How can I Recover Pictures, Videos from a Mobile Phone?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader 'Lagrangestacy' writes:

" Dear Dennis,

How can I recover a video from today that was deleted from my phone? "

My response:

You didn't mention which phone you have, so I will provide general information on file recovery for mobile phones using a PC.

First and foremost: mobile phones use either micro SD memory card to store data, or internal phone memory, or both. Depending on where the deleted video is stored, you can try to use your Windows PC to recover the files. You can either:

a) Take out your micro SD card in your mobile phone and attach it to the PC using a memory card adapter. I suggest using an all-in-1 card reader to read the media as it will work via USB, which means it's portable and can be used on more than one PC. Please note that some PCs already have memory readers attached to them, but may not be compatible with newer SD media (you will know this is the case if after you plug in the card to the PC, nothing shows up via 'My Computer'). That said, the all-in-1 card reader I've linked to appears to be compatible with most media. If you don't want to go this route, you can also try option (b) below.

b) Hook up your phone to directly to the computer. In this scenario, the phone becomes the 'card reader' for both internal memory and any micro SD memory card you have attached. To connect the phone to your PC, you will need a mini USB cable or micro USB cable (most newer phones use micro USB). Also note that the same cable should be able to charge your phone when directly attached to the PC - so it's nice to have more than one of these cables lying around. (You could also try a USB wall adapter if you want to plug it in directly to the wall rather than a PC and use it as a charging station, but this won't help you to recover files - it only charges the phone.)

Connecting a Mobile Phone to a PC

If you decided to use option (b) above to access your mobile phone storage, you may need to do one or more of the following:

1. Via phone settings: depending on your phone, set the phone 'USB mode' as 'mass storage device' (or similar). For example, see this article on how to set your USB mode to a mass storage device on an Android phone. If you attached your phone to your PC and you can't access its storage, you may need to disconnect the phone and set the USB mode and try again. Also note #2 below.

2. Via phone settings: you may need to specify which memory to use (internal or external) when hooked up to a PC.

3. If after you plug the phone into the PC and it is not recognized via My Computer, you may need to download a phone driver in order to access its storage. This software is usually free from the manufacturer.

Freeware Windows Undelete Program

Once you have the micro SD inserted to the PC, or the phone is connected to the PC and you can access its storage, you can try to use any freeware undelete program for Windows to attempt a file recovery - but please note some important caveats mentioned below. For a freeware file undelete / recovery program, you can try Glary Undelete:

Mobile Phone File Recovery Caveats

Mobile phone file recovery won't work in some scenarios. Here are a few:

First, when a file is 'deleted' on a micro SD memory card, it is not technically removed; it still takes up space on the card until another file overwrites it. That is why file recovery is possible. However, if you overwrote the space occupied by the previously deleted video, recovery will not be possible. For example: if you had a 2GB memory card and you made a 1GB video, then deleted that video, it would remain on the card. If you then recorded a 2GB video on the same 2GB card, the previous 1GB video will have surely been overwritten and therefore unrecoverable.

Second, file recovery via a PC may not work on internal storage for phones (depending on which phone you use). That's because most newer phones use an SQL database to store their data on internal memory. In such a case, using a freeware undelete program via a Windows PC won't work because the undelete software only supports RAW, NTFS or FAT file systems, and SQL databases are neither of those.

As a last resort, you can try mobile phone undelete software, but those usually cost money and may or may not be successful for the same reasons I mentioned above.

Other Ways to Recovery Videos or Images on Phones?

Anyone who is reading this article is welcome to chime in on their recommendations and / or thoughts on recovering videos or pictures from mobile phones - but only if the methods are proven and without charge.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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crackberrymeister_3399's picture

I have successfully used Recuva (free version) to recover deleted photos form a cell phone. It may be another possibility for this fellow to try.