How to rescue images from a corrupted CF-card

Recently one of my CF-cards suddenly lost all images and movies from my Canon 5D MarkII. When inserting it in the camera it just said “no images” and when inserting it in my computer it displayed huge amounts of strange files with strange names.

A quick question on twitter ended with these recommendations:
DataRescue (Mac)
Camera Salvage (Mac)
Digital Photo Recovery (Windows, free)
Smart Recovery (Windows, free)
Photo Rescue (Mac and Windows)

Thanks to @moltke, @willytk, @rudolfsen, @magnusak, @mortend, @evensr. Now go follow them. They’re helpful people.


But before booting to Windows or buying one of the Mac apps I wanted to try a small free program called PhotoRec (Mac, Win, Linux). By the way also recommended by @willytk.

And it did the trick. People might be scared of the command line, but it was fairly simple to choose the card, select FAT as the file system, choose a location to store the rescued files and start the operation.

One of the images with some corruption.

PhotoRec is currently ticking away. And it seems to find all the files on the card. Both images and movies. Two of the images have some errors on them, but I can live with that. 8 gigs of movies and RAW images rescued…

So now you know. In case you experience something similar.

How to rescue images from a corrupted CF-card

My current backup strategy

You don’t understand that having backups of important data is a good idea before you’ve missed something very important. I have twenty years of experience with hard drives and learned very early that backups are a very good idea.

So people keeps asking me how I administrate my data. Now here’s the quick story:

1. Apple Time Machine
It does a constant backup of my system drive. With several versions and very easy restore. It has saved me a couple of times already.

2. Mirrored RAID on the media server
I have a couple of large disks with my video, audio and images. Stuff that I don’t want to loose. These disks are configured as something that’s called RAID 1. Or in plain english: each disk is actually two disks. On the computer they show up as one, but everything that is stored on them is actually stored on two disks. See the four disks in the image above? It’s not four terrabytes of data. It’s two. Giving instant backup. If one drive fails I simply replace it and the system will rebuild it. To do this you can use the built in RAID support in Mac OSX, but that is lame, so I use SoftRaid. And yes, when I buy a new external hard drive I buy two. Meaning twice the security and twice the price.

The RAID system has also saved me a couple of times. It’s not a question of “if” a drive fails. It’s “when”.

3. Portable hard drive
I also want an off site backup of my most important files. A backup that will survive burglary or a fire in my home. This is mainly for my images. For that I have a two layer system. First I have a drive that I fill up and keep in a drawer at work.

4. Network based backup
Of course I don’t bother to bring the portable disk back and forth very often, so if everything fails at home I would probably loose months of images. That’s why I have an extra layer of remote backup for the last year of data. A system that immediately starts uploading files to a remote server as I add images and important files. There are several systems for this. Back in the days when I used Windows I relied on Carbonite. Another good solution is Mozy. But I use JungleDisk. Because I trust Amazon and their encryption. And because it gives me a virtual drive that lets me access my files at all times from any computer.

That’s it. Time Machine. RAID1. Portable disk and JungleDisk. Share your backup strategy and fire away with questions in the comments.

My current backup strategy

Mozy Backup for Mac

I have been using Carbonite to back up my 100 GIG collection of images to remote servers from my Windows box. Now I need a simple and easy solution to back up from my Macs instead.

Mozy just released a limited beta of their backup client for Mac OSX. Limited, because it has only been communicated to the people that have specifically asked to be updated about the Mozy client for Mac.

I have tested Mozy on one of my windows boxes for a while and it works very well. Set it up, choose the folders and file types to back up and forget. Until you have a major disk crash. At that point you can restore your files to any computer through the web interface.

Mozy provides a free option that gives you 2 GB of storage. And an unlimited option that gives you… …surprise: unlimited amounts of storage. That last option will set you back $4.95 a month.

Carbonite have been working well so far, but after testing Mozy I must admit that Mozy adds some very valuable features:

1. Web access to your files. You can restore to any computer.
2. A Mac version!

In addition to this I like the Mozy interface better and feel that in general I have better control of my files.

The official Mozy client for Mac will be out in a couple of weeks. I am testing the limited beta right now and it seems to be working fine.

Mozy Backup for Mac

How to back up your system

More and more precious data builds up in your computer. Loosing images from the last five years of vacations is a pity. So you want to keep a backup.

I keep two. For my most valuable stuff. One local backup and one off site. Actually it’s off continent. I live in Norway and my external backup is in the US.

Both of the backups are completely automated. Here’s how I do it.

I keep all my images in one folder with several subfolders on our family server. This computer have several hard drives and because I have experienced complete hard drive failures I know how fast you can loose gigabytes of data.

So my first line of defence is to keep an updated mirror of my image folder on another drive. If the main drive drops dead I can restore everything from the second drive. Yes, this cost me twice the hard drive space. Currently I have 120 GIG of images, so I need at least 120 GIG extra space on the second drive. Still pretty cheap insurance if you like your image collection.

To automate the process I use a free software called SyncBack Freeware. I have put up one single profile in SyncBack that simply backup the folder called “Images” from drive 1 to a folder called “Images” on drive 2. This backup is run every hour.

For the off site backup I use a service called Carbonite. It is very user friendly, encrypt your data and is priced very reasonable. Currently it’s $5 a month for unlimited amount of space. 2 GIG upload a day, and about 15 GIG download a day when you need to restore your data.

Carbonite is a software that you install on your computer that gives you a couple of possibilities, from “Back up the My Documents folder“, “Back up all images on my computer” to the more full control option where you simply right click and choose “Back this up” on the files, folders and drives that you want to back up.

I know there’s a lot of possibilities out there so you’re welcome to add your solutions in the comments.

Both Carbonite and SyncBack are Windows only. Paul Stamatiou uses Amazon S3 and jungle disk for the off site backup. That one is Windows, Linux and Mac. I’ll have to ask my friend Oyvind to give you a complete and similar solution for Macintosh. I guess he’ll comment or trackback here when he’s done with his article on how to back up your mac…

Have a look in the comments here. Seems like Carbonite isn’t that unlimited after all: Carbonite – when unlimited is limited

How to back up your system