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Data loss is a massive blow, but once you’ve recovered your missing data How to Recover Deleted Images from an SD Card How to Recover Deleted Images from an SD Card Good news: whether due to a corrupt card or accidental deletions, you can often recover lost photos. Read More , sorting it out is invariably time consuming. If the data loss was due to an accidental partition deletion on your computer’s hard disk drive (HDD) you’ll typically have hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of images to filter.

Now, you might be happy to simply start from scratch… but if you have collected an archive of personal images that for some reason have not been backed up elsewhere or synced to the cloud, it’s time to roll your sleeves up.

But will it be as bad as you think? When it comes to digital photos, probably not. Thanks to EXIF metadata stored in the image file, it’s possible to sort through all of the recovered images to find what you’re looking for relatively quickly.

You’ve Recovered Your Data: What’s Next?

We’ll start here: you’ve discovered your mistake and employed a tool like Piriform Recuva, PhotoRec, or any number of data recovery solutions The Best Free Data Recovery Tools for Windows The Best Free Data Recovery Tools for Windows Data loss can strike at any time. We will highlight the best free data recovery tools for Windows to help get your precious files back. Read More to find the lost images on your HDD.

The HDD might be still functional, or it may be more or less dead How to Diagnose and Fix a Dead Hard Drive to Recover Data How to Diagnose and Fix a Dead Hard Drive to Recover Data Several years ago, I experienced a hard drive failure. I was at work when my laptop suddenly started to act particularly strange. About half an hour later, the hard drive failed audibly and the laptop... Read More . You plan to use an external storage device or rewritable DVD to recover them to. (Otherwise, you’ll be overwriting the data before it is recovered — you don’t want to do that!)

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Take a look at the folder you’ve recovered the data to. Because of the indiscriminate nature of data recovery tools, you’ll usually get a whole host of additional data that you don’t want. There is no easy way around this, but many will have to be deleted so that you can focus on the image files you want to keep.

This stage is all about organizing the data. It comprises of two basic steps:

  1. Organize data by type.
  2. Delete temporary internet/application graphics.

We’ll look at these in turn.

1. Organize Your Recovered Data

With so many images to sort through, you’ll need to reorganize the recovered data.

First, sort by file type in Windows File Explorer. You can do this by switching to Details view (via the View tab) then left-clicking the Type column. Depending on the speed of your PC, this will take a while to sort, so patience is required.

Next, create a new folder for each type of image file: one for JPG/JPEGs, one for PNGs, another for GIFs, etc. Ensure this folder is on the external (or secondary) storage, as noted above.

recover images metadata folders

With this done, use Left-Click + Shift to select a range of images from the list of recovered files. Once the images are selected, cut and paste them into the appropriate directory. Repeat this for all image types.

Your images are sorted by type, but you should also organize them further by sorting them by year. Repeat the steps above, this time creating subdirectories, labeled by year. Sort the recovered images in File Explorer by data, and bulk select, cut, and paste into the appropriate directory.

2. Dispose of Temporary Internet Files

With Windows Explorer open on your monitor, you’re probably wondering where to begin. With so many images to sift through — almost all from your browser’s temporary internet files — you might be considering switching off and forgetting about it.

Don’t.

As a rule of thumb, digital photographs will typically be upwards of 250 KB. That’s a quarter of a megabyte, reasonably small. This means that the overwhelming majority of files smaller than this can be discarded. These will be images from the web and various applications.

Simply order these files by size, bulk select, and hold the Shift key as you delete them. This will permanently delete the files.

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Sending unwanted data to the Recycle Bin (which is surprisingly manageable with Task Scheduler How to Auto-Empty the Recycle Bin on a Schedule and Free Up Wasted Space How to Auto-Empty the Recycle Bin on a Schedule and Free Up Wasted Space If you don't regularly empty the Recycle Bin, it could be wasting gigabytes of space on your data drive. But now Windows 10 can empty it automatically on a schedule. Read More ) will use the main C: drive, potentially overwriting data you might want to recover later.

With that done, it’s time to focus your attention on the images you want to keep. This means considering the image metadata.

What Is Metadata?

In short, metadata is information about your information Metadata - The Information About Your Information Metadata - The Information About Your Information Read More — and it’s everywhere. We have metadata linked to our public profiles, for instance, for tracking purposes. Where you live, where you shop, things you like.

When it comes to photos, the metadata is different, but just as relevant. Here, information such as the data of creation, the camera settings, file/compression type, even the camera manufacturer and model. This data is stored in EXIF format.

Metadata can help you to drill down into recovered images on your system, filtering away the web images and leaving you with those created by you. Unless you’ve stripped the EXIF information 3 Ways To Remove EXIF MetaData From Photos (And Why You Might Want To) 3 Ways To Remove EXIF MetaData From Photos (And Why You Might Want To) Did you know that most cameras embed hidden information, called metadata, into every photograph taken? And when you share those images, say by uploading them to a social network, that hidden information often stays embedded? Read More , that is.

How Can Metadata Help Recover Lost Images?

By default, you won’t see metadata in File Explrer. But it can be displayed. With the directory in Details view, right-click the column headers, then More. Here, you’ll see additional options that can be selected.

recover images metadata

These options range from file size and dates related to creation and modification, to information (“metadata”) concerning how the file was created. In the case of photos, you can select Camera maker and Camera model to help highlight photos you took. These can be immediately and easily distinguished from temporary internet images and other graphics.

recover images metadata meta enabled

If we consider that a vast volume of images has been gathered in a single place by your free data recovery software, being able to spot the name of your digital camera or smartphone in the list — and even sort the list by this information — is a massive advantage.

All you need to do now is select the images, and copy them to a new location. Unwanted photos and graphics can be discarded, and your collection of personal images restored!

But You Should Always Back Up!

Recovery is always a last resort. If your data is regularly backed up Back Up Your Photographs Automatically With These 8 Tools Back Up Your Photographs Automatically With These 8 Tools Not sure which are the best tools that let you automatically make backups of all the photos on your PC? Don't worry, we've listed our top eight. Read More to an external drive and/or synced to a cloud account, then none of the above should ever be necessary.

However, if you do find your digital world crashing around you without any plurality of data, then recovery is your only option. With digital photos, filtering your recovered images using metadata will save literally hours of your life, if not days.

Has this happened to you? Did you struggle for an age trying to find your lost photos? Or have you found a great way of recovering images without resorting to indiscriminate, catch all software? Tell us in the comments, and help us spread this information by sharing the article.

Image Credit: Mario Lopes via Shutterstock.com

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