What Is DCIM Folder: Why you Should Care About it

All digital cameras, whether they are dedicated cameras or mobile camera apps, place photos in the same folder, the DCIM folder. Every phone’s images are stored inside the DCIM folder, be it android, iOS, Canon or any other. But have you wondered why they are specifically stored in the DCIM folder only?

There are other folders inside the DCIM like .thumbnails, Cameras, etc. So, in this post, you are going to know about the DCIM folder and why manufacturers don’t create separate folders for saving the images.

What is the DCIM Folder?

DCIM stands for Digital Camera IMages, which probably helps this folder make more sense. This is the folder where all your images and videos are stored when you capture them using your phone or digital camera.

What kind of data is stored in the DCIM folder?

Whenever you click photos or videos with your phone camera or any digital camera, those will be stored in the DCIM folder only. 

What if I delete it?

If you delete the DCIM folder, you will lose your images. However, when you click photos next time, your phone/camera will recreate the DCIM folder again and files will be saved there itself.

Who made the DCIM folder? 

The DCIM folder and its structure are part of the DCF (Design rule for Camera File) standard created in 2003 by JEITA (Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association), a Japanese association of electronics and information technology companies.

The DCF was intended to become a standard to be followed by manufacturers defining, among others, the file system and the organization of folders and directories, for digital cameras. Its first version was launched in 2003, but in 2010, it was revised to improve efficiency. 

What exactly does the DCF specification mean?

A lot of things about the file system were mentioned in the DCF specification. DCF has been so important because it has allowed us to establish a consensus on the characteristics of digital camera file systems.

For example, a storage device for digital cameras can only be in the following formats: FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, or exFAT, it cannot be in another format. And if the storage device is 2GB or more, it must be in FAT32 or exFAT format. This allows interoperability between different components and between different manufacturers. 

DCIM folder’s subfolders and how are they created

If you open your manager and open the DCIM folder, you will find different subfolders like Camera, .thumbnails, etc. Camera, as the name suggests will store all the images that you took using your phone. The .thumbnails folder will store the thumbnail for all the videos that you have stored in your storage. 

Even if you install any third-party camera app, let’s say, Open Camera app, it will create a folder like ‘Open Camera’ within the DCIM folder to store all the media files. So, if you want to look for photos in your storage device then you have to look in the DCIM folder. It doesn’t matter what device or app you used to capture images, it will be stored in the DCIM only.

In addition, the DCIM directory can have subdirectories or subfolders, whose nomenclature must be:

  • 3 numbers ranging from 100 to 999
  • and 5 alphanumeric characters

The alphanumeric characters are free and each manufacturer is free to choose the ones they want. For example, Apple names its subdirectories 100APPLE, 101APPL, etc.

On the other hand, many Android manufacturers name their subdirectories as 100ANDRO, 101ANDRO, etc. You may also see files with the ending “.THM”. Those are metadata files that are commonly used in conjunction with video files.

What are the actual benefits of storing all the photos and videos inside the DCIM folder?

DCIM was created to be the standard folder to save all the photos and videos on digital cameras and mobile phones. And there are reasons why it was done.

So, if you transfer your SD card from one camera to another, you can view the images directly without having to locate them. The same goes for mobile phones. If you insert an SD card from one phone to another, you will be able to see the images directly in the gallery app.

If you connect your phone with your laptop or PC or just insert the SD card in the PC, you will get a notification asking if you want to use it as a file manager or you just want to view images and videos. If you select images viewing, it will directly import the images from DCIM to your default photos app on your PC. 

Your PC knows that all the media will be available in the DCIM folder only. This makes things easier and faster since your PC won’t have to search the entire SD card or phone’s storage.

Why DCF specification created file system rules

Suppose you accidentally formatted your SD card as NTFS and you stored some photos and videos on your PC. If you now insert that SD card in your phone, since phones don’t support the NTFS system, you won’t be able to view any images or videos that were stored.

So, to avoid such issues, DCF specifications introduced file system rules that will help you to reformat your SD card and restore your lost data.

What is .thumbnail in the DCIM folder?

You might have noticed a sun folder .thumbnail inside the DCIM folder. As I have mentioned above, it stored thumbnails. But what exactly are they?

If you have any images of a large size or have captured any video, then automatically a lower resolution still image is created and stored inside the .thumbnail folder. You will see these thumbnails in the gallery app so that you will be able to check out any image or video without actually opening it.

What if I delete the .thumbnail folder?

Even if you delete the whole. thumbnail folder, your device will recreate the folder as well as the thumbnails so that you will be able to check out the images and videos faster. 


Where is the DCIM folder on Android?

DCIM folder is present in the SD card (if you have one) or it will be present directly in the internal storage of your android device.

Can I delete the Thumbnails folder on Android DCIM?

Yes. You can delete the thumbnails folder in the DCIM. However, your android device will recreate the folder and files inside it after sometime.

How do I recover photos from the DCIM folder?

You can insert the SD card or connect your android to your PC and use third party apps like recuva or recoverit to recover the deleted photos from DCIM.


In this article, I have mentioned all about what is DCIM Folder and how everything works inside the DCIM folder, and why you shouldn’t mess with it if you know nothing about it.

I hope you like my article if you have any doubts feel free to drop a comment in the comment section.

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Satish Shah
Member of Team TJ - Tech Enthusiast, and Programmer

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