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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 09:06   #1
Tannin
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Data recovery: what to do if you can't read your flash card

Here is the situation:

You got up at 5:30AM on a Sunday, drove 200 kilometres in the dark to find some birds you don't normally see, coped with your scope frosting up in the early morning cold, waded miles up the side of a little estuary getting your boots full of very cold, wet mud, and always hoping that, just around the next corner there would be a rather special bird, and then .... at last .... you got some shots you are really, really happy with. Lots of great shots.

Then, fighting off your fatigue because you don't usually get out of bed before about 9:30 at the earliest, and because you were up late the night before, and because the last thing you feel like doing is driving all the way home, you stay awake for all of the 200 kilometres back again.

Finally, you are home and, having (just!) managed to force yourself to put the kettle on first, you pop the flash card into your reader.

Nothing.

It's blank.

empty...

You check your other cards in case you got them mixed up (cause there is stuff on the other cards too, but its not as good as the stuff on this card), you hit "refresh" 49 times with your fingers crossed and your heart in your mouth, you pull it out and put it back in again, you reboot the computer, you try reading it in the camera instead of in the the flash card reader.

It's still blank.
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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 09:32   #2
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That's exactly where I was up to an hour or so ago. I had a full 512MB flash card that was pretending to be empty, and a half-full 512MB card that read just fine but didn't have the best shots (from earlier in the day) on it.

It (the dud card) claimed to have a couple of empty folders, nothing else. Checking the properties of the card from the Windows desktop, however (right-click, select "properties") told me that it was almost full. Clearly, the data was there, or something was there, but I just couldn't read it to get at my Yellow-billed Spoonbills, my Royal Spoonbill, my Black-fronted Dotterel, my pelicans, my grebes, my Little Pied Cormorant, my Little Black Cormorant, my Crested Terns, even my not-using-the-scope-for-this holiday snaps of the Twelve Apostles ....

Ahaaggagh!!!

I've met this situation before, of course, I guess we all have - and if you are sitting there shaking your head saying "nope, never happened to me" then you better beleive that it will happen to you one day. Trust me on this, I've worked with computers for over 20 years, and if there is one thing I have learned in that time, it is this - call it Tannin's Law:

Murphy was a very bright bloke, but he was a bit too much of an optimist.

The last time I met this problem, it was a different camera and not my pictures on it (and a Sony memory stick, not a compact flash card - same thing in this context). I spent quite a while trying to figure out how to do it myself (though I'm really a hardware man, not a software wizard), and a fair while looking into data recovery options, but iin the end didn't go ahead with them as my friend rang me to say that she had discovered that she'd already copied the pictures onto her computer beforehand (which she hadn't realised) and that there was no no need to try to rescue them.

So I just tried to reformat the flash card. I couldn't do it on the computer, but popping it into the camera and telling it to format the card worked just fine. (Naturally, it wipes your pictures out, but that didn't matter in this case.)

Problem solved: we have used that same camera, card, and computer combination many times since then, and it's been perfectly OK.

But what if we had needed to rescue the pictures? There are data recovery firms that you can send these things to, but it costs a fortune and you have to wait till they get around to doing it, meanwhile biting your fingernails off up to the elbow.

And then there are the programs that you can download that claim to do it for you. There used to be a freeware one, but I think that is no longer available. So far as I know, they are all commercial programs and you have to buy them.
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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 09:37   #3
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Sounds AWFUL. I think I'll stick to binoculars, Tannin.
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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 10:03   #4
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Getting up at 5 AM, Charles? It was awful!
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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 10:05   #5
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Horrible moment. I'm hoping we're in the middle of one of your multiple posts, Tony, and that you've managed to resolve it OK.

