Wednesday, 13 May 2009

CardRescue to the rescue!

Getting back from a day of shooting in the Judean desert while out in Jerusalem recently (as you do), I followed my usual procedure and backed up my CF cards to my NEXTO portable hard drive. I got distracted while I was waiting, and after the process had completed the NEXTO had shut down (as is normal). I took the card out and formatted it in my camera for the next day of shooting.

But when I turned the NEXTO back on to check how much space it had left, I was horrified to see the message “previous copy failed!”.

Now I was beginning to sweat.

Because I was simply visiting friends and not on a commissioned shoot, I had only bothered to bring one NEXTO with me, and it was still filled with images from the previous shoot. So it was running low on space and rather than backup each card twice like I normally do, I had only tried to do so once.

Sure enough, the NEXTO had run out of space and, being left alone for more than a minute, had switched itself off to conserve battery as it is meant to do. I hadn’t bothered to check the backup completed properly and now had just formatted my card without having a copy on the NEXTO.

Now, when you format a memory card, most cameras don’t actually delete the files. They simply reset the table that tells the camera or computer where the files are. This makes the it think the card is empty, and allows it to overwrite it with new data.
So, as long as the files are not overwritten with new data, you can, in theory, recover the ‘lost’ files using special software that scans the disk for files that are not in the lookup table. The key thing is not continue to shoot on that card, to prevent the files form being overwritten.

Although I knew the theory, I had never tried it in practice, leading to a rather sleepless night. I had been out hiking in the desert to an ancient monastery and wasn’t going to get the opportunity to go back there.
I immediately put the CF card aside, so that I wouldn’t accidentally shoot over it again.

When I got home, I immediately plugged the card into my card reader and ran the
Sandisk Rescue Pro software that comes with all Sandisk memory cards.


OK, so I was now starting to get slightly worried. I did a quick search online, and found good reviews of Card Rescue, a £30 download, that worked on Mac and PC. Luckily it has a trial version that allows you to see whether it can rescue your files before you pay for it. I ran the trial and, after about 30 mins examining my 8GB card, it found every single missing file. I paid my £30, saved them to my hard drive and counted my lucky stars.

So there you have it – my new favourite piece of software.


  1. Whoa that's a scary experience. I know that awful feeling when something like that happens so I can imagine your relief and joy.

    Good to know about that software I'll keep an eye ouit for it.

    Thanks for the tips
    Dave T

  2. Julian, that's an amazing pic (to go with the scary experience) The software tips might be a bit too detailed for me, old boy. One day I'll get to that level of photography. Actually, that's pretty unlikely! James

  3. PS - didn't know this email address was registered to Heather!