How to Get Your Photos Back After a Restore


Windows computer users can use System Restore to return damaged computer system files to a previously working state. System Restore has proved helpful to many users. For others, the restore process results in lost and renamed files, particularly images. System Restore documentation claims no data files such as photos, music and documents are affected, but many users will state the opposite. With some digital detective work and luck, you may be able to recover some or all of the lost or damaged images.

Things You'll Need

  • Free photo organizing programs (Picasa, PicaJet free, FastStone, or FotoBounce)
  • Photo file recovery programs, if needed

Manual Recovery

  • Click the "Start" button. Click "Control Panel." Double click "Personalization." Select "Tools" from the toolbar. Click on "Folder Options," and click on the "View" tab. Look for the "Hidden Files and Folders" option, and click the "Show Hidden Files, Folders and Drives" radio button. Click "OK." Hidden folders must be visible to search because System restore can rename and place images in hidden folders.

  • Click the "Start" button. Click "Computer." Type ".jpg" without the quotation marks, in the search box in the upper right corner of the dialogue box. (If you use a different image format, use that extension instead of .jpg) A search for all .jpg photo files will begin automatically, and may take several minutes, depending on the number of images. If image files appear, right click on one of them and select "Properties." The location path of the image will appear just above the middle section of the dialogue box, and looks similar to this: "C:Users(your name)\AppData\roaming."

  • Highlight the entire location path carefully with the cursor. Once the location path is highlighted, right click and select "Copy." Click the "Start" button. Place the cursor in the "Search Programs and Files" box and right click. Select "Paste." The folder will appear at the top of the result box.

  • Click the folder. Once the folder opens, look for the image. Right click the image. Select "Open" to see the image. Once the image is open, re-save it to the correct folder. Once you have saved the image to the proper folder location, it can be safely deleted. Repeat for all newly found images.

Software Recovery

  • Download and install a free photo organizing program. Organizing programs gather and arrange images into a sort of digital catalog. These programs will not move, copy or delete photos, unless instructed, but they may locate lost images.

  • Obtain photo and data recovery software. Read reviews online and try several programs (see Resources).

  • Run recovery software, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Many photo recovery programs offer free trials; a good way to test the software. Free trial photo recovery programs may locate images, but usually require the software be purchased before actually recovering the photos.

Reverse System Restore

  • Click the Windows "Start" button. Type "System Restore" without the quotation marks, in the "Search Programs and Files" box.

  • Click on "System Restore." Enter the administrator password if prompted. Click on "Undo System Restore." If presented with more than one date, select the date immediately before the System Restore was run. Click "Finish."

  • Check the folder where the lost images were stored before the System Restore to see if they have been restored.

Tips & Warnings

  • Programs save images in various formats. Try using various format extensions in the search to locate as many images as possible. Typical image formats are .jpg, .jpeg, .tif, .png, and .gif. Place an asterisk (*) to the left of the period to act as a wildcard. For example, to search for all .jpg files, type: *.jpg and nothing more. When System Restore moves images, the images are often renamed with long strings of numbers. Open any image files encountered to determine if they are the missing images. Don't be surprised to find missing images in unexpected hidden folders such as "C:Users\(your name)\AppData\roaming\ ." Temporarily disable any spyware or virus protection running, as it may interfere with the image search and recovery process.
  • If no images were recovered, it is possible they were overwritten or deleted. A local data recovery service in your area may be able to recover important images. Always back up important data and photos before performing a System Restore. Backing up photos as soon as they are loaded on a computer is highly recommended; there is no predicting when a hard drive will crash, or photos are inadvertently deleted. Backing up photos to two forms of media such as an external hard drive and a DVD is a good practice, and will safeguard your images. Don't use System Restore thoughtlessly. Save System Restore for serious problems.


  • Photo Credit Todd Warnock/Lifesize/Getty Images
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