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Honey, I erased our vacation pictures!

Image data recovery software brings back "deleted" photos

It only takes a second. One minute, your precious image files are safely stored on the camera's memory card. The next moment, they are gone. What could have happened?

A. You removed a memory card from the camera before it completed writing a picture file to the card.

B. You turned off the camera before it finished writing the image.

C. You accidentally pressed the "Delete all pictures" button on the camera.

D. You removed the memory card from the card slot of a desktop inkjet printer before the printer completed printing the job.

E. You dropped the memory card, and it was damaged.

F. All the above.

All these scenarios are possible. But, always, the first rule is "Don't Panic!" The images aren't really "gone." They are still there; but, due to file corruption, formatting errors, or delete instructions, you can't locate them with the camera's on-board software.

If you want to recover the "lost" images on a memory card or any digital image storage device (such as Microdrives, Zip drives, or Digital Wallets), don't write over the data. Quickly turn to one of the many image recovery software programs on the market today.

As many government departments and corporations quickly learned after selling off surplus computers that were supposedly wiped clean, in the digital world no data is ever really gone until you rip out a hard drive and shred it into tiny pieces. When deleting a file on a Windows or Macintosh machine, all you are doing is removing the marker to the file. The data still resides on the hard drive, but the data are invisible, so they can be written over. The same situation occurs with flash memory cards.

When image files disappear, the problem is usually corruption of the memory card's directory. If images suddenly vanish, stop using that card for picture taking and don't respond to error prompts, such as "Media is not formatted. Would you like to format now?"

The next step is to run an image data recovery program on your computer. Usually, the camera's corrupted card is placed in a card reader that is connected to the computer. The software is different for Windows and Macintosh operating systems, so note which version of a software package is applicable. Most programs are sold as online downloads and packaged products. No programs claim to be 100 percent effective.


ImageRecall ($39.95) software from ImageRecall, Hedge End, Suthampton, United Kingdom (, is available from FlashFixers, Exeter, N.H. (, a company that also provides professional photo recovery services to photo labs and imaging industry customers. Using a simple GUI interface, ImageRecall extracts files from a card's internal data structure.

The company claims the software recovers photos in more digital formats than competitors, including JPEG, CRW (Canon), PNG, BMP, NEF (Nikon), GIF, TIFF, RIFF, MP3, AVI, and MOV. Also, the firm boasts that the software has a 95 percent recovery success rate when the image data still exists on the memory card. ImageRecall runs on Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/XP, and recovers files from all the popular memory cards, including the latest xD Picture Card, as well as Microdrives and any other removable media that appears as a letter drive.

The company just announced the launch of ImageRecall Professional Version for Windows computer users, and will shortly introduce a Macintosh OS version of the program. The Pro version contains a number of new features, such as Memory Card Test, Secure Erase, and CD-Writing.

FlashFixers blames a range of problems for lost pictures, including accidental deletion or formatting errors, or files edited and deleted too many times using the camera's on-board functions--rather than on a computer--memory cards that are maxed out with too many pictures, weak battery power, exposure to strong magnetic sources and static electrical charges, as well as extreme heat or cold. A free trial version can be downloaded from FlashFixers' website, where a full version can be purchased. For an additional charge, ImageRecall is available on a CD-ROM, along with DataRecall, a data recovery program for Microsoft Office applications.


PhotoRecovery ($39.95) software from LC Technology International Inc., Clearwater, Fla. (, is available for both Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP and Mac OS X computers. It also supports an impressive list of image formats, including JPEG, EXIF, TIFF, GIF, BMP, CRW, ORF (Olympus), NEF, MRW (Minolta), RAF (Fujifilm), X3F (Sigma), as well as audio/video clip formats AVI, MOV, and WAV. The software can be downloaded from the website.

The software usually requires a memory card reader, since the media must appear as a drive on the computer. If the camera manufacturer provides special driver software that appears on the computer screen, a reader is not necessary. PhotoRecovery operates with all current memory card formats, as well as other digital storage devices, such as MicroDrives and Digital Wallets. Perhaps unique is its support language instructions in Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish.


MediaRECOVER ($39.95) from MediaRECOVER, Decorah, Iowa (www.mediarecover.conl), is a digital image and data recovery program available for both Windows and Mac OS X computers. The company reports the software operates with all image and video file types, including DCR (Kodak) and various RAW files, and is compatible with all memory cards, Zip drives, floppy disks, hard drives, and all other media. The company also offers an Enterprise version of MediaRECOVER for photo specialty stores and labs that want to provide image recovery service to customers. It offers 24-hour/7-days-a-week e-mail technical support, as well as upgrades to the latest version of the software.

MediaRECOVER retrieves lost files, images, and data even if images were accidentally deleted. The program not only undeletes files, but also restores system files on corrupt media. Special features include Format Option, which writes a DOS-compatible file system to the card without overwriting it with new data; and Wipe Option, which overwrites a card with zeros so a corrupted, non-working card can be recognized and reformatted. Preferred is the use of a USB memory card reader. A demo version of the software is online at the website.


