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Is it possible to recover mini-DVD data - disk not finalized

by JSFarrar / June 26, 2007 11:28 AM PDT

OK, before I start I will completely prostrate myself to the gurus of video recording - I SHOULD NEVER HAVE BOUGHT A DVD CAMCORDER (and once I did, I should've admitted my error and bought a replacement).

That said, for the umpteenth time, my 20 month old Panasonic VDR-M53PP decided to record an important childhood milestone (my daughter's 2nd birthday) and then unexpectedly gobble up the disk and produce a disk error, which appears to be unrepairable, and unfinalizable, rendering the mini-DVD-R unreadable.

Big shock at my question: CAN I RECOVER THE DATA????

Next question (as I've done enough research to get scared): any advice as to which utility to try (will any of them hurt this disk more?). I've seen positive reviews of CDRoller (although not on cnet), Virtual Lab, and others. Will any of these work? Are they user friendly enough for me to do it (I'm not a techie at all). I do get that you need a DVD writer to do this, and coincidentally I just bought one, although I haven't installed it yet.

Do I bring it to a data recover service instead? The ones on the net that advertise the ability to salvage DVD files appear to cost a gob of $$$. And my local shop (not much cheaper) doesn't seem to be uber-confident they can do it.


And I PROMISE I am sending this stinking, unreliable, rotten machine BACK to Panasonic with a letter imploring them to remove DVD camcorders from the market. This will be my grass-roots mission. Too many sad nights after I lost precious video of my children. Irreplaceable!!!!

Thanks in advance,

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Sorry about your awful experience, but there are options...
by whizkid454 / June 26, 2007 11:42 AM PDT

1) Do you have a DVD reader(not necessarily a burner)? If so, a DVD burner is not required until you would need to burn again onto a 4.7GB DVD.

2) Try to see if Windows actually recognizes the disc when it is put into the drive. (It might say "Blank CD", but don't worry, that doesn't necessarily mean that the data is lost forever.)

3) Download ISOBuster (Hint: and see if it will recognize the disc. If so, see if you can retrieve the data. (If using a Mac, try Handbrake.)

Now some questions...

1) Does the disc play in the camcorder? Can you actually view the footage or is there an error?
2) Is the DVD able to play in a DVD player?
3) What is the exact error message you receive? Try looking at the back of the manual since they sometimes offer tips on what you should do if you receive such a message.

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More info on the situation
by JSFarrar / June 27, 2007 4:04 AM PDT

OK, so I tried the DVD in my computer's DVD reader, and it doesn't see anything there.

I'll try to download ISOBuster now. You've had better luck with that than either CDRoller or Virtual Lab?

Nope, the disk does NOT play in the camcorder. When you first put it in the camcorder tells you the disk has an error and do you want to repair now? If you say yes, it will try for several minutes and then say that the disk is unreadable. At that point it just says "Disk Error" and you must eject it. I tried it in a newer Panasonic Camcorder (at Best Buy) and had the exact same problem. It tries to repair it, can't, and then says "disk error"

Since it was never finalized, I doubt it will play in my DVD player (it didn't in my computer's DVD drive).

Hope that helps. They guy at Best Buy's Geek Squad was a laugh - he said that the disk is useless and to throw it out. I then said I was going to download recovery software and he said, " I wouldn't, it can ruin the DVD more." I was like - well, you'd throw it out as already completely unreadable, how can I possibly ruin it more???

I'll keep trying....

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The good news for me is...
by whizkid454 / June 27, 2007 5:05 AM PDT

I've never had to recover files from a DVD (Knock on wood!) so I can't say how one of those programs is better than another.

Your best option, try to use ISOBuster and if that doesn't work.....

Good luck!!! (Fingers crossed!)

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Forgot to ask...
by whizkid454 / June 27, 2007 5:13 AM PDT
"OK, so I tried the DVD in my computer's DVD reader, and it doesn't see anything there."--Do you mean Windows does not recognize that there is a disc in the drive, or Windows does not recognize the files on the disc?

If it doesn't recognize the disc, then I'm afraid ISOBuster and other recovery services are your only options. If it does recognize that there is a disc in the drive, that is a positive sign. That means the disc is not "ruined" or unreadable. Try to explore the disc through My Computer and see if there are files on the disc. If so, try to play them through VLC Player and see what happens. If they play fine, you are in good shape (well, at least your video is). The next step would be to use VirtualDub to transcode those files into another format such as .avi. If there are no files displayed on the disc, then I'm afraid ISOBuster and other recovery services are your only options.
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Win some, lose some
by JSFarrar / June 27, 2007 5:23 AM PDT
In reply to: Forgot to ask...