Perhaps you've already seen the thread. Not sure if the freebie recommended there will do the job since the same software house have specialist memory card software they don't offer a trial for.

http://www.birdforum.net/forums/show...&threadid=4738
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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 10:07   #6
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I liked the sound of one of the data recovery programs, a thing called PhotoRescue. If you type "data recovery" and "compact flash" into Google, these guys are the first one you get - but that's not why I chose that particular one. I only glanced at about five or six tonight, but last time I read up on quite a a few of them and I remembered liking the look of this one. They are at http://www.datarescue.com/photorescue/

The way it works is that you can download a free try-out version that tries to rescue your files, and shows you the thumbnails, but doesn't let you save them. They say that you should try the free one first, and if it finds your stuff, then buy the real thing. It's $29 US for private use.

In particular, I noted that they say it does not touch the data on your CF card - i.e., they claim that it's a safe thing to try and can't make your situation any worse. Except insofar as any program needs to do read-only access to the card to see the thing at all, I believe them.

There are several other things that I liked about the company. They are from Belgium, and I have an (admittedly illogical) prejudice about European software. The price was sensible: enough to hurt your credit card, but hurt a whole lot less than losing your pictures. And they promised prompt electronic delivery.

So I downloaded the free trial version, ran it, and after 5 minutes or so doing its number-crunching, it showed me thumbnails of my spoonbills.

Whoopee! The credit card came out in a flash and I ordered a copy.

While I was waiting for it to arrive by email (they give you a temporary URL to download it from as well, just in case your email account blocks the attachment or something, and an address to contact if that doesn't work either), I went to close the free try-out version and, to my surprise and delight, it has a very nifty feature: it offeres to save the contents of the flash card onto your hard drive as a disc image.

In other words, once it's read your card and identified the files that need rescuing, it stores that info in memory and even if the flash card dies completely a little later on, the paid-for version of PhotoRescue can still rescue your photos from the image it saved on your hard drive. (Of course, you have to pony up the U$29 first, but that's fair enough, and if you are stupid enough to click "no, don't save", well, you had it coming.

I don't know much about flash cards and their failure modes, but I have some expertise in hard drive failure modes, and I have often seen a drive brought in that is right at the end of its tether, and I make it an unbreakable rule that, if I can get the thing to work at all, then I get the data off onto another drive right away without switching it off or rebooting or anything. In short, this is a great feature, and I knew right away that my US$29 was in good hands.
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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 10:22   #7
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(Just for the record, I have no connection with the company, aside from being a very relieved and happy customer.)

Their "rapid electronic delivery" was indeed rapid, and this is ... er ... Saturday night in Europe? No, it must be Sunday morning. It's about 8:30 Sunday night here. I had wondered if "delivery within minutes" meant "so long as it's business hours in Belgium", but no, it came rigght away.

And, among other things, I now have this, safe and sound on my hard drive and burned to CD-ROm just in case.
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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 10:32   #8
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Thanks, Norm. I just downloaded the free one and I'm trying it out now. (Just out of curiosity, seeing as I haven't reformatted the flash card yet.)

Either way, I'm just happy to have my spoonbills back!

Tony
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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 10:46   #9
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Well done Tony (this is better than the movies). More for us to look forward to in the gallery later on too perhaps...

I guess it was a bit of luck that your computer background told you not to panic; well at least told you not to immediately give up hope and to tread carefully.
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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 12:02   #10
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Thankyou. Nothing absolutly stunning, Norm, but some nice shots - and ones that I'm not too likely to have the chance to reshoot soon, as the coast is a fair way away from here and I am allergic to getting up at 4:45.

(Yes, I said 5:30 above, but I got mixed up - that was when I got into the car. I was awake at 4:30. Unplanned too! I had set the clock for 9:00 with no particular destination in mind, but happened to wake up at 4:45 and, rather than go back to bed, suddenly took it into my head to see the sun rise over the Twelve Apostles - just to look, not for pictures, though I took a couple just after that, a half mile further down the coast - and then find some sea birds to photograph.)

The freeware program that thread you mentioned links to, by the way, seems to be recovering the data also. It takes heaps longer - I started it no more than five minutes after my previous post in this thread and it's still running now. You need to be able to manage a command line; and it produces three images for each original (the real one and two thumbnails) but it seems to be working fine and it's free.

