2 Tested Ways to Recover Photos from Formatted Hard Drive for Free

If you’re bothered by how to recover photos from formatted hard drive, then this post would do you a great help. Here in this post, we mainly give you two options to recover data from a formatted hard drive with or without software.


By Ellie / Updated on April 2, 2024

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Can photos be recovered from a formatted hard drive?


I was planning to give my hard drive to my brother, so I formatted it for privacy and security concerns. But this morning, he told me that he bought a new one, so I can keep mine. But all the data on my hard drive has been formatted. I wonder can photos be recovered from a formatted hard drive, cause these photos are kind of important to me. If the answer is yes, how can I do this?”

- Question from Reddit

Hard Drive

Under what circumstances can’t you recover photos from a formatted hard drive?

Normally, it’s often possible to recover files from a formatted hard drive even without a backup. When you format images from a hard disk, they are not immediately erased. You can't see them directly on the hard disk since they've been designated as worthless, and the space they occupied has been designated as reusable for new data. Those formatted photographs will be lost permanently once you enter fresh data. As a result, if you discover that essential images are missing, cease adding new data to the same hard disk to avoid overwriting deleted photos.

But still, there are also several photo loss situations that are impossible to recover from even with the best data recovery software available.

Physical damage. Hard drives are fragile devices, and they don’t like being dropped, smashed, or exposed to extreme temperatures. When something breaks, it’s not always possible to repair the damage and recover the lost data, so you need to be extra careful, especially when handling a disconnected hard drive.
TRIM-enabled SSDs. Modern SSDs have incredible data transfer rates, which are made possible in part by TRIM. What exactly is TRIM? An SSD-supported performance-enhancing function allows an operating system to proactively remove discarded data in order to prepare the blocks on which the data was stored for new files. Unfortunately, once deleted data cannot be retrieved.
Secure formatting. When formatting a storage device to sell or transfer to someone else, it's usually a good idea to do secure formatting, which entails overwriting the prepared storage device with random data. Because secure formatting delivers precisely what it promises, data recovery tools cannot recover any data from securely formatted storage devices.

If you have not been involved in any of the three situations above, follow the steps below to recover images from formatted hard drive.

Two methods to recover photos from formatted hard drive

Here in this section, you’ll learn two methods to recover images from a formatted hard drive with or without a backup.

Option 1. Restore photos from formatted hard drive via Backup & Restore Utility

If you have the Windows built-in Backup and Restore utility enabled, then the first option we give here on how to recover pics from formatted hard drive is to restore photos from a backup.

Step 1. Navigate here: Control Panel > System and Security > Backup and Restore (Windows 7). Click on Restore my files to selectively recover permanently deleted files. You can also choose Restore all users’ files to get all deleted files back.

Restore My Files from Windows Backup

Step 2. Search for your deleted pictures by using the Browse for files or Browse for folders option. You cannot see individual files when browsing for folders.

Restore with Windows Backup

Step 3. Choose a location to save the backup, select your pics and click Restore to recover them.

Note: You need to set up this feature manually. If you didn’t enable backup on your computer, then you’ll see Windows backup has not been set up notification, which means you’re unable to use this method to recover deleted files from a USB flash drive.

Bonus tips: Backup photos on the hard drive to avoid photo loss

If you don’t want to backup everything on your computer, but just want to backup your important photos, you can also use the professional backup freeware AOMEI Backupper. It allows you to back up the photos on your hard drives to the destination you designate in just a few simple steps. Let’s take a look.

Step 1. Download, install and launch AOMEI Backupper for Windows on your computer. 

Download FreewareWin 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Step 2. Under the Backup tab, select the File Backup.

File Backup

Step 3. Edit the task name for distinguishing. Click Add Folder or Add File > This PC > Devices and drives to find the flash drive and add files from it.

Add File or Folder

Step 4. Select the destination path to store the backup images. Network path and cloud drive are supported.

Backup to Hard Drive

Step 5. Click Start Backup to carry out disk backup and wait until the operation is complete. Click Finish to exit the interface.

Backup Finish

Option 2. Recover photos from formatted hard drive without backup via free recovery tool

If you need to recover photos from a formatted hard drive without a backup, you can use the free yet professional photo recovery tool MyRecover. It can help you easily get back all your lost photos on a hard drive, even if your hard drive has been formatted. Besides photos, you can also recover other types of files like texts, videos, audio, emails, compressed files, etc.

Step 1. Download, install and launch MyRecover on your computer.

Download FreewareWin 11/10/8/7/Server
Secure Download

Step 2. Hover the mouse over the drive and click Scan to scan.

Select Partition to Scan

Step 3. Then the scanning process will start automatically. You don’t need to wait for the process to complete if you find the images you want to recover.

Scan Lost Data

Step 4. Choose the images that you want to recover. Click Recover xx files and choose a destination path to save the restored images.

Choose Lost Photos


This post mainly gives you two options to recover photos from formatted hard drive depending on whether you have a photo backup or not. If you do, you can use the Backup and Restore utility to restore your lost photos. If you don’t, you can use the AOMEI Data Recovery tool to get back your lost photos easily.


1. Why deleted photos can be recovered?

When you format a hard disk, the data on the hard drive is not immediately erased. You can’t view your original pics on the hard disk since they’ve been recognized as worthless and the space they filled has been designated as reusable for new data. So basically, these pics are still on your hard drive, but they have just become invisible. Therefore, you can recover them with the help of a data recovery tool.

2. How can I format a drive?

There are two types of formatting methods you could have used, but only one can be recovered easily.

  • Quick format deletes all files from the disk. It then rebuilds the file system while keeping the data on the device. You can still restore your data if you formatted your drive promptly. However, you should never use the drive again.
  • Full format permanently deletes all previously saved files. In previous operating systems, this merely looked for and repaired faulty sectors. However, practically all recent OS upgrades destroy data and replace it with zeroes. Recovery software cannot restore fully formatted disks.
Ellie · Editor
Ellie, a professional and experienced writer who is good at solving iOS-related problems and writing iOS backup/transfer tips.