Friday, April 3, 2015

The story of an unreadable 32-gigabyte CF card: what was lost is now found

From the pit, Marillion Weekend, The Netherlands
Anyone who shoots a lot of photos, whether a wedding photographer, sports journalist, wildlife or music photog, knows that one horrible day, a memory card may fail. You can lose everything that was on the card, if you haven't yet been able to back it up. A 32-gigabyte card can hold an enormous number of images, even when Raw file sizes are more than 20Mb each. What happens when you lose that precious work?

This happened to me on the last evening of the Marillion PZ weekend. I'd had a warning during the afternoon, when a strange error message ("Do you want to format the card? Y/N") (Um, no!) prompted me to switch off the camera, restart and see it was fine, back up the card immediately, and then relegate it to my only-as-a-last-resort memory card. Unfortunately, I had to use it again, late in the evening, as all the others were full. Yes I did think I had taken enough cards with me. I guess that's another lesson learned.

When I went to back up this one card, late at night, it told me there were no images. It lied: I knew there were at least 100 which had not yet been backed up. In the scheme of a 7,000+ image weekend, 100 isn't many to lose, but who knows... that one, best-of-a-lifetime image might be in there.

The secret with an unreadable card (or disk, or any other computer media) is not to do anything else with it. Don't try taking another photo. Don't try writing anything else to it. You need something that will read from the card, but not change anything.

Back home, I tried several different software products, all of which promised to restore data from memory cards, and all of which failed. The majority of these products allow you to try first--see if anything can be found--before purchasing and restoring the files. All worth trying, but in this case, useless.

I could see there was data on the card. But everything said the folder that should contain the images was empty.

Last resort--I took it to Best Buy's Geek Squad to see if they could help. The nice guy there also tried everything: the software they had could "see" the files, but not restore them. It could "see" files of the right size! So they were still there... just not readable. Darnit.

Then he found a software package that I had not discovered online: I returned home with my card, downloaded the trial software... and voila! It started discovering the image files. (An immediate indication that this software "knew" image files was that it asks you to select the type of files you are trying to recover--in my case, Canon raw).

Under $40 and not only do I have my lost images back, I also have a few from last year's Aftershock festival, which were deleted each and every time I reused this memory card but which had never been overwritten, I guess. So the software does what it says--finds and restores not only damaged files, but also those that have been deleted.

Something for your toolkit?

This weekend, I'll find out if my one best-of-a-lifetime shot has been restored. I don't think it's in this set, but there are some pics that will make people happy. And that's what counts.

No comments:

Post a Comment