Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lost and Found: SD Card Corruption

I have always enjoyed taking pictures. My father introduced me to SLR cameras years ago and I have many colour slides of people and of places I have visited. Film and developing had a cost attached so we were more careful in shooting as one had to pay for the good and bad pictures.

Digital cameras have changed that! I am able to shoot 100 pictures in a day and keep only 25 without cost concern. I have taken a couple of thousand pictures this year and had about 400 of them on the SD memory card in my camera. These were some of my favourite shots and while they had been downloaded to my computer, they were not yet backed up. On Saturday we spent much of the day at the market with my brother and his family and there were about fifty new pictures from this outing on the 2 GB card.

I proceeded to download my new pictures and received the message, "No images on card". Impossible! I knew there were hundreds of photos that had not been deleted. Melissa from Empress of Dirt wrote a timely post last week about some freeware that successfully found pictures she had accidentally deleted from her memory card. I downloaded the software but it would not run on my system. But thanks to her I knew a solution was possible.

The next stop was Walmart where I put the card in a photo machine. No images! The young clerk told me my card was corrupted and those pictures were lost.

He did not know me...I do not give up easily.

I bought a card reader, which I should have had in the first place, and searched the internet again for a solution. A program called PhotoRescue allowed me to download a trial version to search for my pictures and then required payment to retrieve them on my hard drive. Amazing! In 10 minutes it located 480 pictures and I happily paid $29 to keep the program. There was no loss of quality to the images.

Forensic experts have tools which can find files which have been deleted from hard drives, voice mail systems and memory devices. A while ago our voice mail system at work was upgraded and messages deleted months before reappeared on the new message box. Beware! Electronic evidence is not removed as easily as paper is shredded in a machine.

I hope I do not have to use my "forensic software" again, but have it ready if my SD card becomes corrupted again. I have reformatted it and also bought another card. This list of memory card do's and don'ts was on the internet at this site. I broke about half of these rules regularly but will change the way I use my memory devices in the future.

From the website Digital Inspiration:

Here are some tips that may prevent memory cards from getting corrupt and prolong their life as well:

» As far as possible, use brands recommended by the camera manufacturers.

» Never turn off the digital camera while photos are being transferred to the PC or vice versa.

» It is always advisable to reformat camera cards at regular intervals depending on how frequently you use the digital camera.

» Use the camera controls itself to reformat the memory card, don't do this via your computer.

» Do not switch to the View (or Play mode) while the picture is still being written to the disk.

» Do not shoot the next photograph while the previous one is still being written or saved to card's memory.

» Make sure your camera batteries are properly charged. Shooting images with a low battery may sometimes cause problems. If the camera batteries fail while the image is being written, your card may get corrupt.

» Weird but true - Don't delete files from the Memory card using Windows Explorer. Either use the Camera controls or the photo management software supplied by the Camera vendor.

» If the memory card is showing problems frequently, it's probably time to invest in a new memory card before disaster strikes (again).

» Never eject the memory card while the camera is till ON.

» Do not use the same memory card is different cameras.

PS: Memory cards in the story above refer to all storage media formats including Memory Stick, Secure Digital [SD Cards] or even CompactFlash.


  1. These are excellent tips. Thanks for leeting us learn from your resolved problems. I'll be bookmarking this post!

  2. I wondered how well those photo retrieval programs work. It sounds like some do. Your tips are great, and there's one more I'd add; buy a second memory card and keep it in your camera bag. You might need it in the field.

  3. I accidentally erased my card in Arizona several years ago. I immediately put it away and was able to retrieve most of the files when I got home using a freeware program. Phew!

  4. Absolutely excellent tips .....tku so much for such an informative post......

  5. Thank-you for the heads up.The pictures are lovely as well.

  6. Excellent information we should all know. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  7. Wow, I happily shoot away never knowing all the do's and don't! Thanks, Ruth.

  8. A good lesson Ruth. Thanks! (Jayne, who was holding her breath for you the entire post!)

  9. Anonymous6:47 am GMT-4

    I just popped my old memory card in my new camera the other day.....guess I shouldn't have done that! I had no idea.

    I was just telling someone (younger) about buying film for my Kodak Instamatic years ago, often opting for black and white because it was cheaper, and taking more outdoor pictures, because those flashcubes were expensive. I love digital!

  10. Ruth,

    These are fantastic tips. I didn't realize that the cards could become corrupt. I best get some of my photos off my cards and onto disc.

    Thanks for another great post. I appreciate the tips.


  11. My goodness, Ruth. I'm glad you were able to retrive those photos, even at a cost! You provided good tips. I usually delete photos on my memory card within a day or two, after my photos are saved. I do this to save time during transfers.

    Thanks for the info!

  12. I have lost photos due to an SD card problem. So I have a backup drive and another thumb drive so that is not going to happen again. I am glad that you got your photos back again..

  13. Ruth, it sure is good to know there is software available to retrieve corrupted files in this day and age. And it's exceptional to know there is software that will retrieve "lost" photos. I'm sure glad it worked out for you. And thanks so much for sharing those tips with us.

  14. I've never had a problem with my memory cards but I'm glad to have read this ... in case I ever do. I found out, when I purchased my new camera, about reformatting the card frequently so have been doing so. I don't keep any pictures on the camera card ... they all get downloaded to the computer and eventually backed up from there.

    I'm glad you were able to retrieve all of your pictures in top quality.


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