A holiday miracle, thanks to PhotoRec.

Yesterday I sat down at my Linux computer to transfer some rather special New Year’s Eve photos from my new camera. I can’t say for sure exactly what happened, but I believe it went down like this:

  • Instead of hooking camera to computer via USB I removed my SD card from the camera to read directly off of that.
  • The volume mounted, but my photos didn’t — they had somehow been corrupted.
  • I put the memory card back into the camera, which couldn’t read it and therefore (I think) proceeded to reformat the card.
  • I reacted appropriately.

But thankfully all was not lost — in fact nothing ended up being lost at all, thanks to a free GPL app called PhotoRec.

I’m not at all sure how PhotoRec works on OS X or Windows; on Linux it’s a command-line app, available through most package managers as part of a bigger suite called TestDisk. Once installed, launching it is as easy as typing the following command into a terminal window:

sudo photorec

Using PhotoRec is just a matter of navigating through the text prompts. I wasn’t able to recover anything the first time I ran it due to a pebkac issue; paying closer attention to the existing format on my SD card got every single missing photo safely restored to a folder on my desktop hard drive.

If you ask me PhotoRec is a life-saver worth almost any price, but as an added bonus it’s absolutely free to download and use. You can also make a donation to the author if you like; I just did. 😎

Oh, and in case you were interested in what PhotoRec recovered, it’s all been uploaded to Flickr for posterity…


  1. Funny coincidence, I had a similar problem with my Christmas pictures. My camera somehow glitched and I went from having lots of pictures to 0. The camera wanted to reformat but I did not reformat. I remembered using photorec a year or two ago and I had to dig it up again. Since I am not very good at the command line it took me a while to create an image of the cf card and then use photrec to recover the images. But in the end I got all my pictures back. Another holiday miracle (thanks to open source). Thanks for the reminder to donate, this is the second time this tool saved the day for me.

Leave a Reply to Muay Thai Noob Cancel reply