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§ Recovering files from Canon PowerShot S3IS SD card

When I bought the Canon PowerShot S3IS I went ahead and purchased a Sandisk Ultra II 2GB SD card.  I've been taking pictures from time to time since December of '06 and never had a problem.

While on a trip with some friends, one friend's camera started doing some weird things, so my best friend explained that some camera devices, well, start acting weird if the memory gets too full.  So they made sure all photos had been uploaded to a computer, formatted the card, and sure enough, everything worked fine after that.  Note that the card was not full, just "too full" - whatever that might mean.

Prior to this trip I had seen my camera's display fail to turn on, but it happened only on one occasion, so I had assumed it was due to depleted batteries.  However, as we walked around sightseeing, it would work for a while, then go off; I'd shut it down for a while, then it might come back on, maybe not, etc.  I could tell it was still taking pictures - or rather, I believed that to be the case, and I was correct.  In fact, I'm quite pleased with some of the pictures I took while the display was blank - talk about point-and-shoot!  Anyway, later I made sure all of my photos (and movies, which the S3IS can do) were uploaded to my laptop, and formatted the card.  As far as I could tell, everything was working fine again.

The next day we went to another exciting location, and the camera worked flawlessly, so I was (tentatively) relieved that the camera itself was all right.  We had a two-year-old with us, which, of course, is the greatest possible photo opportunity.  I ended up taking a rather long video (over eight minutes) of her and lots of pictures of everything.  While in the process of making the video, I had ideas of other videos I could make.  I reviewed some of the pictures and videos I had made, and was rather excited about them.  I had my laptop with us in the car, so I promptly uploaded them to my laptop... RIGHT?  Noooo...  I believe this falls under the category of "the cobbler's children have no shoes" in that, well, I AM supposedly a "computer guy" and I HAVE lost data before... again, and again and again!

So - while I was shooting one of those "great idea" videos, everything just - stopped.  The camera appeared unresponsive, nothing worked, no display, everything I tried made "error" sounds, etc.  Looking back on it, I feel kind of dumb (if you read much of my stuff, you'll notice this happens a lot) because the first friend's camera uses SD cards and she had a spare with her, but it didn't occur to me to ask.  Anyway, I basically just stopped taking pictures at this point and enjoyed the trip, so I'm not really annoyed or disappointed about it, but I did miss a few chances for a great picture.

Since it all went sour while I was recording a video, I felt pretty sure that all the data was on the card, but that the camera had choked on the file system when the card filled up - or so I hoped, at any rate.  As we headed home, I was hopeful that I would be able to recover the pictures and videos.

One unexpected bit of good news was that I had an SD card reader, but I didn't even know it!  One of the first "thumb drives" I had was an early model Bonzai from SimpleTech, which turns out to use a removable SD card; it's probably just USB 1.1, since accessing my 2GB SD card is very slow - but so what?

Ok, this is another of those cases where I wish I had kept a log.  On the third (fourth?) day of trying to recover the files, I recognized a failure screen, meaning I had just spent an hour or two trying the same recovery software that had already failed once before!  (Did I mention that sometimes I feel dumb?)  I've debated listing all of the data recovery programs I tried, but I hate to seem as though I'm bashing any software.  Besides, I've lost track of them all anyway, and probably only remember the ones that almost-sort-of worked, but forgotten all about the really terrible ones.  I finally found MiniTool Power Data Recovery, which is free for home use.  I think part of the problem was that my camera could take avi movies as well as jpg pictures; some of the other programs I tried seemed to find the jpg pictures, but they choked on the areas of the SD card where a jpg was followed (preceded?) by an avi file.

MiniTool Power Data Recovery found EVERY file for me!  (I used the options to have it search for jpg and avi files.)  Will it do the trick for you?  Who knows?  I was so happy to get that video of a two-year-old worrying about bugs in a broken rock that I gladly sent them a donation via PayPal.

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“Certainty of death... small chance of success... what are we waiting for?”
Gimli, The Return of the King (movie)