Data Loss from the SD Card of Your Camera: Reasons and Ways to Get Those Precious Pictures Back

When taking a photograph with the help of your digital camera, you probably expect it to last for a lifetime: being stored on a memory card, it obviously won’t be torn up into pieces or drawn on by your kids, eaten up by your curious pup or get lost somewhere in those countless boxes when you move to another apartment. Indeed, modern SD cards are durable, extremely portable, convenient to use, provide good read/write speed and considerable amount of space to store lots of high quality photos and HD videos. However, despite their numerous benefits, similar to any electronic storage medium, they are not immune to various issues that may lead to an unexpected data loss disaster, making your photographic artworks as well as precious memories vanish just in the blink of an eye. If such a misfortune falls on your camera’s memory card, thankfully, you shouldn’t press the panic button, as there are chances to bring those cherished files back safe and sound. Still, even some minor mistakes made during the recovery process may render those files completely unrecoverable. But you won’t let that happen, will you?

Typical scenarios that lead to data loss from an SD card include:

Erroneous user actions

Whether your digital camera has fallen into the wrong hands, you reformatted the entire card by mistake, or meaning to delete certain unwanted pictures, you’ve carelessly clicked on that beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime photo ̶ and, uh oh, now you’re left behind with a blank screen and that terribly sinking sense of loss. Fortunately, although you can no longer find those files at their original place, they are still there, waiting to be overwritten (the space they occupy is just marked “free”). As long as you haven’t taken any new photos or written anything else to the card, they are relatively easy to be retrieved using a data recovery utility.

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Physical damage

Contrary to the popular belief, although being quite durable, memory cards are not indestructible, and if you try pretty hard, you can actually bend one in half. In addition, similar to any electronics, an SD card may die when suffering electrostatic discharge, being exposed to extreme temperature changes or drown in a cup of hot coffee. Being very compact in size, SD cards are also susceptible to be forgotten in a pocket of your jeans and sent through the laundry together with them. Dropping the camera itself can also potentially damage its memory card. Unfortunately, in the case of physical damage, there is no guarantee that you will get the lost data back. To prevent things from getting even worse, don’t try to repair the broken card yourself, stop using it that very minute and contact a specialist.

Logical errors

Incorrect operations with an SD card often lead to corruptions within its file system, making it impossible for you to access your data. As a rule, such an issue pops up after you pull the memory card out while the files are still being transferred, or when the camera’s battery suddenly dies in the process of writing a certain file. Virus attacks and problems with the computer itself (both hardware and software) may also mess things up and lead to data corruption on your memory card. The firmware and software installed onto the camera is also prone to catching bugs that my damage some files or even all of the data stored. Bad cables, faulty USB ports and manufacturing defects are also sometimes responsible for the loss or corruption of user’s files. Usually, most of these problems result in various error messages prompting you to reformat the card (“SD card is not formatted”, “Memory card is not initialized”, “Format error”, “SD card is not accessible” and many others), which will lead to the deletion of all the files that are still stored on it. The SD card may also stop being recognized by the computer or certain files/folders may become inaccessible or missing. Fortunately, in all of these cases, you don’t have to shed tears over the pictures you’ve lost: the components of the card are not physically damaged and you can easily salvage the memories stored on it even without professional help by running quality data recovery software.

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Follow these simple steps to achieve the best result when recovering the lost photos from your SD card:

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  • As soon as you realize the loss of your files, stop using the SD card straight away to prevent their overwriting. Don’t reformat it, just turn the camera off and pull out the card.
  • Do not attempt to “fix” the lost files using any type of repair tools. This may cause their further damage and permanent data loss. Download a data recovery utility that operates in a safe read-only mode and install it onto your PC or Mac. Run the program.
  • Put the card into a card reader and plug it into the computer.
  • Locate your SD card and scan it with data recovery software. The process usually takes several minutes.
  • After the scan, you’ll be able to see a preview of the images that can be recovered. Select the ones you need back and click the “Recover” button.
  • Choose the place you want to save the recovered files to, but don’t save them back to the problem memory card.
  • Check the files that have been recovered to make sure you haven’t omitted anything important.
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Still, as you know, prevention is always better than cure. To protect your SD card from data loss in the future, pay special attention to how you handle it. There are some key mistakes you should avoid at all costs, as they can appear to be fatal for your valued files:

  • Never remove the memory card when the camera is on, especially while saving, copying or viewing files;
  • Don’t start rotating or editing a photograph while others are still being downloaded. Make sure the process is finished before using your camera’s rotating and editing functions;
  • Don’t turn the camera off before an image is completely written to the memory card. To be on the safe side, give it at least thirty seconds to finish this operation;
  • Don’t unplug the memory card/camera when folders and files from the card are still open on the computer;
  • When ejecting a memory card or camera from the computer, always use the “safely remove hardware” option;
  • Do not take any photos in the battery low mode. This may result in the file system failure on the memory card;
  • When the SD card is almost full, stop shooting new pictures;
  • Keep your SD card as well as computer system virus free by using effective anti-virus software;
  • If your camera uses a low-level format by default, change it to the so-called “quick” format, which will allow you to easily restore your files if you accidentally format the card.
  • Format your card using the camera instead of the computer to avoid any incompatibility issues;
  • Don’t use a memory card from one camera with another camera. If you want to do so, format it using the new camera first. SD cards are usually formatted to match the specifications of each device and this will prevent any possible errors;
  • Check twice before deleting any unwanted file from your SD card;
  • Remember that SD cards don’t like dirt, wet and extreme temperature changes;
  • Use SD cards produced only by well-known reputable brands;
  • Never store important images on SD cards for a long time, move them to your computer or other backup location like an external hard drive or cloud service as soon as possible.
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If saying “goodbye” to all of your treasured digital photos is one of your worst nightmares, you can sleep well: some care on your part can help you avoid digital mishaps that may lead to data loss, or in the worst-case scenario, using the mentioned instructions and quality data recovery software, you will be able to recover them as easily as one-two-three.

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