Many modern smartphones rely on memory cards to store data. This is in stark contrast to most laptop and desktop computers, which utilize hard disk drives (HDDs) or, in some cases, solid-state drives (SSDs) to store data. While most smartphones include a limited amount of internal memory storage, this is usually only enough to store your system files and maybe a few images or games. If you need greater capacity, you'll likely have no choice but to pick up a third-party memory card.
Although they're often referred to in the broad category of memory cards, modern Android smartphones almost exclusively use Secure Digital (SD) cards. This also includes some of the updated formats such as SDHC and SDXC.
While SD memory cards have an average lifespan of around 10 years, this doesn't necessarily mean that they're usable for an entire decade. Just like other forms of electronics and, in particular, data storage, they are prone to sudden data loss, data corruption, virus or malware infection, and other common issues.
Not only do such occurrences have the potential to cause data loss, but they could render an SD card entirely unusable. In cases like this, you'll either have to accept the sudden loss of data and hope that nothing too important is missing or attempt to recover your missing data.
Unfortunately, Android smartphones have very few options when it comes to localized recovery. However, there are a few options for users who want to try recovering their data from within the device itself.
- #1: Check the Recycle Bin: Just like the Windows OS, most Android operating systems also include a built-in recycle bin. If you've recently deleted a file, there's a good chance it can be found, and recovered, from there. However, this differs from a Windows-based Recycle Bin in the fact that the bins on an Android are exclusive to individual apps. This comes in handy if you were using a specific app when you accidentally deleted your files.
- #2: Cloud-based backup: Similarly to the Recycle Bin, some Android apps automatically backup data to a cloud-based server. Make sure to check for the availability of any cloud backups before trying something more advanced.
- #3: Restoring saved game files: Many of today's Android game developers include built-in functionality to recover lost saved game files, too. Even if they don't, you still might be able to recover a lost save file by inquiring with the developer or publisher.
- #4: Reformatting a corrupted SD card: If your SD card is corrupted and you have no desire to save the files that are stored within, you might be able to simply reformat your SD card. Note that this will erase all of the data on your SD card – and it might not even be recoverable with specialized software. If you are certain that you don't want to keep the data, however, simply go to the Settings page on your Android device, find the Storage / Memory tab, and select the option to format your SD card. If it's not readily visible, top the three dots in the upper right of your screen to reveal the option.
If none of these options work, your only real recourse at this point is to attempt a data recovery via PC or Mac computer.
Remote recovery includes any form of data recovery that is done outside of the Android device in question. This includes any third-party software you might use as well as any methods that might be used during a professional data recovery option.
However, it's important to note that your options are still rather limited when using a PC, too.
- #1: Using third-party software: Your highest chance for a successful comes with the use of specialized, third-party software like R-Studio. There are many different options available on the market with varying pricing points, all of which include different features and options. Some free solutions are also available.
- #2: Reformatting a corrupted SD card: While this operation can generally be performed on the Android device itself, you can also remove the SD card and plug it into a PC or Mac computer. When using this method, you'll simply locate the SD card in question and format it in the same manner you would a hard drive or USB flash drive.
Regardless of the method you choose, it's best to stop using your Android phone as soon as you notice the missing or corrupted data. Further usage can cause even more harm, and it might even make it impossible to recover your data by any means whatsoever. Your options are already limited enough; there's no need to make it even harder on yourself.