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How to Recover RAW Files from SD Card

Home > HowTos > File Recovery Tips Updated by Nancy on May 13, 2024 | Approved by Anthony Spadafora

Losing your precious images can be a devastating experience, especially if you're fond of photography and the moments captured are irreplaceable. If it is a RAW file, the loss is compounded, as you lose not just an image but a wealth of nuanced data that can't be replicated. While the situation may seem dire, all hope is not lost. As long as you use the right methods, recovery is often within reach. Here, we'll walk you through the steps necessary to recover RAW files from an SD card, demystify the process, and provide tips to maximize your chances of success.

What Are RAW Files?

RAW files are, in a sense, digital negatives, capturing all image data from the camera sensor with minimal processing. Unlike compressed formats like JPEG, RAW files store pixel data in a lossless format, providing photographers with unparalleled freedom to adjust exposure, color, and detail during post-processing. Their large file sizes may seem a drawback, but this data richness makes RAW files essential in a professional's toolkit.

Common Causes of SD Card RAW File Loss

Losing RAW files from an SD card can be a photographer's nightmare, given the high-quality data these files contain. Understanding the common causes of such losses can help take preventive measures and make informed decisions during recovery. Here are some of the most frequent reasons why RAW files may be lost from an SD card:

There are many other reasons why precious memories disappear, but memory card RAW recovery is usually still possible as long as you act quickly.

Pre-Recovery Considerations

When you realize that RAW files have been lost, one of the most critical steps is to stop using the SD card immediately. Continued use increases the risk of overwriting the deleted data, which can make recovery significantly more difficult, if not impossible.

Recover RAW Files from SD Card

Attempting RAW SD card recovery can be likened to a digital archaeological dig; it requires patience, precision, and the right tools. Here, we'll outline the primary methods for restoring RAW images.

Method 1: Check for Backups

Before proceeding with the software, check if you have backups of your lost RAW files on other devices, cloud storage, or an external hard drive.

In addition, Windows File History can provide some assistance, while Time Machine can serve a similar function on macOS. However, to use these built-in tools to recover deleted RAW files from the SD card, you need to back them up in advance. If not, then you can only use data recovery software for Mac or Windows to complete the task.

Method 2: Using Professional Recovery Software

The most reliable method to recover RAW files from an SD card without backup is third-party data recovery software. Here, we will provide you with 2 popular options:

Options A: iBeesoft Data Recovery

It is a simple yet powerful program for retrieving lost data from storage devices even when access is denied, the file system appears as RAW or requires formatting, etc. It also can repair damaged pictures and videos. This is especially important for RAW file recovery on the memory card. Here are the detailed steps on how to use it:

  1. Download and install iBeesoft Data Recovery on your computer.

    Download for Windows Download for macOS
  2. Launch it after connecting the memory card to the computer.
  3. Click "Go to Settings" to filter out other file types except pictures.

  4. Select your card and click the "Scan" to retrieve SD card RAW files.

  5. After completing the scan, preview the found RAW files.

  6. Select your lost ones and click the "Recover" to save them.

Options B: PhotoRec

It is particularly noted for its ability to recover RAW images from digital cameras, making it an invaluable tool for photographers who may have lost their work due to accidental deletion or card corruption. However, its lack of a graphical interface can be daunting. But don't worry; you can follow the steps below to complete this recovery process.

  1. Download PhotoRec from its official website and launch it on your computer.
  2. Choose your SD card > Filesystem Type > Space for Analysis > Directory for Recovered Files.

  3. After setting the directory, PhotoRec will start scanning.

  4. Once the SD card RAW file recovery process is complete, navigate to your chosen directory to check for lost items.

Method 3: Using Data Recovery Services

If the above method does not work, then this will be the last resort to recover RAW files from the SD card. These experts can utilize advanced techniques to retrieve data that might be beyond the capabilities of standard recovery software. However, this service is time-consuming, expensive and carries the risk of privacy breaches. If these precious moments are important enough to you, you can find them by searching.

Above are all the ways to restore deleted or lost RAW files from the SD card. However, if you have lost access to these files due to memory card corruption, you can check the following ways to fix this problem.

How to Repair Corrupted SD Card to Avoid RAW File Loss

Repairing a corrupted memory card is crucial to prevent the loss of RAW files and other important data. While there's no guarantee that all methods will work for every situation, following these steps can help you attempt to repair the SD card and possibly recover your RAW photos.

For Windows:

  1. Open "This PC" or "My Computer".
  2. Right-click your card and select "Properties."
  3. Choose the "Tools" tab and click on "Check" under the "Error checking" section.
  4. Follow the prompts to let Windows scan and fix the SD card.

For Mac:

  1. Open "Disk Utility" from Applications > Utilities.
  2. Select your SD card from the sidebar.
  3. Click the "First Aid" button at the top and follow the instructions to complete the repair process.

If the above method doesn’t work, then you can also go here to learn more solutions to fix a corrupted SD card without losing data.


If you're a photographer or a digital artist, you know how valuable raw image files can be. They retain all the original data from the camera's sensor, providing the highest control and quality in post-processing. However, losing these files due to accidental format, deletion, or card corruption can be a nightmare. This guide answers your most pressing questions about recovering RAW image files from an SD card, ensuring that your digital treasures remain within reach.

  • Yes, you can! Acting quickly and not writing any new data to the card is crucial. Removed RAW photos aren't erased immediately but marked as 'overwrite-able,' so using your card increases the risk of permanent data loss. Use reliable photo recovery software like iBeesoft Data Recovery or Recoverit. This software can often retrieve raw files with a deep scan feature that looks for lost data.

  • Stop using the card immediately when you notice that your raw files are missing. Continuing to take photos or videos, even if you don't want to save them, increases the chance that the data you want to recover will be overwritten. Remove the card from the device and store it in a safe place until you can attempt recovery.

  • Yes, formatting your SD card can erase all the files, including raw images. However, formatting doesn't immediately wipe the data. It merely removes the file system's record keeping of where files are stored. The actual data remains, at least partially, until the system overwrites it with new data. For this reason, recovery is often possible after an accidental format.

  • Yes, free options exist for recovering raw files from a memory card. Software like PhotoRec and iBeesoft Free Data Recovery offer free services for retrieving them.

  • A physically damaged SD card can permanently lose data, including your raw files. If the damage affects the card's memory cells, it may be impossible to recover the data. However, in cases of physical damage, a professional data recovery service that specializes in card repair and data extraction could potentially help.

  • There are no solid guarantees in file recovery. Many factors can affect the success of recovery, such as the extent of data overwriting, the type of SD card, the cause of data loss, and the actions taken after the loss.


The process of recovering RAW files from an SD card can seem daunting, but it is often achievable with a systematic approach. You can safeguard those meticulously captured moments by understanding the nature of RAW files, the causes of their loss, and how to undertake recovery.