Recuva – The Data Recovery that works

Over the years of shooting, switching cameras, upgrading laptops, moving large chunks of data across hard drives – I have had my share of mistakes and data losses. In past, though different scenarios, I never had been successful in recovering any worth while data. It was either too late or probably most parts of the files were messed up, that recovery was not possible.

After that sunny day at woodenshoe Tulip farm, we hit the hotel room, at about 11 PM. I still had to sketch out a plan for the next day hiking, in the near by silver falls area.  By the time I got out the plan / directions charted out, it was way past midnight. Having sneaked in a sunrise shoot for the morning at the Tulip fields, I was eager to hit the bed. Just then realized  that my memory card (Compact Flash) was full from the day’s travel and I have not copied out the same. Connected my trusted canon 7D and started the automatic download. Not having patience to wait till it completed, I hit the bed. In the morning, when I was about to leave, was a bit frustrated to see that the program had aborted due to lack of space on  laptop. Made some quick data moves to external Hard drive , restarted the copy operation, completed, wiped the card clean and was back on the road in no time.

I went ahead with the morning shoot and also did the hike to Abiqua falls during the day. Little did I release that there was a set of 200+ shots that did not make it to the laptop from the memory card. When I was going thru to the shots later, I was shocked to realize that most of the sunset shots from the previous day was missing.

Surprisingly, data does not truly get deleted, unless it is overwritten by something else (or if any explicit purge software is used). Not sure if I was plain lucky or the compact flash file structure is so organized, I was able to recover most of the those shots, if not all. May be if I had shot another 300 more shots, I doubt if I would have been any to recover anything at all from the previous day.

With out further ado, the tool that came to my rescue was Recuva (can be downloaded for free here) and worked flawlessly. The below gives the overview of recovery once installed. Hopefully you would never have a need to use it …

StartUp Wizard

Provides options to select the type of File. Predominantly it would be Pictures. Since I was trying to recover RAW tyoe, I went with Other

Select Location

Identify the place where the files needs to be extracted. Obviously make sure you select a drive other than the one you are trying to retrieve data from

Deep Scan

As the name suggest, it is for Deep scan. Have not tried this option yet. If at the first pass it does not work, enable this ...

In Progress

Give it a few seconds. With Deep Scan not enabled it took just a little over 10 seconds for a 32 GB drive, not bad !

List of Files that can be recovered

I did not have any luck with the files in RED, but the ones in GREEN, they were just a walk in the park ...

Advanced View

Switching to the Advanced view provides more details on the files. The time stamp details are especially very handy to identify the files to be recovered.

Some Quick Tips for Data Recovery

  1. Prevention is better than Cure – one can’t beat the age-old adage. Plan you trip beforehand – clean up the memory card as soon you copy to the system and validate, clean your filters, get your cables, charge your batteries, print you directions, set your alarms. Rushing out for a shoot increases the probability of the mistakes – and mistakes resulting in loss of precious shots are bad.
  2. Don’t fret when you realize that you have lost data. Especially if you are in the field, don’t loose your cool and miss out on new opportunities.
  3. If possible : stop accessing – STOP completely – both read or write access – to the media on which you have lost data i.e move it from the camera to the card holder :)
  4. If not possible – if you do not have any other secondary media to shoot in the field :  You would need to access – weather the data on the media (that is probably lost) is more critical or are the opportunities that lay in front of you out weigh the same for you to continue and use the current media
  5. Do not worry, even if you had formatted the storage media by mistake – the software these days are capable of pulling data even from these scenarios
  6. If nothing worked out – yeah it is was a precious memory – but you and the experience that you had when creating those shots far out weigh them. Just go out, shoot again.

If you have come across any better tools, would appreciate sharing the same in comments. Happy Shooting :)

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