CF Card data rescue

I have not had many problems with Compact Flash cards since I started using them in 2000. One of my older 1G cards failed to read on a extremely hot day (>100F) a couple of years back but, I had backups of the data so it wasn’t a big deal.

Yesterday I had a failure that I think I caused myself. I suspect I had my trusty old Kodak DC-215’s power ON when I pulled out the 6 year old 32M Lexar CF card. When I put the card in a PC reader WinXP offered to format the card, yikes. I then tried it in my Jornada 720 and the camera with the same result.

This time the card data had no backup because it was pictures from a day hike with my brother and nieces. I really wanted to recover these photos so I started checking around the net for information on CF card failures and data recovery. I figured that good old hard disk recovery techniques should work since a CF card is organized the same as a hard disk. This article gives the essential information and I was about to do it when I decided to try out some of the applications designed to automatically recover CF data.

I tried out all of these programs, BadCopy, Davory, Digital Picture Recovery, Flash File Recovery, MediaRECOVER, mmCARD Recovery, PhotoRescue and, Smart Recovery.

The only program that was even close to showing me that it could recover the data was PhotoRescue. PhotoRescue did not show thumbnails for the files probably because they were in FlashPix (.FPX) file format. The files that PhotoRescue said it could recover were of the right size range for my photos so I decided to buy PhotoRescue and see if it would work.

PhotoRescue recovered every one of the photos and even recovered some long ago deleted photos. I highly recommend PhotoRescue, at only $30 it is a rare bargain in data recovery software.

A final note, after recovering the photos I let the camera re-format the CF card. To my surprise, after the re-format, all the photos were now accessible on the card! This indicates to me that the problem was fairly simple FAT corruption and that the camera’s format firmware is smart enough to fix some FAT problems on its own. If my suspicion of a FAT corruption is correct then why didn’t any of the other software that I tried even come close to recovering the data?