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Digital photos stored on external drive have gray bars on them, help!

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 30, 2010 6:41 AM PDT

Digital photos stored on external drive have gray bars on them, help!

Some of my digital pictures that have been stored on an external hard drive since 2002-2003 have gray bars on them. The gray bars differ in size, from 1/3 to 1/2 coverage of the picture, usually from bottom to top. There are also some digital pictures that have ?split?, whereas the top part of the picture is not in line with the bottom half. Again, these digital pictures have been stored on a external hard drive for 7-8 years. I first noticed this problem about two years ago. The current external drive is about one year old. All of the problem pictures were shot from a Minolta 4mp digital camera purchased in May 2002. Sorry I do not know the model number. I thank CNET for considering my issue for feedback of possibly resolving the problem. Thank you.

--Submitted by Ted V.

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but
please read all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this question.

Not enough information given... --Submitted by Watzman

More information would be helpful --Submitted by timhood

Incomplete photos --Submitted by GEO2003

Suggestions to check --Submitted by marketrue

Silent Corruption?" --Submitted by Flatworm

Gray Bars and split --Submitted by HeadHancho

Thank you to all who contributed!

If you have any additional recommendations or suggestions to help Ted solve this mystery, please click on the reply link and submit away. Please be as detailed as possible when providing your solution. Thanks!
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Not enough information given ....

We really do not have enough information here. You didn't tell us what form the photos were stored in (JPEG? TIFF? some camera specific "RAW" format?), or how you stored the photos (what software wrote the photos to the drive) or what software you are now using to retrieve and view the photos.

But first, a bit of background:

A computer file (ANY file, of ANY type: program, document, spreadsheet, photo, video, song .... ***ANY*** file, period) is just a list of numbers. That's all that any computer file is. All of the numbers are between 0 and 255, comprising what, in the computer world, is known as one byte. If you have a one-megabyte file, then there are approximately 1 million numbers in the list, that being the length (size) of the file.

The only thing a hard drive does is store those lists. And the hard drive has extensive error detection and checking so that, if it cannot ACCURATELY retrieve a file (e.g. with ZERO errors ... ZERO, period; even 1 error in a BILLION bytes is totally unacceptable), it at least KNOWS that it didn't retreive the file accurately (e.g. that whatever it did retrieve may not have been what was originally recorded) and you will be informed of that fact. I'm not saying that the hard drive is infallible, but I am saying that if it does fail (and they do, most definitely), you will KNOW IT and be told ... explicitly. The one thing that will NEVER happen is a hard drive reading a file back differently than what was originally recorded and not KNOWING that it was at least possibly different.

The problem here is not the hard drive. If you are not getting "file read errors" (and believe me, you would know if you were), the hard drive is retreiving the same "list of numbers" that it originally stored ... when the files were written.

So something else is going on. But from the information given, there is almost no way to know exactly what. The most likely answers are that the bars were there when the photo was saved (in whatever unknown format) to the hard drive as many as 8 years ago. In other words, if you had done the EXACT same thing in 2002 or 2003 that you are doing now ... you would see the same result. Note that "doing the EXACT same thing in 2002 or 2003 that you are doing now" might have been physically impossible, because you might be using software today (to read or view the files) that didn't even exist in 2003. Which, in fact, is one very possible source of your problem: A software incompatibility between the software that you were using 8 years ago in 2002 (when the photos were taken and stored on the hard drive) and the software that you are using today in 2010 to retrieve and view the photos.

Beyond that, I can't help you any further without a LOT more information.

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Incomplete Photos
by GEO2003 / April 30, 2010 12:14 PM PDT

As Watzman pointed out - the way the file was saved and it is now being retrieve could be the possible problem.

8 years ago, hard drive manufacturers were less reliable in marking bad sectors on a hard drive.

By default windows tries to save the file on a good sector and tries to mark bad sectors in the process of reading and writing to the external drive.

My only suggestion to you - is that you try to use a File Deletion Recovery Utility. You can find them here at Cnet/Download and try to have it read the external drive and specifically only your photos folder so that you can recover any possibly ""bits"" of information that may otherwise have been either marked "unreadable" and Windows alone is not able to bring those bits back.

A good file deletion Utility can help you in putting all the bits together and re-construct the photo entirely for you.

The only minor problem you will run into is that it may rename the complete file or bits recover with simple names such as 1,2 etc.

Instead of the actual name you gave the picture.

But with some luck, if you are now able to see the name, then maybe the utility will recover the entire file for you.

