How to recover deleted and lost digital photos

Oct 10, 2011

Technical glitches from time to time are expected for a regular computer user.  Unfortunately, I had my most serious tech calamity while in Ireland.  Within just a few short moments, thousands of images from the past five years were deleted. 

Staring at an empty photo library is an eerie and heart-sinking experience, especially knowing it's been several months since the files were backed up.  I actually thought about backing up my files before the trip, but the task kept getting pushed off.  (Lesson learned for next time!) 

I lost all the images on my camera's memory card as well as the photos in Aperture, my photo application.  And seeing that the computer failure happened in a tiny coastal town, my tech options were limited.  I did have access to the internet, however, so I was able to browse tech forums for some helpful tips.  I learned that a photo library can sometimes be recovered by holding down a couple of keys while restarting the photo application, but no such luck for me.  The only way I could salvage the deleted files would be to download data recovery software.   

Even though a file is accidentally deleted, it is not permanently gone until it is written over with new data.  As long as I kept my computer use to a minimum and didn't take any more pictures with my camera,  I knew that I could recover a lot of my erased files.  After some quick comparative shopping on the internet, I ended up going with CardRaider to recover lost images from my camera's memory card.  I was able to retrieve over 130 files, including the short video I took at the Cliffs of Moher!  About 15% of my photos were lost or damaged for good (like the two photos above), but, at $20, CardRaider proved to be well worth the purchase.  And it was a breeze to use.   
Since I didn't have an external hard drive with me, I waited to retrieve images from my erased Aperture library after returning home from our Ireland trip.  When I got home, the situation became even more dire when I realized a lot of our family photos from the last five years had been backed up on an external hard drive that I accidentally dropped and broke earlier in the year. Big sigh.

I downloaded the data recovery software Disk Drill in hopes that I could recover most of the photos, and I'm thrilled to say that I'm still weeding through thousands of salvaged images.  Like the recovered files on the memory card, there were a number of corrupt photos.  But I'm just happy to have again some memorable photos of the family. 

Hopefully, something like this won't ever happen to you, but just in case it does, I thought I'd pass some information along.  And, if you do decide to go with Disk Drill, watch this helpful video first- there's a 15% discount code at the end you can apply to your purchase. 


Melissa said...

I use this - - to back up my images. Since I make a living from photography, this is a must. I suggest it though to anyone who is an avid photo taker (professional or amateur).

I'm glad you were able to retrieve most of our photos. I know that horrible sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach! Ack!

Cathy said...

Thanks Melissa for the tip! I will definitely look into it.

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