Sunday, 28 August 2011

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Recovering accidentally deleted or erased files (photos, pictures, videos).

For those of you who's memory card may be corrupted, or state that a format is required, please see the new procedures for corrupted cards included in the bottom section of this article. Please also leave a comment on whether these procedures worked for you in the comments, as they are still new and under work. For those of you who just accidentally erased or deleted their pictures, corrupted card procedures doesn't apply to you, so continue reading.
Most people think that if you erase your SD, SDHC, MS, CF, xD, etc... memory card (accidentally or intentionally) that the pictures are gone forever. Most people couldn't be more wrong. Your erased pics are still there until you take more pics and overwrite them. You just can't see them, for now. Just try not to take any more pics on that card just yet to improve your chances of recovering all of your pictures.

It's usually no problem at all to get them back. The exception being if your card had undergone a Low Level format. If you don't know what a "Low Level" format is, chances are your card has not undergone one, so continue reading. Try any of the five below linked freeware programs. There's no catch in any of the five (no spyware/adware). They are all, no-kidding, FREE, and will NOT hold your photos hostage after hours of scanning unless you pay for the full version of the software. They're also tiny to download, and are very easy to use. Two of them are single executables (no need for installation). Most of you should have your pics back in minutes after reading this article.
If any of these programs do help you retrieve your photos, please help pass the word onto others and point them to this site when the opportunity arises. This can be done by a much appreciated simple click on this article's Facebook "Like" button. The word needs passed that honest-to-goodness freeware options exist out there. You might have noticed how difficult it was to find true freeware options when it comes to recovery software (hence the reason for this article).

Note that these programs may require the use of a card reader, so think about getting one if you don't have one already. They're VERY inexpensive these days, and may be found on Amazon). What's a card reader? See this other article from the blog. To use these programs, you insert your memory card into the card reader so that these programs can read it as a removeable hard drive that they can scan and recover the photos from. Keep in mind that a card reader also comes in handy for downloading photos, as it's much faster and more reliable than plugging your camera into your computer (and no batteries to worry about running down!). Although a SD card reader is shown below, they also are available for all memory card types.
Example USB SD Card Reader ( $2 with shipping on Amazon)
If you own a camera, there's no reason not to own one of these!
For Mac Users: Nearly all of the reviewed software in this article are for PC's (the exception is PhotoRec). But not to fret, freeware also exists for the Mac. For my Mac readers, please see this option for the Mac from CNET. Also, one of my Mac readers has his own blog and has done a very nice review of recovery freeware options available for Mac users available here.
PC Free Recovery Software Performance Comparison
The below listed table outlines the current results of performance comparison of the software listed on this site. This comparison was made using an old 64MB SD card that had been previously erased, formatted, and reused many times. I no longer use this card, and hold onto it only so that I can run head to head comparisons of recovery software. I utilized "deep scan", "surface scan", or "intensive mode" where applicable/selectable, to give each software its best shot at recovery.

In order of performance based purely on my unscientific and amateurish evaluation, here are the tested freeware I recommend for the PC. (Please leave a comment on how these worked for you in the reader's comments section, but also note that shill comments will not be tolerated).
#1: PhotoRec by (Windows 2000 though 7, Linux, Mac OS X and many more)
This is absolutely by far the most powerful and most effective freeware photo recovery software that you can find/use. As expected, in the performance comparison it came out on top. It not only recovered all photos, but also their thumbnail files. It also found one additional mp3 file that MiniTool missed. The only drawback of PhotoRec is that it does not have a graphic user interface, and is command line prompted (thus it's portability across many operating systems). But this may scare the average person from using it. They shouldn't be, as it is not too difficult to use. As proof, please see this article from TechnoBuzz with further info and very easy to follow instructions on how to use PhotoRec (nice job Shunmugha). The latest version of the program may be downloaded directly from CGSecurity here. Note that it comes bundled with another program (TestDisk) that isn't really needed for photo recovery, thus can be ignored.

