The CR2 file extension stands for “Canon Raw Version 2”. CR2 files are created and used primarily by Canon cameras. Poser, a 3D-modelling program, also uses CR2 files, but Canon cameras are far and away from the most common sources of them.

In this piece, we’ll explain what CR2 files are and how you can get back CR2 files that have been accidentally deleted, corrupted, otherwise lost.

What is the CR2 File Format?

CR2 is the raw image file format used by Canon cameras. Raw image files are digital files that hold visual information in a minimally processed state. All digital cameras store data in raw formats.

CR2 files are lossless. They record up to 14 bits of RGB data. They are a common file type among professional photographers because they hold so much information, which allows the production of premium-quality pictures.

How to Recover Deleted CR2 Files

Users who have accidentally deleted their CR2 files often fear the situation is hopeless, but such is not the case. Deleted files don’t truly disappear. They are put into another storage stage that allows them to be written over with new information, but they are still available until they’ve been overwritten to such an extent that the original deleted information is unreadable.

There are several methods for recovering lost .cr2 files.

We further discuss several methods for recovering .cr2 files. We will start with data recovery software and show you how to get it in the next section.

How to Recover CR2 Files with Software

Our preferred data recovery software is Disk Drill, which happens to be free as well as highly effective. You can download Disk Drill from the link below:

Disk Drill
Data recovery for free
Your Companion for Deleted Files Recovery

Disk Drill is very easy to use. It works equally well with the Windows operating system in Microsoft products and the macOS in Apple products.

Once you have Disk Drill installed, follow the steps below to get your files back:

  1. Open Disk Drill as you would any other application. Just double-click or do the right-click and “open” approach. At this point, Disk Drill will ask for permission to make changes to your computer. Select “yes.” Nothing will really happen at this point. You’re simply initiating the program.
  2. At the center of the Disk Drill interface will be a list of devices from which you can restore and retrieve your missing files. Those devices are all in or attached to your computer, though the names may not be immediately recognizable to you. Disk Drill's main interface. Some of the devices might have gray arrows next to them. Pressing that gray arrow will produce a dropdown menu that allows you to choose from finer partitions of the device. Disk Drill dropdown area for devices. Choose the device with the files you want to recover. It will highlight with a gray band.
  3. On the right side of the interface is a button that reads “All recovery methods” and, on the lower right, one that reads “Search for lost data.” For now, keep the selection on “All recovery methods.” There are other options, but for this introductory section, the default will work great. Now select “Search for lost data.” Disk Drill All Recovery Methods launch button.
  4. After you’ve selected “Search for lost data,” Disk Drill is going to start scanning all your files. It’s looking at deleted files as well as at the ones that are visible to you, so it’s going to be sifting through tons of data. It does so remarkably fast, but with so many files, the search might take time. You don’t have to wait for Disk Drill to complete its scan. You can look at files that have already been found at any time by clicking on “Review found items.” Disk Drill stop scanning option. Disk Drill will keep scanning the rest of the device in the background. After the search is complete, you’ll be able to “Recover All” if you want to get every single file back. Disk Drill Recover All option for CR2 files.
  5. You can also choose specific files, or just one file, and recover only that. To do so, click on the box to the left of the file. Then, select the blue “Recover” button at the bottom of the interface. How to recover CR2 file in Disk Drill.
  6. Disk Drill has now recovered your files. It will ask where you want the system to save them. Choose wherever you’d like to save the files, but be sure to note the location that it’s pointing to. Your work is now complete. Disk Drill will save the sessions so that you can get back to it any time later.

If there are any problems using Disk Drill, check out the Disk Drill help center and troubleshooting page.

Recover CR2 Files From Windows Recycle Bin or Mac Trash

Files sitting in your recycle bin or trash are not completely lost—in fact, they are nowhere close to completely lost. They are very easy to recover. Follow the brief guides below to get your CR2 files back from your recycle or trash bins.

Recovering Files from Your Mac

  1. Find your Mac trash icon and open it.
  2. Find the files you want to recover. You can control-click or right-click on the file. Either way, you get a dropdown menu. Select “Put Back” to restore the files. How to recover CR2 files from Mac trash.

Recovering Files From Windows Recycle Bin

  1. Access the recycle bin by double-clicking on the icon on your desktop or right-clicking and selecting “open.”
  2. Once inside the recycle bin, find the file you want to recover. Double-click on the file to get a flyout box. Select “restore.” The system will restore the deleted file to its original location.Restore CR2 file from Windows Recycle Bin. Or, you can right-click on the file. A different flyout will open up, and the “restore” option will look different than it does in the double-click method, but it’s ultimately the same thing. Click on it. The system will put the file back where you deleted it from.Restore CR2 files with right click method.

