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-   -   Recovering Images or Video from Memory Cards (

JimC Dec 29, 2009 9:36 AM

Recovering Images or Video from Memory Cards
This topic comes up on a regular basis, as file systems on memory cards become corrupted from time to time; and users sometimes delete photos by accident and want to retrieve them.

So, I've made this post a "Sticky Thread".

I'd suggest that you download and install this software for the operating system you're using (Windows, Mac, Linux). It's free. You'll see a download menu choice on the left side of the main page. Then, just click on the desired operating system to download it (and you'll probably want to use the stable 32 bit version for Windows, even if you're running 64 bit Vista or Win 7).

Use a card reader if possible, and select your memory card from the list of media it finds (hard drives, memory cards, etc.), and give it a place to save the photos to on your hard disk when you are asked Where to Save Recovered Files (or use the defaults and it will create folders for them). Note that this product may not retain the original file names with a damaged file system (but, you may not care about that), since it ignores the file allocation table entirely and goes after the underlying data (i.e., your image files). Note that when you get to the partition selection screen after selecting your card, sometimes it's best to select "Whole disk".

In most cases you don't need to worry about changing any of the other options. Simply leave everything at the defaults (Partition type of Intel, file types to recover, etc.) and it will try to recover any files that haven't been overwritten yet (and don't try to do anything like take more photos or you may overwrite some of them).

Note that by default, Photorec will only recover files that are contiguous and uncorrupted. However, if you're not recovering all of your photos using defaults, you can change some of the settings to alter this behavior if desired.

For example, if you look for the "Paranoid" settings when using photorec, you'll see three choices for it. Try it using Yes with Brute Force On (the default is Yes with Brute Force off) to get more images. It will take longer for it to run that way, but you'd have a higher chance of recovering uncorrupted images (since it's using relatively sophisticated techniques to try and piece together parts of images that are located in more than one place on the media). That option (Paranoid: Brute Force On) will still filter any corrupted files.

If you still don't get any additional images that way, you can set Photorec to keep corrupted files.

Here's a page showing you how to use this software:

There are some other free programs around that do a pretty good job in most cases, too. I prefer photorec, but if you're not comfortable with a text based interface, you may want to try some of the other products first.

For example, this product. Note that the demo version will work for image recovery at no cost:

Tutorial Page for it:

Or, this product:

For more choices (including some commercial versus free products), see this page:

Software - Image Recovery and Utilities

After you recover your images (and make sure you can see the larger images, not just the thumbnails), I'd make sure you format the card again before using it, using the camera's menu choice for format (not your PC).

I do that every time I reuse a card (format it again using the camera's menu choice for format). That way, the card always starts out with a fresh FAT (File Allocation Table), just the way the camera expects it, since the camera is performing the format.

sdhelp Jan 17, 2010 2:03 PM

I just used phto rec but i get exactly the same as before.

JimC Jan 17, 2010 2:07 PM

I'm not familiar with the "quirks" of video files and why you may be seeing separate files show up for video and audio that way, unless it's finding the contents of formats used as containers for other file types.

If all you did was erase the videos (versus having a corrupted card issue), you may want to try one of the simple utilities around like PC Inspector File recovery (versus their Smart Recovery Product mentioned in the above post in this thread, which is a more advanced program). It's free and retains the original date/time stamps (which some of the utilities that ignore the file allocation table won't do). So, it appears to be using the entries in the FAT for recovering, which may solve the issue since it's not going after the data itself.

JimC Jan 17, 2010 2:09 PM

Note that Avira (the anti-virus developer) has a free unerase utility. It's unsupported by them, and I'd only try it as a last resort (since you really don't want to write the card you're recovering files from if you don't have to, so that you don't reduce the chance of recovery). But, if you try the other products mentioned without any luck, you may want to give it a spin at your own risk (simply unerasing the entries it finds that appear to be your video files).

sdhelp Jan 17, 2010 2:15 PM

I tried pc inspector before with no luck will give avira a go.


JimC Jan 17, 2010 2:16 PM

Did you try both PC Inspector File Recovery and PC Inspector Smart Recovery (two different products, both free)? I'd try both (as they approach the problem differently).

Smart Recovery:

File Recovery:

sdhelp Jan 17, 2010 2:22 PM

No luck. This on finds no video files.

I know they are there as i can watch them but without soudd. is there anyway to view the recovered mov files. there is more files and larger than the mp4s.

I reckon these inc audio.

JimC Jan 17, 2010 2:28 PM

What extension type does your camera normally use? Some of the video formats are basically "container" type files, with the internal format something different (which is what I suspect is going wrong here, with the recovery utilities looking at the internal file format and finding the videos that way).

Try VLC and see if you can view the .mov files that way and get audio. It's free:

If so, there are some free conversion utilities around, too (so you can convert them into your format of choice). I think it may also be able to transcode into a different format for you. If not, there are other free utilities that can. Let us know if VLC can play them first.

If not, I'd try renaming them to the format your camera normally uses and try again.

JimC Jan 17, 2010 2:36 PM

Another thing you can do is contact the author of Photorec and explain your issue.

He may want you to send him a sample file to work with if he doesn't have a solution for it already (for example, the latest 6.12 beta has support for newer .tod MPEG files, so you may want to download it and try it). Scroll down to the Problems section at the bottom this page and you'll see a link to contact him:

sdhelp Jan 17, 2010 2:39 PM

Vlc is my default media player for years... best one out there

My camera normally saves in mp4.

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