Today’s Question: I recently took a CompactFlash (CF) card out of my camera, inserted it in a card reader and got a shock when all my shots had disappeared. I suspect the CF card may have lost the file allocation table. Is there specific software you would suggest for trying to recover the pictures that were on the card before I pulled it out of my camera?
Tim’s Quick Answer: I highly recommend PhotoRescue from DataRescue for recovering images on digital media cards (and other storage devices). You can download a free trial that enables you to see exactly what images can be recovered, and then purchase a license to actually recover the images. You can find the trial download on the DataRescue website here: http://datarescue.com/photorescue/
More Detail: There are a variety of software tools available for recovering lost photos, but I’ve found PhotoRescue to be among the best.
It is worth keeping in mind that in most cases when you delete photos or even format a digital media card, the photos can still be recovered as long as you haven’t written new images over the space on the storage device where the photos are located.
This is possible because generally when you delete files or format a card, the data on that card isn’t actually removed. Instead, the file allocation table (which serves as a table of contents for the storage device) is updated to indicate that the files are no longer on the device, and that the space on that device is therefore available.
Software such as PhotoRescue is able to locate files on the space that appears empty on the storage device. Any photos that had been stored on the device and that have not since been over-written by new files can potentially be recovered.
As noted above, one of the benefits of PhotoRescue is that you can download a free trial version to evaluate a digital media card. The software will show you thumbnails of all photos that were located and that can therefore be recovered. In other words, you don’t need to pay for the software until you know it will be able to recover your lost photos.
PhotoRescue is offered in both a “Wizard” and “Expert” version. For most users I recommend the “Wizard” version as being the easiest to use.