Restoring Deleted Photos From Camera Cards

/ 22 November 2008

When doing some project work and simply importing photos to my iPhoto Library I had somehow accidentally deleted all of the photos from my iPhoto Library that were from this Austria Trip! This made no difference to the photos that came from Eric’s camera (they were still on the camera, and on two other Macs), but my computer was the only one with the pictures from my camera and I have a bad/ good habit of deleting the photos after import. So, as far as anyone could tell at any regular glance the 50+ photos I had taken were gone for good! I know that for any storage medium that files can be deleted from the references are all that is deleted, but until the same block is written to the actual data still exists. On UNIX-based computers (including all Mac OS X 10.0+-based Macs) files are constantly written to the disk, so recovering the files on my Mac’s end was impossible within a minute of their deletion. It was something I had said when explaining all this to my dad that got him to mention the camera card itself as the source. That, truly, I hadn’t used at all since importing the photos, so the data couldn’t have been overwritten. Now we just had to find the best tool to do the job. We tried many tools, but the one that helped us in the end was PhotoRec, a command-line utility that actually has a pretty good interface for being run in Terminal. It was also free. After a few minutes of screwing around we managed to learn how to properly recover data with it. When we let it run (it took 10-15 minutes) it fully recovered 56 of the photos! This is definitely one of those few command-line tools that are really worth having installed and remembering! Enjoy, Alex.