I hope you find a solution.


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Have you heard of silent data coruption?
by Alain Martel1 / April 30, 2010 12:35 PM PDT

Apparently, you don't.

There are many cases of silent data coruption that can appen, and none will cause ANY error message whatsoever.
You may have cross linked files. Most crosslinked files end up been truncated.
You may have truncated files.
You may have files with a missing sector in it's middle.
You may have some switched bits anywhere in a file.

You say that "The one thing that will NEVER happen is a hard drive reading a file back differently than what was originally recorded and not KNOWING that it was at least possibly different."

Well, it does appens, and much more frequently that you can imagine.

Another thing that CAN appen is that the file is not WRITEN as it was sent to the drive.

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Several of you are missing the point ....
by Watzman / May 3, 2010 3:17 AM PDT


Is data corruption possible? ABSOLUTELY. Happens all the time, for all kinds of reasons.

But "SILENT" data corruption ... in which a hard drive says that it correctly returned the same data that was written when, in fact, it did not ... is the one thing that should never .... NEVER .... happen. And MUST NOT happen. Sure, hard drives fail, and systems have to be designed to recover from that. But when they do, they have to report that they failed. They MUST NOT report that they successfully retrieved the correct data while, in fact, returning data different than the data which was written.

Keep in mind where hard drives are used: In spacecraft, in airliners making zero-visibility approaches at 200 knots in storms at night, in nuclear power plants, in Cancer radiation machines. And, presumably, in nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. Among other places. Failures are expected and the system designers do what is required in order to deal with those (including multiple drives, multiple computers, "voting" amount multiple computers, etc.).

But the ONE thing that a hard drive is not allowed to do is to actually fail but report success. And through MULTIPLE mechanisms built into them .... they don't. EVER, as a practical matter.

[Ok, sure, you can't make the possibility of that truly, absolutely zero, but the multiple layers of both error correction and error detection make the probability of that happening so statistically remote that for all normal purposes (and even a lot of not-so-normal purposes) it can be ignored. And certainly in this case, where the user is having a systemic, reproducible problem across not one file but many, many files ..... drive failure is simply not what is going on here. The cause, whatever it is, is "something else".]

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Oh, so thats what the checksum is for...
by PsychGen / May 7, 2010 10:22 AM PDT

Thats written to the disk with every file.

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A .jpg is a jpg. is a .jpg ...
by Rjsphoto / May 9, 2010 2:55 PM PDT

A .jpg file created 8 years ago is still a .jpg file. Yes software changes, what was the MICROSOFT OPERATING SYSTEM BEFORE XP? (how many since XP?). Yes different versions of a word processor create different types of documents. However a file created in a camera as a .jpg will be copied to a hard drive as a .jpg.
8 years to 2 years ago .. 6 years is a lot of time. SOME PEOPLE HAVE HAD PROBLEMS WITH "DEFRAG"!!! It may be impossible to ever find out what caused the problem. Did you use the camera after the 2 years ago? Did it create good images? My suggestion is to find a recovery program and hope for the best.

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gray bars in my digital photos
by tedv15 / May 10, 2010 12:07 AM PDT

The operating system used to save the digital pictures was windows. The format is jpeg. The software is Microsoft Picture Manager.

I hope this helps and I appreciate your feedback.

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damaged photos on an external drive
by cle0 / April 30, 2010 10:47 AM PDT

Sadly I don't know the answer, but I can contribute by saying that I have had a similar problem with photos from a Canon Powershot camera, on an internal C drive. Which suggests that it may not be an issue with it being an external drive or the particular camera. I don't know if the photos are retrievable either. I look forward to hearing some answers as well.

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I had a similar problem.

This might possibly help you.
I own a Western Digital Worldbook NAS. In the process of copying large files (i.e. pictures) from my laptop to the NAS, I noticed that images got mangled. I called Tech Support and they told me that that type of NAS has problems accepting mass transfer including either too many samll files or a small number of large files.
In a nutshell, music files copy OK but pictures do not make it unscathed.
You drive might have the same problem.

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Suggestions to check

I too have seen bars in my pictures w/ACDSee (latest) but not w/MS media player. I suggest you consider the viewer your using along w/the display drivers. I'm running Win7 Ulimate 64, updated NVidia drivers, and installed ACDSee and see same bars you're describing. However, other viewers seem to work. May also be not so well updated s/w or drivers for Win7. Too bad, I loved ACDSee for browsing/viweing my pics which go back to mid 80's. Don't think has anything to do w/external drive as I have used one along w/CDR's w/same experience. Another last thing is might wonder if some malware/virus has messed w/your pictures. Also recommend using ISOBuster for CD/DVD data recovery if needed. I've been s/w and h/w engineer for 40 yrs and ain't this "new technology" wonderfull?! Things used to be lot simpler and straight forward. Good luck, MarkETrue.

