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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Why icons have a lock (padlock) overlay while using Windows Live Mesh and HomeGroup in Windows 7?

I’ve noticed that since I have begun using Windows Live Mesh (part of the Windows Live Essentials 2011 free add-on suite for Windows Vista and Windows 7), some of the icons on files have a little lock (padlock) overlay icon:


I was a bit worried if I couldn’t edit one of those files and that I should take ownership or change security settings every time I was synchronizing my PCs.

I turns out it’s less scary than it looks. A padlock overlay icon  means, according to Raymond Chen’s blog post, that “you have a private item in a non-private directory”. Now, what does that mean?

You probably know that Windows 7 introduces the “HomeGroup” feature, which greatly simplifies printer, music and other files sharing on your home network. When your PC joins a HomeGroup, a number of predefined folders will be shared with other PCs on the same internal network (or, as Raymond says: “When you set up a HomeGroup, pretty much everything is going to be shared”). Which means your folders and files will automatically become public (to your home network). An overlay icon will be displayed when you transition from a non-private (public) state to a private state.

Now you ask: how come my files have been transitioned from non-private to private?

The answer seems to lie with how Windows Live Mesh synchronizes your files. I don’t know how it works under the covers, but files which are synched are marked private when copied over to your computer.

Important note: it might have been a temporary change while Windows Live Mesh (called Live Sync at that time) was in the Beta period. Now that Live Mesh has been released officially, it seems my recent files synched to my computer DO NOT have the overlay icon anymore (to be confirmed at a later date).

Tip: how do I change that and remove the lock overlay?

Right-click on the file or folder, select “Share with” in the context menu, and finally choose “HomeGroup (Read)” or “HomeGroup (Read/Write)”:


I hope this helps.


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Hello world!

Welcome to my blog! This is my new place to share thoughts longer than 140 characters.

I tried the automatic migration from Live Spaces, but it didn’t work. I exported my 12 previous posts successfully, but I figured they were not interesting enough to rewrite them here. So hopefully I’ll write better stuff from now on.

I intended to have 2 separate blogs, one for work/code/projects and one for all other stuff. But, I don’t write enough to justify 2 separate entities, I am not sure how people would find me (do I share one blog or the other) and, like on Twitter, you just tend to write whatever is about YOU anyway, whatever happens in your life and want to share.

I’m also on Twitter (for anyone in the world… except spammers) and Facebook (more for friends/colleagues, people I’ve met in real life). Enjoy!

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