And if you ever make a mistake like this…

    I found myself just having to write this post.  You see, last week a fellow photographer friend on FB accidentally formatted over a memory card from a wedding.  Yep, a wedding.  She was devastated as you can imagine, and was reaching out to other photographers to see if anyone knew how to get them back.  Several people responded, but nothing worked because she had not deleted the files, she had reformatted the card and then shot over them.  That’s a tough one.  In the end I think she ended up sending the card to a pro data recovery service to see what they could do – at the cost of $300+ per card.  For some reason, that scenario gave me nightmares (and THAT is why I haven’t jumped feet first into the wedding arena, folks). 

    I had recommended a program to her that I had used when I accidentally deleted some files off a card and couldn’t find them.  The program worked great and recovered all the files – thank goodness.  But it didn’t worked for her, along with a couple other programs people suggested for her.

    Well, this past weekend we attended a friend’s wedding.  They had their own photographer, but I snapped some photos for myself and had some other photos on the card as well.  I had viewed the files in my camera and everything was good.  Monday I went to download the files, and then it  started… first it told me I had invalid files.  I could see the files there, but it wouldn’t copy them.  I took the memory card to another computer, and now it said I had to format the card; it couldn’t access the file at all.  I tried a couple different readers, a couple different computers, and finally put the card in my camera to see if I could view the files.  No luck, it said I had to format the card.  I took a deep breath and did it, hoping I could use my trusty little program to get them back.  I just didn’t have a choice.

    Well, don’t you know, since I had reformatted the card, I had no luck with my program.  It didn’t even recognize any files at all on the card.  Nothing.  And so I set off on a mission… to get those darned files back.

    There are lots of message boards and stuff all over the internet about file recovery.  Many are just people posting to advertise different companies, and I didn’t have any luck finding a saving grace through other’s experiences.  But I did find a lot of programs with free trials, where you could download the program and see if it finds your files, then pay for it if you actually want to restore them.  And so I began.

    PC Inspector File Recovery – Useless.  I don’t even know at what point I ever downloaded this program, but I hope I didn’t pay for it.  This was the program I had before I downloaded the program that had worked for me before.  This program didn’t do anything back then and it certainly didn’t help me this time.

    Recover Files – This is the program I had used last time.  It worked great that time, when I had only deleted files, but it had no luck with the reformatted card.  I had bought this program previously and it did what I needed it to at that time, I guess.  Still a little disappointing.

    Pareto Logic Data Recovery – This one actually gave me hope and I ended up buying it.  When I ran the scan it recognized all the files I was missing, recovered the files in what appeared to be an intact format (the dates, file sizes, etc. matched) but I couldn’t open the files.  I shoot in .cr2 (RAW) format, so I thought maybe it was just a viewing issue on my computer (RAW files are not easy to view in just any program; you have to have certain codec, etc. to view them).  It also found a couple .avi files (movies) and a whole bunch of .tiff files that seemed to be mirror copies of the .cr2 files.   That actually would have even been ok, but they wouldn’t open either.  I could actually view a ton of old photos from December 2010… amazing that it found stuff that old when I had used this card a hundred times since then.  Believe it or not, the .tiff copies of those old, old files WOULD open, but those weren’t the ones I needed.  I sat on the phone with tech support, they logged on my computer, and tried to open the files from last weekend, but they couldn’t.  He made a couple other recommendations for RAW viewers, and then told me I could request a refund if it didn’t work, which was nice, since I had paid $50 thinking the files were there.  I finally gave up and moved on.  We’ll see if I get the refund.

    Sandisk RescuePro – I actually got a free download of this with some new memory cards that came yesterday.  I had heard good things about this program, so I gave it a try.  It didn’t do much.  Considering it was a SanDisk card I was working on, and their site said you could recover files after formatting, I had high hopes for this one but nada.  Good thing it didn’t cost me anything.

    PhotoRecovery – This was the advanced software from the same company that makes the RescuePro.  It was specific for photos, not just files, so I downloaded the trial version and gave it a try – again, no luck.  It found the files I was looking for, but no preview was generated in the preview box so I didn’t even bother buying it.  I was just about ready to give up (yes, I invested a couple days in this process) when….

    DiskInternals Flash Recovery – Stumbled across this program on another message board.  It was the last one I was going to try, being #6 I figured I’d give it a quick look and see if it worked.  Someone else had had some success with it.  I downloaded the trial version, ran it, and low and behold, there were previews there that I hadn’t seen before.  Strange, pink, distorted previews that I could tell were the photos I was looking for, but I was just sure they were corrupted based on how they looked in the preview.  But I said what the heck, it’s $30, and I downloaded the key to restore the files.  And then the magic happened.  I restored ALL the files I was looking for, in addition to 4 other sessions – 3 from December 2010 and one from last month.  I had seen those photos during the recovery process in some of the other programs, but this one actually got back every single photo I was looking for!!!  Yay!!!

    So I guess the moral of the story is, first, format your cards regularly.  I knew this but didn’t practice it.  I won’t make that mistake again. 

    Second, ask for advice.  It was only through a message board that I found this little program, and it wasn’t one of the ones that was plastered all over the place.

    Third, try and try again!  Even though I wasted a whole lot of time, I am so glad I did the research and found this program, in case I ever (knock on wood) need it again. 

    Now enjoy some {recovered} photos…


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