Message was edited by: admin to remove email address to prevent spam harvesters from picking it up.

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Bad news :(

The symptoms you describe are sign of file corruption and data loss. That's a case of silent data corruption. It's silent because it don't generate any error message when you read the file.

It appens when part of the file get lost. If the top and bottom are missaligned, that means that bits from the middle of the file are missing.
If the gray area cover part of the image, it means that the file have been trunkcated. A BMP will lose the top part. A JPG, GIF, PNG and others will lose the bottom part.

Unless you have another copy of the affected files, there is no practical mean of recovering your photos.
By practical, I mean that won't cost you an arm and a leg, with no guaranty that it will be successfull.

What you MUST do NOW:
Take all the files from your drive(s) and copy them somewhere else.
If the image only have a small gray stripe, using a graphic manipulation programm, crop that stripe out.
If the gray area is to large, you'll have to resign yourself and delete the to corrupted image. Sory about your loss Sad

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Happened to me also

Hi, I'm sorry I don't know the answer to your problem. I had the same problem and I was wondering if the files may have gotten corrupted or something, I did not know.I thought it was the cheap camera I was using. I just deleted the ones with the gray bars and went on. I think it happen during the transfer of the files from from my computer to the external drive.

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More information would be helpful

It would be helpful to know some more information. I was caught by your question because I had a problem just like yours once. The grey bars showed up in previews of the images in the photo application I was using. As it turned out, when I would view the actual image, it was OK. So, depending on whether you're looking at the actual image or a computer-generated preview, you might be OK.

Most likely, the issue stems from corruption of the data on your hard drive. If this affects more than just one or two pictures, it's not an issue with bad sectors that weren't identified, but actual data corruption.

You should do a thorough check of your hard disk to make sure there aren't any permanent issues.

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Pictures with bars in them

The first thing I would want to know is what OS you are running and how much RAM is available. Have you tried to print the pictures? Do they print the same way (with the bars) as you see them? What kind of video card with how much video RAM do you have? Further how many pictures do you have open at any given time? All of the above information could give you a clue as to what is happening. It sounds as if you have a RAM (either on board the motherboard or on the video card) problem. One other issue could be the resolution of your monitor, If your monitor is an older one and you are running it with a newer video card, change the resolution to something lower and see if that makes a difference. Good Luck ! DrmDznr

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I had a similar problem with white spots.

I had speckles on some old images, that were made like new again, by simply re-saving the file.
Open the photo in PAINT or any other photo editing software, then hit "Save As". No need to do anything else, such as renaming the file.

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Corrupt files

It would appear that you are the victim of silent corruption. Drives can introduce problems over time with filles that generally go unobserved. Then one day the file is open and isn't what it should be. This is unrecoverable. Sorry for the bad news. If you have them elsewhere in good condition you can write over the backup. I recommend optical storage for the home user as a long-term backup to hard drive backup. I also strongly recommend multiple backup copies, on multiple media types, just as insurance.

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corrupt files photographs
by awasawas / May 7, 2010 9:10 PM PDT
In reply to: Corrupt files

Cannot help you much as many people have given good advice.

A suggestion I heard of was to copy to a good quality cdr or Ram disc but do so every 2/3 years as the quality of storage, even HD is variable. You could also try saving in TIFF, another form of saving photographs as some files are more prone to corruption that others.

This re-copying is essential if you have treasured photographs, or indeed documents. In fact I would have hard copies made of some of them.
I hope other members can help regarding saving your originals.

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Digital photos stored on external drive have gray bars

I won't swear that this will work but I have two suggestions first try to defrag the drive, and second if you can find out more about the camera try to get a software or firmware update if not and the afore mentioned does not work then try this site they offer software and data recovery software. I hope that this is usefull

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Recover photos

It looks like for one reason or the other your pictures are partly deleted or lost.
I advise to try the program " Diskgetor Data Recovery System Free " run your photo files thru this program and if they where ever good when you original put them on the disk I think you will recover them all.
Wish you luck and make copy's on a second disk

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Digital photos stored on external drive have gray bars

The sad news is that the files (photos are corrupted) in future it is best to save on (CD) or (DVD), same thing happened to me few years back, lost most of the pictures , That's life!!! nothing last forever

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A few things

Go to the web site of the hard drive manufacturer, they usually have disk scanning utilities. Worth a shot.