PhotoRescue ($39 boxed, $29 online) from DataRescue, Liege, Belgium (, is available in both Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/XP and Mac OS X versions. The company states PhotoRescue supports the recovery of all file and media types, but its algorithms are particularly optimized for JPEG, TIFF, GIF, and BMP files. The program is also being constantly updated to support manufacturers' RAW file formats, such as CRW, NEF, ORW, and MRW, as well as many of the movie file formats.

Considered an advanced software program, PhotoRescue can unerase and recover images from badly corrupted memory cards after other methods have failed. The program is "safe" because it does not contain any code to write on the cards and takes up 1.2MB of disk space on the computer. Workspace equal to twice the size of the memory card being recovered is needed, however, plus space for the recovered images. In addition to the program, buyers receive a year of technical support and free upgrades.

BadCopy Pro

BadCopy Pro ($39.50) from JufSoft Inc., Sarasota, Fla. (, is available as an online download for Windows 98/2000/ME/NT/XP computers from the company website and requires 2MB of disk space. A free evaluation version is also available. Using a standard wizard interface, recovery and preview is easy, with most tasks fully automatic. Designed as a broad-spectrum data recovery tool for all types of digital media from floppy disks to memory cards, the company states: "It can effectively recover and rescue corrupted or lost data from damaged, unreadable, or defective disks." The program supports popular memory card formats and is risk-free, because the software does not modify or overwrite the original card and rescues the data to a different location as specified.

Digital Picture Recovery

Digital Picture Recovery software ($39) was created by Photo Recovery Lab, South Pasadena, Fla. (, a company specializing in professional digital image recovery. The Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP program operates with most memory cards and every type of memory card reader. The program makes the memory card appear as a letter drive on the computer screen. Currently, Photo Recovery Lab has a special offer running: For $79, the service will recover the images on any size flash card with any number of photos, plus give you a copy of Digital Picture Recovery software at no additional cost.

Zero Assumption

Zero Assumption Digital Image Recovery 1.0 (freeware) for Windows 98/ME/2000/XP is a free download of 650KB available from a variety of websites, including and Designed as a specialized image recovery tool working with digital images, Zero Assumption can recover digital photos from memory cards that have been accidentally deleted, as well as restoring images from corrupted card directories. The current version supports JPEG, TIFF, and GIF file formats, and is compatible with all the memory card formats, such as CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SmartMedia, etc. An appropriate card reader is used to transfer images from the camera memory card to a computer. A list of compatible camera models can be found at the Zero Assumption website.

In addition to software written specifically for recovering digital image files, there is a large contingent of programs with generic data recovery tools that perform similar data rescues from hard, ZIP, and Jaz drives, and other removable storage devices, including digital camera memory cards.

Image recovery a photo lab and retailer opportunity

ColoRich Professional Imaging, San Diego, Calif. (, originally invested in ImageRecall software as a means of recovering customers' image files that might be "lost" while the memory cards were the responsibility of the camera store/full-service lab. "The program was purchased as a sort of insurance," relates ColoRich's digital retoucher Leon Sandoval.

"Recommended by a friend, the simple-to-operate program is used to look for deleted and corrupted image files, including video clips and movie files. Our lab takes every possible precaution with each memory card it receives and backs up the files immediately. We rarely, if ever, require the ImageRecall program to fix our mistakes.

"We did find an overwhelming opportunity to help customers, who accidentally erased, formatted, or damaged their memory cards. ColoRich earned a reputation in the community as the 'great last hope' for photographers whose memory cards were munched or digitally obliterated by another lab in our area." Sandoval continues.

"I have lots of incredible stories from our thankful customers, but one stands out vividly in my mind. One customer was taking an around-the-world trip and was in San Diego for only a few days. She learned of our reputation and came to ColoRich to see if we could fix her digital camera. Halfway into her trip, she dropped the camera in the jungles of Fiji, and it bounced down a steep hill through the underbrush.

"The camera still worked intermittently, but the memory card, which held more than 300 pictures, didn't respond to the camera's internal software or registered images on a computer. As we chatted about Fiji, I unobtrusively started running the damaged card in the recovery program on one of the lab's computers and immediately retrieved all her 'lost' images. As I brought the images up on the screen, I said, 'Hey, check out these pictures from Fiji,'" Sandoval relates.

"She threw her arms up in the air and started dancing around the store. She hugged me and exclaimed 'I'd marry you if you weren't so young, kid!' It's not only enjoyable to be able to 'perform miracles' for our customers, it is also good business. There are instances when lost photos can't be retrieve, but our lab's success rate has been nothing less than spectacular." he concludes.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:information management of photographs
Publication:Digital Imaging Digest
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2003
Previous Article:A new, professional RIP, designed for production printing of color and monochrome photographs using advanced inkjet printers, was introduced by...
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