How To: Recover Deleted Files on Android

We just reported about how unsecure Android factory reset is, according to findings of Avast security company. If your files and images have been accidentally deleted, there is a great chance you might recover them, unless they were wiped or shredded using special programs that overwrite deleted data multiple times.

When you use a regular delete option, however, the system deleted only the files’ headers, so that the files are not visible in your file manager. The physical file is still there on the disk, and unless it has be overwritten by something else, you can recover it.

Here are your options:

Option 1.

Download and install on your desktop PC a traditional recovery freeware that scans your card and restores the data that can be restored. Recuva, PC Inspector, LazeSoft Data Recovery, Puran, Free Undelete, Pandora Recovery, Wise Data Recovery or a multitude of others have proven to be functional, but my personal affection will always stay with Recuva, which can even un-delete accidentally deleted TrueCrypt volumes.

So, once you’ve installed a recovery program, connect your Android device to your PC and run Recuva. It has a user-friendly Wizard, and will ask you where you want to search and what kind of files. So, you can search for images only, or select All Files and check next to On My Media or iPod, which will run the check of devices connected via USB.

If your files can be recovered, Recuva will do the job. It is better to recover them to a folder on your computer just in case, not to overwrite the card on your Android.

Recuva screenshot

Note: if your device is listed as MTP, and not a drive with assigned letter, Recuva might not be able to see it, as much as any other program. You won’t be able to create folders, either. That’s a problem with newer devices, and according to this forum thread, the problem can be either Windows 8, or the USB cable, or your smartphone. Someone solved it in Win 7, which might not work on Win 8:

1. Connect your smartphone and let it install drivers
2. If it doesn’t work, go to device manager
3. Find your Android device -> right click on the ADB device -> uninstall
4. Check the pop-up box to uninstall drivers
5. Unplug the smartphone and plug it back in. It will reload drivers.

Now, you must be able to see your device in your desktop file manager or Windows Explorer.

Option 2.

The second option is to install a third-party recovery app from Google Play, and fortunately there are some working ones, but truth be told, this option is rather basic and far from satisfying as far as un-rooted devices are concerned. Here is our list.

Dumpster acts like a Recycle Bin on your Android, and if you delete something by accident, you can recover it from there. However, the catch here is Dumpster can recover files that were deleted when the app was already installed on your device, which does not help you if you face the problem for the first time and have no backups or any recovery knowledge whatsoever.

Nonetheless, keep this little free app in mind for future purposes because it works with a large number of files, including pdf, mp3, doc, avi, jpg, txt.

Well, almost free because the free version only works with images, but if you want full functionality you will have to buy the unlock key.

A powerful app for rooted devices, Undelete works with over 1000 file types, and recovers any file that has not been overwritten. It also has a module to securely wipe your data from phone and can process files in batches.

DiskDigger is one of the most powerful apps for root users, and claims to recover images even from reformatted memory cards. Note: rooted devices only!

How to Prevent Accidents in the Future

To prevent such accidents in the future, check out this comprehensive back up for Android tutorial, and this guide on how to back up your contacts. To summarize the general tips on how to keep your images safe:

Don’t store them all on your device

Make it a habit to either transfer your images to your desktop PC, or set up a Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive account and have your images backed up in the cloud. If your cloud account is also synchronized with a desktop PC – you don’t have a problem at all.

If you don’t want to bothr with the cloud sync, simply transfer files using USB cable, but remember to do it on a regular basis. Sometimes, we carry so much junk photos, we can accumulate gigabytes of images we’d rather delete, while Android devices could use that space for something useful.

Moving or Cut-Pasting Problem

One of the most common ways to accidentally delete files both on Android and Windows is to Move files or folders. The safe way is to Copy files or folders, paste them in the target directory, go back and delete the initial files or folders. However, users prefer the quickest way and often fall vctims to a bugged or frozen file transfer, which is sometimes the case with folders or large files. As a result, files get deleted from initial folder and not copied to the target folder. My only advice is to avoid the ‘Move’ option and stick to the Copy – Paste – Delete method.

Act Quickly

If it’s too late to talk prevention, and your files got deleted, don’t panic and download Recuva, or any other program of your choice. However, do not write any files, or install any apps on your Android device in the meantime – do not overwrite accidentally deleted files. That way, you have 100% chance of restoring them all. If you already did write something to your device, run recovery scan anyway. Chances are you can restore quite a lot, depending on the amount of data you wrote on your device after deleting files.

Also, you can study the methods Avast used when recovering data on used Android smartphones that underwent Android Factory Reset.