The split-in-half photos happen in the camera, I just learned that in a camera class and had one out of 500 pics turn out that way recently. Might be the camera if you never really examined a lot of the photos on a computer monitor.

If they aren't real bad, use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, it can correct a lot of the problems with digital camera shots. When there are things like walls with scratches on them in the background, etc; I just turn clarity down and it smooths things out. I don't know if recovery will help, but turn that up to see if it can fix anything, probably not.

Try going into Linux and viewing the files, search for some Linux boot disk utilities for diagnosing the problem. There are some really good ones.

I hope as others have mentioned that you aren't stuck with photos you can no longer use.

You probably have much better storage now, but as a tip for the future, always send your pics to an online account. I send mine to Windows Live Skydrive because you can just drag and drop and it's free.

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Gray Bars on Photos

Dear Sir, You said the HD was 8 years stored, did you know that
any Magnetic-Field surrounded that HD will Affect it. !!!
Will may changes the Bytes stored on it, in a way or another ,
which when read by the head will say something else ..!!!
So, you could had accumulated Magnetic-Field effect on that HD from ,
may-be a Speaker system which is Behind it, under it, any way arround
it, Microwave Oven, strong static-field,. My opinion now is that you
BackUp every thing in it to a new HD, if it is Important to you,
and save that HD in safe place, & from time to time connect that HD
to the Computer to discharge any Mag.Stat.Affect on it.
GOD Bless You .

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Digital Photos stored on a hard drive.

It is interesting to hear this problem,whilst this is not an answer I had a problem not dissimilar to this. For over 55 years I have been an Amateur Photographer, and converted to taking colour film in 1960 began with Kodachrome 1. I amassed something like 3500 colur slides on KOdak, Agfacolour & Fuji films. When I bought a PC in 1999, I decide that when I had time I would save all my slides on disc. Some have been scanned and look nearly as good as they did when I first viewed them others have pixelated, and that I cannot understand. As to digital pictures I have stored all my pictures on disk, and these are fine even when the first digital camera that my wife bought was a Canon A40 with only 2 megapixels. It does have a good lens. Does the person that asked the question had other problems with his hard drive, and has he saved them on disk previously. Could it be a problem with the hard drive? Think this needs checking out, as it could be something quite simple. Sometimes it is. Sincerely, Roy Thorogood Essex UK.

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Not so simple
by gachbash / May 7, 2010 6:37 PM PDT

I have like you thousands of family photos (and hundreds of movies) made on "old" good film and paper.
Kodakchrome slides and negatives can be kept for 100 years with no real changes. Well, the BIG problem is to READ (VIEW) these beautiful photos, as the machines are not produced any more.
Like you and many other, I am putting these precious souvenirs in DVD and in Hard Disks.
And now the SAD facts: DVD are NOT reliable and would not last. Hard Disks are fragile and would not last more then few years. So you must back it up many times to be on the safe side. 3 copies on DVDs which should be replaced once a year. 3 copies on different Hard Disks which should be refreshed once a year.
Now we should pray and wait to see what will be the future of our memories when all is digital.
One more fact: Today's photos are all digital and less then 1% is printed on paper. You need computer and electricity power or other MACHINE to VIEW it and to KEEP it. In the future ALL will be digital and this is a big risk.

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On-line storage may be the answer
by colingbradley / May 7, 2010 8:22 PM PDT
In reply to: Not so simple

Apart from the files being able to be read by modern software, the security on your own media is very much a high maintenance issue and not always going to be done by your heirs.
A family storage facility could be the only sure answer so that future generations will be able to look back at these early days of digital imaging and still see what we all looked like.
Archiving is a much bigger problem than 99.9% of people think, even if they think about it at all.
So, having found that the problems originally stated may or may not be software related and may or may not be file corruption (my least favored), what is the best way to store images online so our decedents can check them out?

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On line storage helps but...
by gachbash / May 7, 2010 9:33 PM PDT

On line Storage can help but can not secure ALL our digital memories and knowledge. One hour of SD family movie takes around 2 GB on DVD format. How can i upload it to an on line storage?
What i want to say is: We have here a problem. Saving and transferring our memories, movies and photos from generation to generation.