By the way, PhotoRescue arrives in Zip file format. You need to know how to unzip it and then double-click on the result.

If anyone reading this at some stage in the future is trying a data rescue and does not know how to unzip a file and execute it, then I strongly advise getting a friend to help (or at least posting here for advice first). Running PhotoRescue is very easy - but if you are uncertain about such an easy task, then you really aren't the right person to be attempting to recover your own data.

On the other hand, when I stop and think about the number of absolute horrorshow computer repair jobs we see where the original problem was fairly trivial and a "friend" who "knows all about computers" has offered to "help" ..... words fail me. Well, polite words fail me, anyway.

So I'll change my advce above to "If in doubt, ask here". Someone will be pleased to help.

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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 12:04   #11
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Oops! I meant to attack this to explain what the Twelve Apostles are.
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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 12:13   #12
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Gahh! Rather than edit the above (I meant "attach", of course, not "attack") I think I'll just put my lexdixic typing down to getting out of bed too early.


Anyone know where I can download a program called BrainRescue?
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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 12:17   #13
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Is that one apostle or all twelve? I'm not taking any chances on losing this thread, Tony, I've already put datarescue.com into my favorites, against future disaster.
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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 14:01   #14
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I have some photo recovery software which is excellent. It is a fairly small file and can easily be emailed. If anyone would like a copy (it is freeware) please feel free to send me a PM with your email address.

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Old Sunday 20th July 2003, 23:31   #15
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It's not actually an Apostle at all, Charles They are about a mile or so back behind the camera, and there used to be 12 but I think there only 10 or 11 now, as they are soft rock and erode very quickly. On the other hand, if you come back in 20 or 30 years, there might be 14 of them, the sea keeps making new ones too. The one in the picture is another, similar structure. But you get the general idea anyway. A very spectacular bit of coastline. Just down the way a little further is London Bridge", a spectacular stand-alone lump of rock, connected to the mainland by a slim arch at the top you can walk across with the water flowing through underneath where the waves have washed it away. Or rather, although it's still called "London Bridge" it's a real island now: the bridge part fell down a few years ago, and three people had a rather cold and worrying time for a few hours till someone rustled up a helicopter to lift them off.

I think I have an actual Twelve Apostles picture here somewhere, from last summer with my old camera, and at the other end of the day. Let's see if I can dig it out.
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Old Monday 21st July 2003, 00:35   #16
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Thanks, Tony. That's an extraordinarily beautiful hunk of coastline. There are a couple of spots in Japan that look a little bit like that, on the Inland Sea-- not so nicely shaped, but with picturesque wind-formed Black Pines atop.

PS: Glad you recovered your pix.
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Old Monday 21st July 2003, 00:48   #17
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This is some great info to keep handy. It hasn't happened to me yet, but I know it's coming some day. Sure am glad your experience turned out good and you got your pics recovered. I'd be sick if I lost those pics too. Thanks for the info and it's good to know a place that can do what they say at a reasonable cost.
Becky
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Old Monday 21st July 2003, 11:38   #18
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Thanks for that useful information, I will add that website to my favourites just in case. Although with me it has been two disasterous crashes of my complete system in the last three years, the first I didn't have anything backed up and lost the lot. I now have my best photos backed up on discs. Your 12 Apostles remind me of the Dorset coastline around Durdle Door which also had a fall recently.
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Old Tuesday 22nd July 2003, 00:38   #19
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Quote:
Originally posted by jayhunter
.... Your 12 Apostles remind me of the Dorset coastline around Durdle Door which also had a fall recently.
Hi Jayhunter,

What fell in the fall? Not bits of Durdle Door I hope.

Dave.
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Old Tuesday 22nd July 2003, 07:19   #20
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Great thread, glad to hear the diasater came to a good ending. I've add datarescue.com to be on the "ready" for my turn.

It's amazing the information you can glean from this Forum!

Thanks one and all!
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