Sunday, August 29, 2010

How To Recover Digital Videos Files

What do you do when a video or image has been accidentally erased? Or there has been a camera or software glitch that caused your files to go bye-bye? There is hope.

There are photo and video recovery programs, some free that you can download and use. However you want to select the right program for your skill level, your current needs and the importance of the video or images.

You don't want to jack around with a crappy program that can't do the job and makes your problems worse. Unfortunately there are a lot of skanky software and spammers promoting less than honorable software.

If you are new to downloading software I recommend that you do so only from from safe websites like or Major Geeks.

The Process

Step 1 - Don't record anything else with the card or hard drive until you can recover the files. The Delete function actually removes the file name and identity from view of the operating system. The image or data is still there but rendered invisible.

A basic file recovery program should be able to help you get the videos back. Provided you don't record another video or photo that could overwrite the invisible video file.

Windows users can download and use a free option called Recuva from Piriform, the makers of CCleaner.

Mac users can give try a program called CameraSalvage (not free but the initial scan is, you have to purchase to be able to save files.)

I'll use Recuva as an example but many of the file recovery programs work in the same manor.

Piriform Recuva
Step 2 - Recuva has a novice wizard mode and an advanced more. If you are new to using file recovery software stick with the Recuva wizard. You select the type of file that you want to recover.

Step 3 - You select the location of where you want the program to look for the lost files. This is important; you have to be able to tell the program where to look for the missing videos.

Recuva location screen
Step 4 - If the files are on a card in your digital camcorder you will need to hook up your device to the computer via a USB cable or however you transferred photos to your computer. If they are on your hard drive you can tell it to look in a specific folder or look everywhere for the files.

Searching the entire hard drive can take a long time. Use that option as a last resort.

I strongly and emphatically suggest that if your camcorder has a AC power cord that you make sure it is plugged into your wall socket. If your device gets power from the computer via USB that is ok, just make sure that the device does not lose power or its charge while you are trying to recover the videos.

Step 5 - Recuva will begin to search and restore the missing file information, if it can.

Thank You Screen

Step 6 - If the initial scan doesn't turn up files try the Deep Scan.

Deep Scan Screen

Step 7 - If Recuva can find the deleted files it will display the results in a list. You will see the files, the condition of the files and if the program can recover them.

Recovery Screen
You need to select the file that you want and then save it to a different location.

  • If the files are on a memory card you need to save them to the hard drive or another location, not on the memory card.
  • If the files are on a hard drive AND there is no problem with the hard drive save them to a different file folder, a USB drive or some other storage media.
  • If there is a problem with the hard drive you should store on a USB drive, another memory card or some other media.
Select the file or files you want, click the Recover button in the lower right corner and tell the problem where to save the videos.

What If...

Sometimes there is nothing to recover. The files might be corrupted beyond restoration.

No panic. Deep breath. Start again and open the search for all files on the storage media. If that doesn't work you might have to try another program.

Pandora Recovery might do it for you. Or you might have to go to a commercial option like Binary Biz Virtual Lab Recovery. There are versions for Windows and Mac users.

I have purchased and used this software for hard to get files. Depending on your point of view it can be expensive.

It is free to scan to find out if the files can be recovered but depending on the size of the recovery job it can cost (rounding up) $40, $100, $150, or $250.

For most casual users that isn't in the budget. However, if your job is on the line, the grandparents are demanding the baby photos or it was a once in a lifetime video it could save you a lot of grief.

The good news is that most of the time you can recover digital files. There are exceptions. If there is mechanical damage to the memory card or hard drive the odds are not in your favor. It is possible but it takes a lot more work.

You don't want to know how much professional data recovery costs. Talk about a shock to the system. Let's not go there.

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