Restore from a Recent Files folder

Windows’ “recent files” folder can be remarkably convenient. With it, you can see a list of all the files you’ve worked on recently, ordered sequentially. Even better, you can restore previous versions of each file. Follow the steps below to restore files from your “recent files” folder.

  • Access your recent files folder. There are two ways to do this. One is to simply open File Explorer and scroll down the pane. The other is to hit “Windows + R, which will open up a dialogue box. Enter the word “recent” (casing doesn’t matter) into that box and hit “enter.”Access recent files folder in Windows.
  • Right-click on the file. You’ll see a long menu appear. From that long menu, select “restore previous versions.” Windows will show any past versions that can be recovered.Recover CR2 files from recent files folder.

How to Open CR2 Files on Mac and Windows

Mac and Windows operating systems both have options bundled into them that can open CR2 files. Mac has Apple Photos and Apple Preview, while Windows has Microsoft Photos. Any of those programs will open your CR2 files.

There are other programs that can open CR2 files. We’ll get into some of the free examples of them in the next section.

Programs that open .cr2 files

Many programs are capable of opening CR2 files. The list below is by no means exhaustive of all the options out there. We’ve focused on free options for your convenience. They are listed in no particular order, and a place higher in the list does not imply a higher endorsement on our part.

  • Able RAWer

    This free software allows you to not only open CR2 files but to edit them. It works with most versions of Windows.

  • Photivo

    Photivo is a simple, easy-to-use software that works with CR2 files and allows some simple editing. It’s available for Mac OSX, Linux, and Windows.

  • Free Raw Viewer

    Free Raw Viewer is a simple software that allows you to view images and do some very simple operations with them, such as rotating the picture of viewing pictures in a slideshow. It’s available for most versions of Windows.

  • Fotor

    Fotor opens CR2 files and has some of the most extensive editing features of all options on this list. You can not only manipulate colors and contrast but can also zoom in, crop, and apply visual effects. Fotor is available on Mac and Windows.

  • RawTherapee

    RawTherapee is also free and, like Fotor, has a number of editing options, including vibrance, sharpness, white balance, and exposure. It works on Mac, Windows, and Linux.

  • Faststone Image Viewer

    Faststone works with a wide range of raw file formats. It can be used to convert file types and to edit. It’s available for Mac and Windows alike.

  • ExifPro Image Viewer

    This program has a wide variety of options for viewing files and for altering them. Each time you use ExifPro, you’ll get a prompt asking you to upgrade to the paid version. You can simply choose to keep using the free option, though. It has different versions for different Windows operating system setups.

Tips to avoid CR2 file loss

As shown above, you can get back lost .cr2 files. The best option, though, is to not lose them at all. A few simple practices can ensure that you don’t lose your files in the first place.

💾Hold to a Saving Regimen: It’s all too common that we lose our work because we simply forgot to save. A simple solution is to either automate saving or discipline a habit of regular saving. While corrupted and deleted files can often be recovered, unsaved files are often lost forever. It’s easy to say “I’ll just remember to save,” but the reality is that such decisions frequently fade. It’s best to use automation features or timed saving regimens.

🔌Protect your power supply: Some of the most common causes of data loss and corruption are power surges. If a surge hits your system while you’re in the process of saving or transferring files, the files can be damaged. Uninterruptible power supplies are designed to circumvent this problem. They feed your system steady power regardless of the state of your main power source.

🏦Backup Your .cr2 files: You can back up your data manually, or you can use automated options that will back it up periodically for you. Choose one of them. If you don’t back your data up in at least one secondary location, then data loss can be permanent. If you’ve got stuff backed up then data loss isn’t even a major issue. You can just get your backup and resume your business.

⚠️Stick to Known Devices and Software: There’s no better way to bring malware and viruses into your system than by using devices or software that you don’t know the origins of. Always ensure that either you are confident in the device’s safety or that you are (very) confident in the person who gives it to you.

Jeff Suwak

I've been writing and editing professionally for over fifteen years. His experience runs the gamut from technical editing of water science reports to music journalism to fiction.

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Brett Johnson

This article has been approved by Brett Johnson, Data Recovery Engineer at ACE Data Recovery. Brett has a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Systems and Network, 12 years of experience.