1st - No, my computer didn't even see a DVD at all. Whoops!

Well, another person advised my to try CDRoller. I downloaded the free version (which promises to show you what it can "see", but won't let you recover anything until you fork over $34). Unbelievably, using my newly installed DVD Writer, it can actually SEE a 1.24 GB VOB file on the DVD. I'm tempted to buy the license, but I am only worried if I buy it, what if it still doesn;t recover that file? I emailed to ask. I guess I can still buy it later or tomorrow. You think ISOBuster would be better? CNet reviewed and loved Virtual Lab... Ugh, it all probably does the same thing.

I'm getting excited that maybe I can get something...

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That's great!
by whizkid454 / June 27, 2007 5:37 AM PDT
In reply to: Win some, lose some

Try and download ISOBuster since it's free and see if it also recognizes it. It will cost $30 to recover the data instead of $34. Who knows, buying this software might save you if this ever happens again. Although, I hope we have learned our lesson about DVD camcorders. I know I did one week after I bought my first DVD camcorder.

Let me know how it works out!

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What now?
by JSFarrar / June 27, 2007 12:45 PM PDT
In reply to: That's great!

I downloaded ISOBuster and it saw 13 files, only one of which appears to have enough size to have content. I bought the license and "extracted" the files. Now I have .ifo files on my hard drive, but they are not playing when double-clicked, even the big one.

What am I doing wrong? Or what do I do now?

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How big?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 27, 2007 12:57 PM PDT
In reply to: What now?

IFO files contain menus and other information about the video and audio. I hope you see other files there.


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You "hope"??? That's not good
by JSFarrar / June 27, 2007 1:00 PM PDT
In reply to: How big?

But, I don't see anything else. How can that be? ISOBuster can't READ them? I mean, they exist. $30 well spent???

HELP!? Is there anything I can do????

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This big - 67MB
by JSFarrar / June 27, 2007 1:01 PM PDT
In reply to: How big?

The disk should have more like 1+ GB on it. I guess that's bad... Come to think of it.

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BUT CDRoller says
by JSFarrar / June 27, 2007 1:07 PM PDT
In reply to: This big - 67MB

And I haven't PAID for the license, yet, so I can't extract, but using the reader of CDRoller, I see the following on the DVD:

VTS-01-1.VOB at 1.29 GB. Does this mean I will be able to DO anything with this??? Should I buy that one, too? Oooh - I'm steamed that I paid for ISOBuster for nothing....

I just don't want to keep throwing money at this. I really hope someone knows what will work (if anything).

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by coreent / October 20, 2009 1:43 PM PDT

You seem to know a lot about this! i have a similar problem, while my video camera was loading the DVD my friend walked into the cord pulling it out of the wall. Now all we can view is the first 10 minutes of our wedding, right up until she knocked it out of the wall. Double wammy is that my sister in laws boyfriend taped all the way to the end so we can't finalize the video. at this point all we car about is seeing our wedding day!!! please let me know if u know a way to retrieve it.


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In case anyone's following my saga...
by JSFarrar / July 1, 2007 7:29 AM PDT

The good news is that the folks who make ISO Buster were very disappointed that their software couldn't recover the data and they offered 2 things to me: a refund (!) and that they will attempt to do it there if I send the DVD to them. I agreed to do that AFTER I've exhausted my own possibilities.

So, I've been emailing the support guy at CDRoller to determine if that software will work (still unclear, but doesn't look good).

As a last resort, is it even worth considering sending it to a data recovery firm? Does anyone have any experience with one? Preferably in the US...

Thanks in advance for any advice. My only other step after this is crafting the letter I will send to Panasonic to explain my frustration with their product.

Oh, and to buy a new camcorder... =)

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by Springer007 / July 3, 2007 6:43 AM PDT

wow. I feel so bad for you. Please keep us updated on how it turns out.

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Yes, I followed the whole thread . . .
by fredlvt / November 15, 2007 2:24 AM PST

I have the same problems with my Panasonic VDR-30. I've had disks fail before finalizing and even had some disks fail when halfway through finalizing.

