Guide: Recover Photos from External Hard Drives Effortlessly

This article is about to help you recover photos from external hard drives with a couple of practicable methods and extra info about photo recovery.


By Lora / Updated on April 3, 2024

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"How do I recover pictures and videos from my external hard drive?"

Photos hold numerous memories from people's daily lives, thus they are willing to keep them on an external hard drive as a backup, as well as for data security and to free up storage space on a PC.

However, data loss on external hard drives is an issue that cannot be totally avoided. Many people continue to complain about photo loss and seek help to recover files from external hard drives.



Need help in photo recovery from external hard drive


I lost considerable pictures on my external hard drive. I was about to copy them to my laptop, I thought the transferring is finished so I deleted them all and ended up with only a few photos on my laptop. They are not in the recycle bin.


- Question from DPReview


In this specific case given above, this user has deleted his pictures but could not restore deleted files from the Recycle Bin.

This isn’t a bug or error, but just the design – when you delete items on an external hard drive, the deleted files won’t be moved to the Recycle Bin of C: drive on your desktop, but directly removed.


That is to say, you will have permanently deleted files from hard drives in this way.

Then how to restore photos from external hard drives?

As long as no physical damage and overwriting occurred, it is feasible to get them back. If so, please turn to a data recovery service near you ASAP.

This article will walk you through a bunch of methods to find deleted image files from external hard drives.

Recover photos from external hard drives in a breeze

When files were permanently wiped, it won’t be an easy mission to get them back on your own. But luckily, you could rely on a well-developed external hard drive data recovery tool – MyRecover.

This tool is specially designed for Windows OS from Windows 7 SP1, 8, 10, to Windows 11. Equipped with advanced and efficient scanning methods, it can scan hard disks for deleted and missing files within several seconds to minutes.


Recover pictures from external hard drives easily.

  • Recover 200+ types of data, including 42 types of images.
  • Support restoring specific types of data.
  • Deleted files could be recovered in original filenames, formats, and paths.
  • Retrieve photos while scanning.
  • Support deleted data recovery while keeping its file format, filename, and directory.
Download SoftwareWin 11/10/8/7/Server
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Similar to SD card recovery, as long as you stop using the affected external drive right away, photos can be recovered with a high success rate.

 Now follow the detailed instructions to start photo recovery from external hard drives.

Step 1. Install and run the software > connect your external storage device to the PC > hover the mouse over the external hard disk > click Scan.


Step 2. It will automatically find deleted pictures on external hard drives with Quick Scan & Deep Scan.


Step 3. Go to Deleted files to select the deleted pictures or go to Other missing files and select the Images you want > click Recover x files.


Using this powerful tool, you could also easily restore deleted photos from USB after formatting.

Restore photos from external hard drives without software

Methods to recover deleted image files from external hard drive without software are also available here.

But they will be pretty difficult because of commands and no graphical user interface.

Method 1. Find deleted pictures files on external hard drives via the “Recover” command

Windows has offered a tool named Command Prompt for users to manage their machines. It parses and executes the commands that users have input. To restore deleted files, the command “Recover” can be utilized.


Only readable info can be scanned and recovered.

⚠ It requires the exact filename and path. No wildcard “*” is supported.

⚠ It can only restore one file each time.

Step 1. Start Command Prompt > choose Run as administrator > input diskpart.


Step 2. Input list disk > select disk 0 > list volume. 0 refers to the affected external hard drive.

Step 3. Then input select volume xrecover [drive:][filename].

Please input the affected partition (if it has) and the specific file path and name.

For example, input recover f: \pictures\travel03.jpg

Thus, you could retrieve one picture named “travel03” on F: drive. It can also help you restore flash drive files using cmd.

Method 2. Retrieve images from external hard disks using the “attrib” command

If your photos are lost due to a virus attack, they might be maliciously hidden by the viruses. Thus, the “attrib” command could be used. It can modify the attribution of files, in this way, unhide your photos.

But this method can be quite difficult, please be careful to use it.

Step 1. Connect your external hard drive to your PC > run Command Prompt > select Run as administrator.


Step 2. Input chkdsk F: /f > input Y > input F > press Enter.


Step 3. Then input F: >attrib –h –r –s /s /d *.*. Thus you could fix the possible problem and unhide the pictures.

Causes: major triggers of photo loss on external hard drives

Photo loss won’t happen because of no reason. In general, multiple triggers can be concluded.

  • Accidental deletion.
  • Virus attacks.
  • Power surges.
  • Physical damage.
  • Liquid intrusion.
  • Hardware errors.

No matter how you have lost your precious photos, they can be retrieved as long as no overwriting happens. Moreover, it can be prevented with some precautions.

Precautions: escape from photo loss in the future

When data loss occurs, remedies will be limited. But we could form a good habit of preparing for data loss risk.

 Check twice before deleting anything.
 Do not intentionally clean the Recycle Bin unless your hard drive is running low storage space.
Connect the external hard drive properly and gently every time.
Keep your external storage devices away from an extreme environment: a humid, dusty, and oily environment.
Back up important photos if you don’t want to lose them once again.

AOMEI Backupper, a good Windows data backup software can be your helper with “Disk Backup”, “File Backup”, “Partition Backup”, etc.

In this article, now all methods to recover photos from external hard drives have been introduced. To free you from difficult commands and further damage to the data, you might as well try MyRecover – a professional Windows data rescue tool.

Lora · Editor
Lora is an editor of AOMEI Technology. She is also a tester and editor of AOMEI Data Recovery Tools. -- "Keep testing, write the most useful tutorials for helping people recover the lost data for Windows and phones" is the most meaningful thing for her. Dedicated to creating helpful tutorials, she hopes her tutorial can assist users to effortlessly solve data loss problems on their personal computers and mobile phones.