What to do when your hard drive fails and your images disappear

What to do when your hard drive fails and your images disappear!

So this week I had a potential disaster when I lost all my images. All 50,000. To say I was panicking and ready to give up was an understatement. I brought the hard drive into work to get a file and when I got home the images folder was empty. Not a single image. My entire portfolio, and years of memories gone. The hard drive failed. Probably it was a virus, or maybe the drive was unstable. Either way this worked for me to recover images from my hard drive and could be helpful for situations where you’ve deleted data and empties your Trash/Recycle Bin.

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Hard drive recovery: How to recover files and images when your hard drive fails

Step 1: Download a data recovery program. I used Wondershare Data Recovery for Mac but there are others. This cost $90 (about €80).

Step 2: Get a new external drive to copy the recovered data onto. I got two 2TB Drives from WD for about €110 each (I’ll explain why further on). The reason being your hard drive is like carbon copy paper. The more times you write over it the harder it is to see the original. You can’t recover data straight onto the drive you lost it from. From my own point of view that drive (in my case as I couldn’t be sure what the cause of the data loss was) it’s also now unreliable. Hard drives have never been cheaper (unless you get a more reliable but also more expensive solid-state drive) so don’t skimp here.The WD USB 3 and I would prefer a Lacie Thunderbolt for speed and also as it’s a bit more rugged but budget is a factor here and the last few Lacies connections were unreliable for me at least. I usually get ones larger than I currently need on the basis that I will fill it up but there is the argument that you are putting all your eggs in one big basket that will eventually fail. Drives are mechanical, they can fall, break, get mechanical failures, viruses – and this is why you are doing this in the first place! WD have had a lot of failures but this solution should get me to a point in the future when I can invest in a more durable option.

Step 3: Install and run the data recovery program. This can take a long time depending on the drive capacity. Data Rescue has simple and advanced scan options – you can run the simple one first and if you don’t have any luck run the deep scan afterwards. In my case I got lucky.

Step 4: Follow the instructions to copy the data. Check to see if you have recovered all your files. In my case, this was a simple (yet laborious process) as I relinked the images in Adobe Lightroom where I categorise, rate and tag my images. I could see which were still missing or not. In the end, I lost 13 images. I did do a deep recovery scan but it doesn’t give you the file names and I didn’t have time to go through thousands and thousands of images to find those thirteen.

Step 5: Now copy your files onto the second hard drive as a mirror, or backup to your backup. Which is what you should have done in the first place so you wouldn’t be in this mess! I should say I had most of mine on an old backup but not some of the newer images and recovering from the old file structure would allow me to see exactly what’s missing.

Tip: Get some sticky labels and label each drive (Master, Mirror, Failed the dates etc) so when you’re looking at identical drives you don’t have to plug each one in and see what’s on it.

This all works for simple data erasion. However, if the problem is more critical, or you had a head crash (basically when the needles which read the records in the drive crash and tear the record) you need the experts. About 8 years ago I had this problem and considering I couldn’t retake the pictures however high the cost of recovery was it would still be cheaper than trying to go on that trip again (sailing to Greenland for 3 months!). I used Critical Data in Dublin 15 who were really good and I got just about everything back but it was a long process. No data storage system is foolproof or will last forever, the moral of the story is have backups. And back them up too!


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July 8, 2016 at 5:33 pm

[…] What to do when your hard drive fails and your images disappear! […]

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October 15, 2016 at 10:56 am

[…] name as this is pointless and more work. I then create a backup and I can’t stress enough how important backups are. Having been stung before remember it’s much easier and cheaper to buy extra hard drives than […]

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