I haven't tried any of these softwares that you are working with, but did find some info about IsoBuster in the following link:

The important thing to note is in the 4th paragraph:
"If you use IsoBuster to save the tracks off the unfinalized disc, then rename them with an MPG extension you can play them with the VLC Media player or Elecard MPEG2 Player since the file is an MPEG2 video file with AC3 audio at that point.. If you have Nero Burning Rom you can also use the Save Tracks feature (under Features in Ver.6 but Nero-Recode in Ver. 7 might also work) instead. Select the largest track from the disc if there was only one program recorded or several smaller ones if you had a series of 1/2 hour programs and save in a folder on the hard drive. Select the .iso image file as the output type in Nero. I got an error message in Nero but clicked OK and it went on to output and create the file. IsoBuster was able to save the tracks without any errors."

I hope this works. I feel for you . . . I've lost my daughter's second birthday, and a couple of family vacations.

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Reply to: Yes, I followed the whole thread ...
by just2me / April 8, 2008 11:07 AM PDT

I know this might seem a bit elementary, but did you remember to finalize that DVD disc by plugging your camcorder into the AC adapter that comes with the camcorder and the DVDE in the camcorder? This is the only way, for some odd reason, you can finalize a DVD - and you can only finalize the disc while in the camcorder - nowhere else.

I enjoy this little camera for what it is - small, easy to use and not overloaded with bells and whistles. And I really like the fold-out screen - thank you diminishing eyesight here, compliments of too many years staring through fixed lens cameras as a military photographer/newspaper editor, I believe. I did run into one problem when shooting one of my daughter's soccer games - I got a fail (you need to do a repair) error. I thought I had lost the recordings, too, but doing like the manual said - plug into the AC adapter and let the camera find that error. It repaired the error. I then went on to do the finalization and all was fine. No lost data.

Now, if only I can find a good, reliable rechargable 4-hour (right - more like 1 hour if you zoom a lot) battery so I have extras, I would be one happy soccer dad!

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It Worked!
by olliffj / November 27, 2011 11:21 AM PST

I followed your suggestion to use isobuster. I WAS ABLE TO RECOVER MY RECORDING!! THANKS!! It plays on my computer fine. How to I get it burned on dvd to play in dvd players. Help again.

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by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 27, 2011 11:28 AM PST
In reply to: It Worked!

Look up DVD FLICK to create a Video DVD that plays on most players. I'll skip why it doesn't ply on all players but this is good FREE stuff.

And congrats on yet another ISOBUSTER success story.

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In case you're still looking for data recovery firm.......
by Jester0921 / June 24, 2008 2:25 AM PDT

I was in the same boat as you, tried many different programs wasted 2 weeks of my life on this trying to recover my Hawaii vacation. Then my friend referred me to this site that he found on google, in 4 days I had my disk back with recovered data in MPEG format. They use latest recovery equipment to restore raw data. I was truly amazed. The great thing about this company they charged me only $100 while local data recovery firm here wanted $700. Give them a shot (you don't pay unless they recover). Good Luck!

- John

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panasonic dvd camcorder
by juliecoleman / December 20, 2007 11:44 PM PST

After reading the reviews on the panasonic mini dvd recorders I purchased the vdr d-300 and since have had nothing but problems!!! I get a disc error messages 50% of the time and often times the previous recordings are lost. I have owned this camera for 6 months and it has been back to Panasonic twice and they say that can't find the problem. I am sick over this, so many lost milestone events and still a $500 new camera that I can't rely on. Please do not waste your money on this unit.

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DVD Disc Brands can make a difference
by gameways / June 16, 2008 7:48 AM PDT

When I use Panasonic discs, no problems. Sony, sometimes. Maxell, more often. Memorex, more. Etc. Which are you having problems with? Tried Panasonic, such as DVD-RAM (obtainable via ecommerce)?

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Some quicks steps you can take
by lancecarr / July 22, 2008 12:40 AM PDT

Even though this thread started a while ago I noticed it comes up in searches on the subject so, here's a little round up.
First, when the DVD cam manufacturers say to plug the cam into mains power for finalising..they really mean it! They also really mean it when they say don't subject the unit to vibration when the finalization is in progress.
If ,however, you still get an unfinalized disc you can use free trial software to handle it.
Using the trial of Nero 8 you can try the "copy tracks" function in Nero Express.
You can open Nero recode and try that, very often it will just pull the contents of the disc across to your hard drive.
And finally you can use Nero Vision to try to import the contents of the disc. When it detects an unfinalized disc it will give the option to finalise.

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CDRoller worked
by nata836 / June 17, 2012 2:01 AM PDT

Hi All,

Thanks for directing me to CDRoller here. My hitachi dvd camera gone. CDRoller helped me to return all videos from non-finalized discs. Using their 'Split Video' and 'Burn' features i was also able to create a new discs. Great work! Again, many thanks for your info.


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