I got back from my trip to Charlotte last Monday, and discovered, to my horror, that the SD card I’d been using in my new camera had crashed.
I’d put it into the slot on my MacBook Pro, only to have the Finder tell me that I needed to initialize the card in order to use it. I popped it back into the camera, which told me a similar tale, that it couldn’t read the card and needed to format it in order to begin using it.
So, I tried a few things to retrieve the photos, even spending the last $20 iTunes gift card left over from my birthday in July to buy a little Mac app called CardRaider that promised to do the trick. It didn’t do the trick. The $20 app got a short way into reading the card and would crash. The online documentation for the app suggested overcoming the crashing problem by running the app in “Safe Mode,” which meant it could only retrieve JPGs. That’s all well and good if one is shooting JPGs, but I was shooting in Nikon RAW format, so CardRaider was useless. $20 down the bog, so to speak.
I felt pretty close to just giving up on the last few photos I’d shot, all of which were taken on the final day of the trip during the drive home to Buffalo, when I decided to take one more look at a suite of open source recovery programs called TestDisk. TestDisk’s apps run from the Terminal, which requires a bit of advanced knowledge of technical jiggery-pokery, which I’m just barely savvy enough to claim. One of TestDisk’s tools is an app called PhotoRec, that specifically attempts to recover image files, Nikon RAW being among them.
It turns out that it wasn’t the photos themselves that were missing or corrupted, it was really more the file system on the card that had gone bad. The data is still there, and PhotoRec, along with the commercial programs that offer a more user-friendly version of its capabilities, can attempt to find the data by examining each sector of the card’s memory and looking for the telltale metadata that precedes the data for a file. The website for the app goes into greater detail about this process.
So, I downloaded TestDisk, expanded it to my MacBook Pro’s hard drive, fired up Terminal, and followed the instructions on the TestDisk website to the letter. In about half an hour, PhotoRec had successfully recovered every single photo on the drive, and had even found a few files left over from my previous use of the 16GB card, which had been as a boot drive containing Mac OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) into which I could boot should I need to run a non-Intel app under Rosetta (which is no longer supported in Mac OS 10.8). Really, I’d only been keeping that old OS handy in case I wanted to play the original 1998 version of StarCraft with my nephews.
So, that’s my tale of woe and triumph, which I’m posting in case any of my classmates find themselves with a crashed memory card and are loathe to spend between $20 and $80 on software that will recover the photos from it. The open source PhotoRec software will run on Mac OS, Windows, Linux, and so on, but, again, it requires the use of a command line app like Terminal. Fortunately, the well-written documentation on the app’s website makes the process clear and easy to understand.
Now back to my assignments!