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On line storage
by colingbradley / May 7, 2010 10:17 PM PDT

I was thinking about a selective set as opposed to the huge number of pictures that are just duplicates or of no special interest.
I shot mostly on Ektachrome or similar and the number of slides that I kept for archive for the first 18 years of my sons life was probably no more than 200 or so.
For the many other situations, the birthday parties and weddings, who is going to be interested in wading through the countless thousands of digital images? Not me and I am pretty sure, not my decendents.
A representative selection from each year should be stored on line.
Security is what you make of it.
If each year you have more than 100 family and friends shots worthy of saving for posterity I would be quite surprised. All the other 3 or 4,000 can be saved as now.
Ask yourself this; How often have you looked through some of the endless folders of events and what did you think?
I would expect that the answer for most of us is rarely for the first and then "I really must edit this lot".
So, I am not saying huge amounts of data, probably no more than 1 or 2Gb a year for the average to keen photographer. For the pics sent to me by my family, 90% are rubbish and not worth considering unless it is the only blurry shot of Granny just before she popped off.

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Online storage is NOT THE ANSWER
by pgrobin / May 7, 2010 10:28 PM PDT

Read the service level agreement with these 'free' online storage companies, you will find that they do not guarantee data integrity. This has been proven multiple times. Using Flickr or other sites, while convenient and useful for most of us, is not an acceptable backup solution. Always backup your image files locally.

There are two good options: Optical storage or RAID 5. Long term storage (more than 2 or 3 years is best done on optical since the degradation of the media is very slow. Magnetic storage is great but only if the health of the drive is verified periodically by reading the files and possibly by re-writing them (some good points have been made about magnetic degradation)). Even optical should be read occasionally since it can and will fail.

Other replies have mentioned the integrity of the hard drive, that silent corruption doesn't happen. Nonsense, silent corruption is a big concern in the enterprise storage industry today. Sun's ZFS file system specifically addresses silent corruption and its prevention. Hard drive electronics do not know anything about the files stored on the drive, only the file system knows what's there. The file system requests data from specific locations on the drive, if the drive can get data from those areas then it has been successful. It has no way of knowing if the data is correct.

To overcome silent corruption one technique is to use CRC checks. But most FSs store the CRC on the same drive as the file, so relying on that information can be problematic. Storing the CRC on a separate drive, as ZFS does, helps. Using a RAID 5 or RAID 6 array is also very helpful because a failure of one drive will not destroy the file.

I've been working with JPEG files since 1992. I have only seen a software issue once, way back in 1995 or '96 (can't remember exactly when). We could not open all of our original JPEGs created with a JPEG plugin with Photoshop 2.0. We were in Photoshop 3.0. The answer was to install the original plugin used to create the files, they then successfully opened in 3.0 and we then re-saved them using the 3.0 file save interface. We've never had the problem again, because JPEG had at that point been stabilized as a format.

The shifting and gray bars reported are due to corrupt files. Even though the user can see the corruption this is still 'silent corruption' because the drive nor the file system reported a problem. But the files are damaged and this is beyond repair, the data doesn't exist on the drive anymore. The original poster didn't say whether the files, once written to the hard drive, were verified. If not then perhaps they became corrupt on transfer, hard to say. That's unlikely but possible. But somehow the drive has been damaged magnetically and changed values of stored data, or the data never made it to the drive correctly. This should be a lesson for everyone reading this post, store your valuable photos on multiple devices. Without tremendous resources to use systems that automate health checks and data integrity this is the best solution. Read those files on a regular schedule, once a year or perhaps every 6 months. Keep optical disks in a cool dry and dark environment to prevent (or at least reduce) the chance of delamination, physical damage, or UV damage. Buy high quality optical disks, saving a few bucks is not the best way to ensure your files remain viable over time. And consider putting the files on two optical disks, creating a double backup. Then take that second optical and store it somewhere other than in your home or office (a safe deposit box is good).

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Digital life
by gachbash / May 8, 2010 5:32 AM PDT

This last answer shows exactly what i meant:
No simple way to keep our data save. We can TRY and it will COST us our live to do it. Huge work - to select to save to duplicate to check - and We must be computer genies in order to do it.
Before the digital revolution live was simpler. We had few photos albums and it lasted many many years. Today we have thousands of digital photos and we are not sure they will last.

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Finally I found solution for corrupted and damaged photos
by Adrionis / July 9, 2010 1:42 PM PDT
In reply to: Digital life

I found a solution finally, I am not sure if it will work in all situations, but at least I rescue thousands of photos of my family was showing just 32 or 64 kb and such gray areas . Send me a PM I will help as much as I can.


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