How To View Old Snaps on Snapchat

Snapchat’s entire business model is based on the idea that you can send photos to friends that will disappear within seconds. Unless said friend takes it upon themselves to screenshot the snap and save the screenshot image, that snap is lost to the ether, gone forever, kaput. The principle is meant to inspire whimsy, silliness, and a certain recklessness on the part of Snapchat’s users. It’s also the only thing that makes Snapchat different than, say, taking a photo and texting it to your friends. So it’s no wonder that Snapchat has had zero comment about recent claims that their snaps are not as fleeting as advertised.

How Does Snapchat Delete Snaps?

First of all, to understand how these snaps can be recovered, you first need to know what’s actually happening when Snapchat has them “deleted.” Each snap is given a file extension called .NOMEDIA, which prevents the snap from being saved to the user’s phone. However, it doesn’t account for a little thing called metadata.

Metadata is basically data about data. In other words, if the actual image is the data, the metadata includes information about that image, like when it was sent, who it was sent to, and the file name. By accessing this metadata, you may be able to recreate the images that were supposed to be gone forever.

Enter Decipher Forensics

Decipher Forensics, a research center based out of Utah, conducted a study using AccessData software to try and see if they could recover snaps. Spoiler alert: they could. The software allowed them to access metadata about the snaps. They then changed the file names accessed this way by removing the .NOMEDIA extension. In doing so, they were able to access the original image.

“That file extension can be removed as easily as renaming the file in Windows,” says researcher Richard Hickman. However, knowing how to find the metadata is no simple task.

What About iOS?

Decipher Forensics admits that it has not yet confirmed that the process works on iPhones. However, they expect that it does. They have plans to work on iPhone in the near future. In the meantime, photographer and tech nerd Nick Keck has stepped up to the plate, releasing a video recently that shows him accessing old snaps on his iPhone.

Can I Do It?

Sure, if you have a few thousand dollars lying around. That’s roughly the cost of the AccessData software that Decipher Forensics used to accomplish the task. Or you could let Decipher Forensics do it for you. They will be recovering snaps from user’s phones for a modest $300-$600, in case you really want that snap of you planking on the diving board at the local YMCA back, you know, for the memories.

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