Recovering photos from bad flash memory

ZAR did a good job recovering photos from an unreadable SD flash memory card.

Gordon Haff
Gordon Haff is Red Hat's cloud evangelist although the opinions expressed here are strictly his own. He's focused on enterprise IT, especially cloud computing. However, Gordon writes about a wide range of topics whether they relate to the way too many hours he spends traveling or his longtime interest in photography.
Gordon Haff
2 min read

A little while back, a friend IM'd me with a problem. Their digital camera wouldn't read from its SD flash memory card. Naturally it was almost full of photos that hadn't been copied off to a computer yet. Bottom line is that I was able to recover just about everything. Here's how I did it.

First of all, I had her take the card out of the camera and mail it to me. I think that's generally good advice. (The taking it out of the camera part--not the mailing to me part.) If you have a problem with a card, stop using it right away. For this reason, it's a good idea to carry a spare card even if you don't need it for capacity.

I plugged the card into a reader attached to my computer (running Windows Vista). No luck; Windows said the card wasn't formatted. Nor would my camera recognize it as a usable memory card. Time for something heavier duty.

What I ended up trying was ZAR, Zero Assumption Recovery. ZAR 8.3 is a suite of data recovery tools for Windows. What was really nice for my purposes is that it includes a mode to recover digital images and that mode is "freeware." (Other functions require the full $49.95 version.)

What was even nicer was that it worked great. A few of the images were apparently corrupt but it recovered about 95 percent of them in a largely automated operation.

Some cards come with their own data recovery software from the manufacturer and I would probably try that first if I had a problem. But ZAR worked well and you can't beat the price.