This post is the final part in our Backing Up and Saving Your Images series. See previous posts on Backing up and Saving Your Images – External Hard Drives – Online Storage Sites and Software Solutions.
That crushing, sickening and agonising feeling of realising your memory card has corrupted or for whatever reason you’ve lost some of your most important or sentimental images, can stay with you for some time. It’s that combination of frustration and disappointment that takes its toll; perhaps knowing you can’t go back and reshoot what has already happened. Even directing your anger at your equipment can seem futile. But wait, lament no more, for there are solutions! Despite what people may think there are ways to retrieve files, even after they have been deleted or subject to technology failure.
Deleted files and formatted cards
Accidentally deleting images or formatting the card before the current frames have been downloaded are both common reasons for loss. However even when a card has been formatted in-camera the majority of the photos will still be able to be located. Success can depend upon the camera brand, with Canon and Nikon yielding the strongest rates of recovery. A quick trawl though the internet will present a list of companies which specialise in the retrieval of images from memory cards or data banks. For example Flashguardian (www.flashguardian.com) charge up to £60 for the successful recovery of images from memory cards in capacities of 1GB or larger and offer reduced prices for smaller capacity cards, whereas the charge for recovering data from a hard drive can cost between £200 and £500 depending on the size of the device and the nature of the problem. DiskDoctors is another recovery company, that charges anywhere between £177 to £1500 depending on the size and brief of the problem, however the company offers a free analysis service to pinpoint a quotation and assess whether the issue can be rectified. To take advantage of this particular service, photographers should post the storage device or memory card along with a completed shipping form (available at www.diskdoctorsdatarecovery.co.uk/shipping-form.asp) to a local DiskDoctors lab for physical analysis. The company claims that photographers will receive an analysis report along with a quote in less than eight business hours once the item has been received.
Online and Software Recovery systems
There are an abundance of software and online solutions if you’d rather recover your files with a DIY approach. DataRescue (www.datarescue.com) for example provides an app called PhotoRescue, which for only $29 checks your memory card, external hard drive or computer for deleted images, displaying a lengthy list of all the work you’ve binned. CardRecovery (www.cardrecovery.com) is another software option fronted by WinRecovery Software. Retailing at $39.95 CardRecovery performs a read-only operation on offending memory cards, and retrieves any lost pictures and video files to a folder on hard drive.
One of the most common cases of data loss is due to a system failure. To recover files in these situation photographers will simply need to generate a copy of the information held on the machine which is accomplishable by using a CD that contains a bootable computer operating system. The user can then move the images to the system disk, which can then be backed up with the file manager or authoring software. If you are unsure of how to do this yourself, take your machine to a local computer shop that offers a restoration service.
Unfortunately there are some cases when files simply cannot be recovered, whether it’s because the memory card was a fake or because the camera used permanently deletes making recovery impossible. If nothing else, we can take the experience as a costly lesson never to be repeated. Prevention is said to be better than the cure, so to stop it happening again invest in a solid external hard drive and subscribe to an established online storage provider. Never delete files in-camera, wait until you have uploaded to them your computer, backed them to an external data bank or online storage provider, and then and only then format the card. Only use memory cards from a reputable brand and purchase them using a trusted website or at a high-street store.
To minimise the risk of losing photographs, we’ve compiled a cheat-sheet of tips to ensure your images are safe and secure.
- Size doesn’t matter: Don’t keep all your photos on one high capacity memory card, instead use several lower capacity cards so there is less chance of losing everything if one card breaks or is lost.
- Reputation is everything: Stick to reputable memory card brands and only buy from trusted sites and stores, as there are a large quantity of ‘fakes’ circulating online that don’t work.
- Don’t forget a spare: Taking a spare card out with you on a photo session will ensure you don’t miss a thing, should the memory card you are using falter.
- Don’t believe everything you see: Just because the image thumbnail looks ok, it doesn’t mean that the file isn’t corrupt. Thumbnails are embedded in the files for fast preview and do not necessarily reflect the state of the full picture. Open several frames, or particular favourites to ensure they are ok.
- Be patient: Don’t turn off your camera when it is reading and writing to the memory card and don’t rip the memory card out of the card reader before it finishes uploading files to your machine. Doing so could result in lost or corrupt files.
- Safety first: Store memory cards in a safe and secure place. Protect them from moisture, dust, dirt, animals and young children.
- Don’t delete: Refrain from deleting files in-camera. Instead wait until you have successfully transferred the images to your computer and backed up your files before deleting the ones on the card.
- Once bitten, twice shy: If an image card is faulty – bin it, or better yet get a refund! Never use or write to a card where data has been lost before – it will happen again.
- Back up: Keep your images on several external hard drives and/or with an online storage provider.
- Watch out for nasties: Protect your machine with an up-to-date firewall and install sensible antivirus software. Never ignore those updates!