How PhotoRec saved my marriage

Well, not really, but it certainly recovered my lost pictures, and that means a lot when you’re married with kids.

Let me explain the story.

I was given a free USB SD card reader some time ago as part of a gadget purchase bundle. I inserted the SD card in the reader, plugged it into the PC, and viewed the photos. So far so good. I am not quite sure what happened exactly then, but I found Windows Explorer not responsive. As a patient, experienced IT worker, I waited for a sign from the PC’s God (there must be a God in there, no?). Well, I must have made that God angry, or I must have been impatient on that day (yeah, it happens), there you go: I removed the SD card. When I plugged it back, there were no photos, just weird looking folders (special characters). Argh, my card partition had been damaged!


OK, now time to google with Bing for a photos/files recovery freeware. I found lots of shareware/demoware/crapware, and I was happy that some of them could read the clusters and reconstruct the photos. Of course, they would ask me my credit card for the full version of the software before I could save them. Being cheap, I searched a bit more and found a freeware called “PC INSPECTOR™ File Recovery 4.x” (link). It wouldn’t reconstruct the pictures properly and large portions were left black. I gave up…

Today, I was reading a blog post called “Photography with Open Source / Linux” (link), and stumbled on the following paragraph mentioning the Open Source and free PhotoRec application:

If disaster strikes, in the form of an accidentally-erased memory card or a lost backup drive, you can install the open source file recovery tool PhotoRec to recover deleted images. Like all data recovery tools, PhotoRec can only recover files that have not been overwritten by newer content, but when possible, it can work wonders — scanning multi-gigabyte drives and cards in mere minutes and pulling out photo content you otherwise would have lost.

I gave it a try: downloaded the latest (beta) version for Windows 64-bit, decompressed it, read the ReadMe file and launched the executable. A DOS interface welcomed me and guided me through the recovery process, which was pretty straight forward:


I lost a few pictures, but recovered most of the others, including videos. Yeah!

Thank you to Christophe Grenier, the French developer of PhotoRec, for keeping the software free and Open Source.

Oh, and the faulty USB SD card reader you ask? It’s long gone in the rubbish bin.

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