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Digital image recovery

Summary

To recover digital images from storage (typically a memory card) you need to connect the storage to the PC, download, install, and start ZAR photo recovery software, then follow the step-by-step instructions below.
I recommend you use a card reader device, rather than to connect a digital camera to the computer.
Fragmented files and ZAR limitations

Digital camera media, or any other computer storage, tries to store files contiguously, in one chunk. However, it is not always possible. As files are written and deleted from the media, free space gets fragmented, and eventually there is no single free gap large enough to fit the entire file in. Once this happens, subsequent files are stored in several non-adjacent chunks. This is called fragmentation.

Since 2002 or so, ZAR uses the simple header-footer algorithm to do its digital image recovery. This algorithm only recovers contigouos files; fragmented files are only recovered partially or come out distorted. Fragmented image files come out distorted or missing their bottom parts. Fragmented video files typically won't open at all.

How big is the problem? On a typical digital camera media, 10% to 20% of image files are fragmented, and about half of videos are fragmented. Media after some heavy use, like in dash cam recorder, may well have all video files fragmented.

To deal with that, I have developed a standalone software, which is by now more complex than ZAR. ZAR is still free for image recovery, and will still recover 80% to 90% of the image files for you. However, if this is not enough, or if you have a problem with fragmented videos, you can try my other (paid, not free) product, Klennet Carver.

Step 1 - Download, install, and start ZAR photo recovery software

Download ZAR demo. You do not need a paid version of ZAR to do photo recovery. This set of functions is provided free of charge. When you run it, ZAR displays the window like the one below:

Select image recovery mode

  1. Click "Image Recovery (Free)"
Step 2 - Select a device to recover images from

Select device for image recovery

  1. Select the device you need to recover images from. Note:
    • Use the device model and its listed capacity to identify your device.
    • If you are using a camera and it is not listed as the device available for recovery, you need to use a card reader device.
  2. Click "Next" to start the image recovery.
Step 3 - Image recovery run

This part is fully automatic. If you are using the camera to read the card and all the dots on the map are red, or if the scan is unacceptably slow (more than several minutes with no progress), discontinue the run, remove the card from the camera, then restart using a card reader device. Card readers tend to perform better.

Step 4 - Select the files to recover

  1. Mark photos to recover by clicking their corresponding checkboxes. To mark all photos at once, just mark the "ROOT" entry.
  2. Click "Next"
Step 5 - Copy photos

  1. Enter the name of the folder for the recovered photos.
  2. Click "Start copying" to start retrieval of recovered photos.
Miscellaneous information
The tutorial above describes the procedure used to recover photos stored on the digital camera memory card if
  • the images were deleted before copying to the PC
  • the card was accidentally formatted
  • some camera failure occured and the images are not accessible any longer

Current version (ZAR X) supports digital photo recovery for the following file formats: GIF, JPEG, TIFF, CRW (Canon RAW data), MOV, AVI movie, WAV, CR2 (Canon CR2 RAW format), ORF (Olympus RAW format) and most of the digital camera models.

As for Canon .CR2 raw format, the following is known thanks to Jeff of Jeff Berner Photography and Art:

ZA Digital Image Recovery recovers Canon .CR2 files as TIFF. To open recovered files, Jeff used Photoshop CS "Open With" feature, which allows to specify image format override.

Learn more
For more information about the digital photo storage, for tips on how to prevent the loss of digital images, please visit Digital photo recovery guide.

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Copyright © 2001 - 2017 Alexey V. Gubin.