Friday, 30 September 2016

Recovering files from a damaged CF card

Loss of memory

This is more like a "note to self", so I remember next time. (Just like the CF-card now does.)

At the media company I work for, we shoot tons of videos and pictures. From time to time something is bound to go wrong.
A colleague who had been at the site of an accident approached me with a 16GByte CF card that mysteriously died on it's way from the camera to the PC's card reader.
Windows only offered to format the card.

Linux to the rescue!

I usually use linux to dd / dd_rescue stuff to a file and work from that. No luck here:
Linux didn't like it at all, reporting multiple errors in syslog. fsck complained about a missing superblock. Nothing worked and I had no time for more investigations.

Windows to the rescue!

So it seems like the file system is badly damaged, possibly with some physical damage to the memory card. Here is how we got the data back:

  • re-inserted the card into the camera
  • did a quick-format (in the camera)
  • removed the card and inserted it into the PC's card reader
  • Windows now accepted the card, but found it empty, of course
  • we downloaded the free version of Recuva 
  • we let Recuva do a deep scan for video files and it found numerous files. The file names were lost, of course
  • we restored all the files on the card to the PC (which included a lot of obsolete files)
  • fortunately the important, new files were all complete and error-free

That was even easier than my usual Linux approach.

The CF-card can't be trusted any more and will be destroyed.

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