How to Find a Lost Scanned Photograph

By Jennifer Claerr

Updated September 22, 2017

Many times when we're scanning photographs onto our computers, we may forget where we saved the file or what file name we used. This often happens when the scanner's software saves the files in the same location and with the same filename used in the last session by the last user. If that last user wasn't you, where the file ended up may seem like a complete mystery. Never fear; it's a fairly simple matter to find the file.

Open your scanning software. Go into your settings and determine the default location and name for scanned images. If you are able to find it, you can navigate to the folder in question and attempt to find the saved scan.

Try using the search function if Step 1 doesn't turn up the file. In Windows, click Start > Search. Click All Files and Folders. In the field marked "All or part of the file name:" type the part of the file name you're sure the scanned image contains. For example, if your software saves all scans as bitmaps, type *.bmp in the field. In the "Look in:" field, include all drives and folders which you think may contain your lost scan. If you know it's somewhere in My Documents, for example, you may restrict your search to that folder.

Restrict your search further by indicating when the file was modified and/or what size it is. For example, if you know it was scanned today, limit your search to today's date. You can also reduce the time to find your file by de-selecting the "Search system folders," "Search hidden files and folders," and "Search subfolders" choices in the "More advanced options" section. Click the Search button.

Select View > Thumbnails in the search results window. Check the various search results which appear in the view pane of the search results window. Most images will appear with a thumbnail in the search results, making it easier to find the right one. Chances are, one of these will jump out at you as being the lost scanned photograph. However, if you can't determine which one is the correct file, you can double-click the file to open it in your preferred image viewer. You can alternatively mouse over the image or file icon in the search results window to get a read-out of the file path of the image. If you can't get the path to show on mouseover, simply right click the image and select properties to get the path. You can then navigate to the folder in question to view your image, or to move it to a folder which is more appropriate.

Prevent scanned photographs from becoming lost in the future by resetting your scanning software's save defaults. Consult your scanner's manual to determine how to change these settings.


Download your scanner's manual from the manufacturer in PDF format. You can then search the file to find the instructions you need more quickly and easily.
Create a "My Scans" folder in the My Documents folder to hold all your scanned photographs.