GoPros capture some amazing moments — but sometimes, the unthinkable happens. Maybe you accidentally wiped the entire card when you only meant to delete one video. Maybe your GoPro took a big tumble and the files suddenly aren't there any more. Whatever the reason is, you've lost your videos and you need to recover GoPro files.
While you may not be able to see the files on your computer or even directly from your GoPro, there may be a way to recover them. GoPros record information in a few different parts, and deleted files may leave fragments and information that's possible to put back together. If you need to recover deleted GoPro files, here's how.
Note: This GoPro file recovery method works for both videos and photos and with any version of the camera, as long as the files were stored to a micro SD card. You'll need your SD card, a computer (Windows or Mac) and photo recovery software.
Don't take any new videos, or you may overwrite the fragments of information that are there.
If you have a card reader, use that. Or, you can leave the SD card in the GoPro and plug the camera into the computer with the included USB cord.
You can't see the bits and pieces left behind on your SD card, but the right software can. There's a handful of different programs that can recover files from a GoPro — our favorite is Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery because it's easy to use and tends to work well for both deleted videos and corrupt files. It also includes a free trial that will show you previews of the items it can recover.
Once downloaded, you should see a button that says "Start Scan." The scan will likely take some time, but once it is complete, you'll see thumbnails of the files that the program was able to recover. Choose the thumbnails of the files you'd like to keep and click "Recover."
What if I can't see my SD card on my computer?
If the computer can't connect to the card, the software won't be able to detect the card either. If you have the GoPro plugged into a USB port, try plugging the micro SD card directly into the computer (you may need a card reader if your computer doesn't have a card slot). If you are still having trouble, make sure debris isn't affecting the card by cleaning the metal contacts with a toothbrush or cotton swab and rubbing alcohol. If you still can't get your computer to read the card, the only other option is to ship the card to a data recovery service.
What if my GoPro video files are corrupted?
If the files are corrupted, instead of deleted, there's still a possibility of recovering them through a video repair software. If you can't open the file on your PC or Mac, try putting the micro SD card back into your GoPro and power it up. Because GoPro has a built-in failsafe to auto correct corrupted files, if the device detects any indexing issues, a bicycle or bandaid icon will show up in the small screen. You then press any button to let GoPro fix the file.
How can I prevent data loss from happening in the first place?
Loosing photos and videos is both scary and common. While you can't prevent all file losses, you can take a few steps to prevent it. First, don't wait to upload your videos. When you do upload to your computer, save your videos in more than one place. Ideally, use an external hard drive and a cloud storage solution for your most important files. If you are worried about losing a file while out shooting, you can also double up by sending the video to your smartphone using the Wi-Fi connection.
Chances are, your GoPro files are more than just electronic data. While not all data can be recovered, in many cases, you can recover deleted GoPro files with the right software.
Hillary K. Grigonis is both a tech writer and photographer. As a reviewer for Digital Camera HQ, she gets hands-on experience with dozens of different cameras and camcorders every year. She owns both a GoPro and a few Nikons and she’s lost without without her iPhone.