#2: MiniTool Power Data Recovery Free Edition (Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and 7)
This software came out in 2011, and I have to admit, it is my favorite of the bunch listed here on this site. Ran a performance comparison of all the listed software, and it came in second, recovering nearly all known deleted images, videos and mp3's on the card. Albeit, it did miss some unneeded thumbnail files and a single mp3 that PhotoRec caught. But it remains my favorite as it's almost as powerful as PhotoRec, yet has an excellent GUI that should make it easy for the average person to use. It's also very quick, and relatively easy to use. This is recommended for you to try first out of all of the bunch, and if it doesn't work, then maybe consider PhotoRec. You may download it from CNET here. It's totally free for non-commercial (home) use. And here are simple instructions that I've written showing how to use the program.

#3: VAIOSoft Recovery Manager (Windows 95 through XP)
If neither of the above options worked for you, then here's another fine example in free recovery software. Not as simple as some of the others, but it definitely gets the job done. In fact, it came in third in my performance comparison of recovery software! It was able to recover all the known deleted images on the card as well as 4 known erased mp3's. However, one of the recovered images may have data from a video embedded into it due to its unusally large file size. But still, this program did better than most others evaluated. It's 3.2 megs in size and requires an install. Although CNET says it's good for up to Windows XP, I was able to install and run it on Windows 7. Download it from CNET here.

#4: PC Inspector Smart Recovery (Windows 95 through 7)
NOTE Windows 7 users must right-click and select "Run as Administrator".
Had to add this one to the list. This will recover files from flash card reader, hard drive, or just about any drive (but not directly from a camera). It's slower than all of the above BUT and I mean BUT this software is thorough. This one will very likely work in recovering your photos if the others had failed. It was able to recover all knwon images on the card. However, one of these images obviously has other data embedded with it due to its large file size. The program was not able to recover the known deleted "MOV" video on the card, and does not have mp3 recovery capability. As such, it came in as #4 for still being able to recover all of the known deleted images. You can download it from CNET here.
#5: Recuva (Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and 7)
This software package includes a good Wizard interface. The program is good, and will likely recover (Recuva?) your files. But for best results with this program, I found that I needed to select "Switch to Advanced Mode", and then adjust the "Actions" tab settings. Once I did that, previously missing files would suddenly show up with this program. But even with "advanced mode" and running a "Deep Scan", the program was only able to recover 6 of the known 10 images. Although ranked #5, it performs at a tie with Pandora, which also ran a "Surface Scan" to recover the same 6 images as Recuva did. You may download it from CNET here.

#6: Pandora Recovery (Windows 2000, XP, and Vista only) This one is also good and works under Vista too, which is always a plus. You can do intensive deep scans for those deleted photos from long ago (though it will take time, results will vary), or you can do simple scans for those easily recovered recently deleted files. This tied with Pandora, as it was only able to recover 6 of the 10 images on the card. You can read about Pandora's features here. And you can read user reviews and download it from CNET here.
#7: SoftPerfect File Recovery (Windows 95 through Vista) Ahhh, the beauty of simplicity (can work with most OS)! This one is very tiny (276kb) and recovers any file type by specifying searches for "*.jpg", "*.avi", "*.mov" etc... It's very fast too! It's a single executable file that does not require installation. Controls are simple and minimal. Manually highlight the files that are to be recovered, and right click to save them to a folder. Unfortunately, this program seems to work best (and maybe only) for recently deleted files. Also unfortunately, it wasn't able to recover any of the photos on the 64MB test card, possibly because I had done a quick format in the past with this card. As such, it may not be capable of recovery for anything more than simple deleted files. But for most people who just accidentally hit the delete button, that's all they may need. So it still may be of use, and I keep it listed here. Download it from CNET here.

Now that you know how, go recover those "lost" pics of Aunt Lucy!
Good Luck,

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