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6 data recovery tools for SD cards, USB drives and more

Serdar Yegulalp | March 6, 2012
As USB thumb drives and memory cards get larger and cheaper, it's getting easier to trust much more of your data to them.

The results of the scan are shown incrementally, although there's no preview mode during the scan, which makes it harder to tell if a given file is in fact what you're looking for without stopping the scan. A full scan of each of my 8GB devices took just under 10 minutes.

Once the scan's complete, you can preview JPGs (but only JPGs) and the program window can't be resized, so you can't ever see more than six thumbnails on the screen at once. This makes it a little harder to deal with RAW-format files, especially since file names aren't recovered: It might be easier to just recover everything and sort it out later.

Because CardRecovery can only work with devices that have a drive letter, it may not be of much use if you're dealing with a card whose partition information is damaged and therefore can't be assigned a drive letter. (PhotoRec, in contrast, can work with any device even if there's no partition data.)

CardRecovery offers a free trial version that will scan media and find lost files, but you must buy the full version to recover them.

Bottom line

If quickly recovering data from cameras is a priority, CardRecovery might be well worth the $40. Since the trial version allows you to preview recovered files, you can try that first to see if it suits your needs.

Best practices for recovering data from mobile drives

Restoring data from USB drives and memory sticks comes with some of the same caveats as any other data-restoration effort. Here are a few useful tips:

Use write protection. To prevent further accidental destruction of data, mobile storage devices should be mounted as read-only whenever possible before you attempt any recovery operations. SD cards typically have a write-protect switch, which makes it easier to protect them before attempting a recovery operation. Removable USB drives are a stickier wicket, since Windows does not have a way to manually mount their file systems as read-only. There is a Registry setting that works with Windows XP SP2 and higher; it forces all USB mass-storage devices into read-only mode. (Note that any program that expects the device being recovered to be writable, such as Remo Recover, may balk at this.)

Be patient. If you're using a program that supports deep scanning at the cost of a slower recovery process, use it. The speed of this type of scan depends on your system's CPU rather than its I/O, as most of the work involves matching file signatures and checking for false positives. If you're in a hurry, run a deep scan using the fastest machine you have access to.

 

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