You hope you never have to use a tool like this, but inevitably, memory cards go bad or become corrupt for any number of reasons. Recently, a photographer that I admire and respect posted a blog entry that dealt with this very topic. This got me thinking. I personally have had very good success with memory cards never having a failure in the field to date. Count me lucky I guess, but I prefer to think of it as planning and preparation. I am very particular about the card brands I utilize and there are only two I trust. These are Delkin and ProGrade. That said, I want to be prepared for the future in case I need to recover files should this happen. I considered and researched what it out there and it came down to four applications.
Lexar Recovery Tool
They have a free download for both Windows OS and Mac. They claim the “Lexar recovery tool provide the easiest and effective file recovery process every time”. Previewing this, I found it easy to install, it recognized the drive I have for the test card and it worked initially then created and error without allowing any of the recovered files to be viewed. This happened twice so needless to say, this option seems unreliable and I moved on to the next application testing it with the same card, in the same reader and in the same drive to be consistent.
Full disclosure, these are the current cards I use and I love them for the dependability and varying capacity so I was eager to try this software figuring their reputation with cards would be carried over into the recovery tool. It did recover the files, but did not show any thumbnails as indicated in the manual and advertisement. On each thumbnail was red circle with a line through it. Unsure if this was the norm for the evaluation version, I emailed the company to ask. Here is what I wrote to them:
“I have the trial of the ProGrade recovery software. The evaluation version did find pictures on one of your cards, but all the pictures have red circle with a line through them with no preview. Does this mean that it could not recover the file, or does it mean that I cannot see them because it is an evaluation version? I would purchase the software but wanted to make sure that the red circle will be gone and the the purchased version will allow viewing and saving. I appreciate any information you can provide”.
As a trusted company, their customer service responded promptly within the day. Here is there reply:
“Thank you for the inquiry. That means the files are not recoverable. If you went to save them, the thumbnails would be blank.“
Well, I did not want to pay $50 USD for the upgrade knowing that my images would be blank so the search continued.
I did further research and came across software with high marks called Stellar. This application seemed a bit more robust than the previous two given they have four different versions depending on your needs. There is no free version or trial which I think is a oversight by the company as I feels they could solicit more customers if they did have a trial version, but they don’t, so I took the plunge based on the reviews. I went with the Premium version as it would recover the original image size and thumbnail. It did recover both the NEF files and the JPG, however, the NEF files were not readable by Photoshop, Adobe Camera Raw v 14.2, Adobe Bridge or Nikon NX. It appears that all of the metadata was gone in the NEF files. It did also recover JPG files as noted but they were only 640 x 424px so not useable. I reached out to the company to see if it was user error on my part or something I forgot to do. They did respond promptly but only with the same instructions as the manual so it really did not assist me in the issue. This program will recover most file formats, but seems to have issues with RAW files of any sort.
This was my final attempt on finding a reliable program to recover photo or video files if needed. I actually learned about this via a YouTube video in my searching. They did allow a free download for Windows or Mac. I gave it a try. The user interface looks professional and modern and it worked very easily from install to recovery. Upon trying to recover the found files, it requires a purchase of a license. Like the previous software, they have different license type from monthly, yearly to perpetual lifetime with a one time fee. I was able to open the NEF files in Photoshop with all data intact. We have a winner!
Although you hope this never happens to you, best to be prepared and I highly recommend Wondershare. I hope someone finds this helpful if a situation occurs where you need a reputable, easy to use application for image recovery.
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