva won't be able to pick up the device and allow recovery of deleted images.

But that does not mean you should give up. Here are two solutions:
Good luck! Remember to back up your phone on a regular basis.

Ontrack Capable of Retrieving Data from Crashed iPad

At CES 2013, we talked to Ontrack Data Recovery who told us they were able to recover data from a customers iPad that was heavily damaged in a plane crash. What Ontrack Data Recovery do is take apart the device, in this case an iPad, and take the physical memory chips off. After this step, they image the chip raw, and then piece the data back together in the same pattern that is normally done by the controller chip.

Impressive! Take a look at the video below.

Any Freeware to Undelete Items Emptied from Mac Trash?

I received a question from a student, asking me this Mac related recovery question:
I just emptied the Trash bin on my MacBook and later found I just made a big mistake as I have deleted an important folder (full of desperately needed documents & pics). From the net I know that as long as those files are not "secure deleted", chances of recovery are there. But I have spent a lot of time working on it by trying several Mac undelete software, none of free trial versions allow me actually recover my folder & files unless I register the application (which means I have to pay for it). Please help me out and give me some freeware for undeleting trashed mac files. PLEASE tell me I am still a student. I'm desperate for help.
[update on June 20, 2016: if your MacBook is with a solid state drive (SSD) instead of a hard disk drive, things can be quite different. Simply put, when you erase a file from SSD-based Mac, it’s beyond recovery. This is due to how the “Trim command” organizes a file in a SSD. Thanks to Lorena for pointing out this. Read her macbook tip here.]

Well, unless the Mac disk has been completely destroyed or broken, there is a chance to retrieve the files. So, my first advice would be try your best to protect your Mac machine from any physical damage.

And then the next step to recovering your data is to stop using the drive containing the lost files. Mac OS X overwrites free space very quickly with temp files. If your missing files are on your boot drive you will want to shut down your Mac right away.

Freeware to Undelete Trashed Files on Mac

If your Mac is running OS X Snow Leopard or above (including latest Yosemite, El Capitan), you can rely on this powerful backup tool - Time Machine, which is equipped with Mac machine that can backup almost anything and everything on a Mac timely. Once you deleted or lost some files, just enter your Time Machine browser, you'll easily restore your trashed Mac Items. This video shows how:

If you haven't set Time Machine or it just fails to retrieve your data, then I suppose the only way is to use a third-party Mac data recovery tool, see this list of totally free Mac data recovery software.

In fact, when a file is deleted off your Macintosh hard drive or partition, it's only the address of the file that is deleted from the files table. It's like having a huge book that has come unbound and lost its table of contents. The pages are there, but without the table of contents, it's much harder to find a specific chapter. Mac undelete software rebinds the book and scours the deepest parts of the hard drive that you can't access.

How to Recover Data from External Hard Drive Not Recognized by PC

Whether you are using a PC or a Mac, having a handy external hard drive (such as Western Digital Essential 500GB, Seagate FreeAgent 1TB etc) is definitely necessary when it comes to backing up important data just in case.

[Update July 12, 2016: I now use Google Drive for additional backup. You can also use other online backup services. Price of such services have been dropping. In my opinion, due to constant risk of using hardware for backup purposes, it's best to turn to cloud storage]

But the question is what if your external drive cannot be recognized or detected by your computer? How do you recover data from an external HDD not even recognized? These problems do happen here or there.

Today I'm going to show you how to fix two common issues related to data loss from an external HDD.

If Your External Drive Can be Detected by a Computer, but It Shows Errors...

In this case, your drive should be found via "Disk Management" or "My Computer" (or "This PC" if you are under Windows 10) when it is connected to a PC. But typical symptom is when you attempt to access the drive, it pops out some error messages such as “the drive is not formatted”, "The drive cannot be accessed", "RAW drive is not initialized" etc. The cause for this can be the drive is corrupted, faulty due to improper usage, or simply because the disk has been used for too many times (every technology has its own lifespan(.

Here're some general fixes:
  • Step 1: See if you can use Recuva (or Pandora Recovery) to retrieve some data. Connect your external hard drive to a PC first, then download and install the recovery program to start a quick scan (no luck? go Deep Scan after that).
  • Step 2: Once you retrieve your data, try formatting the faulty external using Windows internal format option. Go to Disk Management and select your drive and click "Quick Format" function.
  • Step 3: Now your drive should work normally again. Note: if you have important data, you can re-use the data recovery software to scan your device again. Because a quick format won't erase the data immediately. Learn more from this external drive formatted recovery guide as it explains how.

If Your External Drive Cannot be Recognized or Detected…

There are many possible causes for this issue, for example, outdated Windows driver, bad sectors, faulty USB cable, physical damage etc.

Try these steps to see if you can fix it.
  • Step 1: Re-connect your external drive to the PC via another USB cable (to eliminate faulty issues). If it doesn't work, go to next.
  • Step 2: Check if there are some drivers missing or you forget to install on your PC. The best way is to go to the official website of your external drive provider and download the latest drivers. Western Digital here, Seagate here.
  • Step 3: If there is no problem with the driver, then most likely your external drive has suffered physical damage or severe bad sector errors etc. I highly recommend you contact your device manufacturer for services.

Happy Holiday Season to All

We all are waiting for the big days coming.

We all look forward to a new year – 2012.

Best regards to all of my family, friends & my blog readers.

Known, unknown… does not matter.

Let's just enjoy the happy holiday seasons!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!