Lost years of photos after installing new SD card :-(


It sounds like this is a common issue and I haven’t seen a solution yet, but I’m desperate, so hoping someone might have suggestions!

I bought an SD card yesterday for my FP3. Idiotically, I clicked ‘format as internal storage’ when I installed it, because it looked like the default option and sounded more like what I wanted than the ‘keep as external storage’ option did. It didn’t sound that dangerous. I didn’t think to check the FairPhone forums before doing this - if I had, I definitely wouldn’t have done it!

Since doing this, all of the photos in my internal storage have completely vanished. There’s nothing left. Wedding photos, holiday photos, stupid times with friends, pictures that I need for work… several years of data. I didn’t have any of it backed up anywhere (yes I know, I know…)

I also now keep discovering things that have stopped working - the camera doesn’t take photos any more, I can’t download anything from WhatsApp. From responses to other people’s posts, it does look like this part at least can be solved.

So my question is, does anyone know if there is any way at all that it might be possible to recover my photos? There is a lot of software out there claiming to be able to help (DroidKit? D-Back? Other stuff?) but I have no idea which ones I can trust, or whether recovering data under these circumstances is something they’d even be able to do. I’m happy to pay for the recovery software if it’s likely to work and if I’m confident it’s not malware. Or is there anything else that can be done?

I don’t know if this is helpful or not, but I use a file manager called X-plore to keep track of files etc on my phone. All of the photos used to be stored in the DCIM folder. It now shows the phone storage as split into the SanDisk SD card (which has an empty DCIM folder) and Root, but Root now has a little information sign that says ‘Your device seems not to be rooted’ and its DCIM folder has disappeared. I have no idea what any of this means, but if anyone does, please give me a shout!

Thanks for your help

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Hello, of course no delightful occasion to make a first visit, anyway: Welcome to the Community Forum.

Unfortunately, this is beyond any normal user’s abilities. There are professional data recovery services, but to prepare you right away, they will charge 250 Euros or more. The link is just one random example, it’s only the first one I ever encountered and I cannot provide any experience with it.

I’ve had some great experiences with Recuva. Connect it to a computer and run Recuva and pray to the nine divines that it will help you.


I hope I’m wrong :+1: Let us know if you succeed with Recuva or another solution.

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I’m in no way an expert, but I wonder if you remove the SD card if your storage reappears. But I also wonder if that could worsen the circumstances. This can be seen if the occupied root storage got smaller or not.

Just to be aware: Flash storage is way harder to rescue files from than from HDDs.

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Thanks for all of your suggestions!

I’m having a go with Recuva, but haven’t managed to get it to recognise that there’s a phone plugged in at all yet, so my hopes aren’t too high. I’ll keep trying to see if I can find a way to get it to recognise it.

I have also tried taking the SD card out. The phone complains that it’s missing, but it’s not helped it to rediscover any of the lost files, either while it’s out or when I put it back in again. This was a shame, because I saw this working for someone else.

I’m willing to pay to an extent, but €250+ might be pushing it :-/

I’ll keep trying. Thanks again for the support - and do let me know if there are any more ideas. I’ll report back if anything works!



This reminded me of a project assignment I made which recovers jpg images. It’s maybe a long shot, but if you are a bit at ease with using Linux (or Mac I guess) you can try this.

It’s all open code (you need to compile yourself so it is all open and free to use), but then it is pretty easy to use. See this github repository for the code. The code checks for chunks of data containing the start sequence of a jpg file and the copies this to disk (recovering it).

You would have to download or checkout the code, compile it and run it. It will check for all recoverable jpg images. For safety it is best to first create an image from the sd card (so you run against a copy) and run the tool against that image (see Tools for OSForensics - ImageUSB - Write an image to multiple USB Flash Drives for creating an image file for instance, there are more tools probably, see windows - How can I create a single ISO or IMG file from an SD card? - Super User).

Basically that means:

  • clone or download the code from github (see link above)
  • compile the code, e.g. cc recover.c -o recover
  • create an image file from the sd card (for this example named sd.iso)
  • use the compiled executable on the created image with ./recover sd.iso

This should find all recoverable images and put them in the directory from where the tool is run. I just tested the tool again with some random jpg images, and it worked just fine (image names are gone, they will be called 000.jpg, 001.jpg etc).

I can imagine this is a bit much information, but if you are willing to give it a try and would like to use this step by step just ask here and hopefully this can help. There are ways to run Linux from a live cd (so you don’t have to install it, but can use it by booting a cd rom, see LiveCD - Community Help Wiki (there are many others also). The link about the LiveCD from Ubuntu also contains a link to DataRecovery - Community Help Wiki which has a topic Extract individual files from recovered image. Maybe this can also help you (have not used or tried this myself).

Small disclaimer: I am a developer, but not for c code normally. So the code is basic. It is non destructive, and if you create a copy image (as suggested above), it won’t temper with the sd card itself.


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