There are several ways to boost your chances of getting photos off a failed memory card.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
How to rescue photos from a bad memory card

Oct. 12, 2008

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, The Post-Standard

   In my photo workshops, I like to tease participants by telling them they haven't become serious photographers until they've lost their photos to the memory-card demon.
   It happens to just about everyone. But today's photographers can easily install good photo-rescue software that usually will locate and restore pictures that get lost on a memory card.
   Note that I said "usually." There are no guarantees in life or in photo rescues. But there are several ways to boost your chances of success.
   1. Always carry spare memory cards. If one starts giving you trouble, put it in your pocket, away from the other cards, and use another one.
   2. Blank memory cards that act up should be reformatted in your camera. (Use the camera's menus. Look for "format.") Then try them again. If they still give you trouble, use rule No. 1.
   3. Always reformat your memory cards before using them again. Don't just erase your pictures. Continual erasing is the main reason memory cards go bad. Reformatting gives them a clean start. (Check Rule No. 2.)
   4. Never allow any software of any kind to erase photos as they are transferred to your computer. Keep the pictures on the memory card until you have seen all of them on your computer.
   5. Don't do ANYTHING to the bad card. Don't try to read it again from your camera and don't you dare try to store another photo on it. Then put the bad card into your card reader -- You need one if you're still using a cable from your camera -- and run your photo-rescue software.
   Here are my choices for rescue software:
   For Windows, I recommend MJM Data Recovery from www.mjmdatarecovery.co.uk/photos/free-photo-data-recovery-software.html. It's free.
   Note that MJM rescues only JPEGs, the standard photo format. If you need to rescue photos in other formats, try PhotoRescue Wizard PC, from www.datarescue.com/photorescue. It's $29. The demo version (free) will rescue up to 10 photos.
   For Macs, I recommend the Mac version of the same program. It's also $29 and will rescue up to 10 photos without payment. Get it from the same site, www.datarescue.com/photorescue.