This one comes as a result of how I spent my day today – helping my inlaws try to recover lost digital photos. So far as I can tell it’s nothting they did, aside from try to do a backup and have their computer go nuts and destroy the pictures instead. The files still appear to be there, but when they try to view them they get a “No preview available” message.

OK, so reminding you to keep your digital photos backed up as I tell you to keep yours backed up may sound kind of bass ackward, but it isn’t really. From reading online and following their exact steps it appears to have been a freak occurance that others have gone through as well, and no one has a solution that brings the pictures back, at least not that worked for us.

Here’s how it happened. They decided to try taking all their digital photos from the last 4 years and put them on a CD. They got a message saying that there wasn’t enough room on the CD for all the pictures, so they cancelled it but got a message popping up in a balloon reminding them that there were items waiting to be burned to CD, so they did what should have been the right solution and told the computer to delete the temporary files. This should have been perfectly safe.

Now, I’m not completely convinced that they are right and that this caused the problem. Reason for this is that they did then burn some of the pictures to the CD, and some of the files have the exact same problem that they have when they try to view them on the computer, but others are just fine. Strikes me as a potential hard drive issue.

It’s really a strange problem. All the pictures show a last updated date that they think is hours later than they tried to burn the CD. The file sizes are all correct. However, if I open the files in a text editor I get line after line of repeated characters, like a couple hundred commas or letter “A”s in a row. For those who have never tried this kind of thing, it should look like all kinds of random and unfamiliar characters filling the screen.

We tried a few kinds of file recovery programs. One (sorry, didn’t take names down) kept freezing up. Pity, as that was one someone else with a similar problem apparently had success with. I think it was by PC Inspector. Check at

The next was a general purpose program, and after watching it run for a while decided to try something more specific to image recovery.

The image recovery program actually probably did a fair job. It had a free trial so that you could see the images it was finding, but to actually get them you would have to buy the program. My father-in-law was rather dismayed to find out that it recovered EVERY image possible, including all the graphics from visiting websites and so forth. Just look around as you surf and you can see how much junk that adds to the problem.

Many of the files recovered were only partially successful, and after scanning through the 24,000+ images found on this 7 month old computer, he decided not to bother. We had all their pictures from the old computer still saved on an external hard drive purchased as the old one failed, so that was only 7 months of pictures actually lost, many of the best of which had already been printed and put into photo albums. Other pictures can essentially be retrieved by asking people to send them pictures.

Of course, now I really need to get my pictures backed up on disk. We keep ours on two computers so that if one dies the other still has the pictures, but a disk backup is a good idea anyhow. There are a lot of pictures I would really, really hate to lose.

[tags]digital photos,pictures,computer backup, arrgh,lost data,lost pictures[/tags]