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Data Rescue updates PhotoRescue, introduces Card Wiper  
Thursday, September 26, 2002 | by
What began as a project to help recover wedding photos for a friend continues to grow for Belgian developer Data Rescue. This week the company has released PhotoRescue, an update to the powerful Windows/Mac OS X photo recovery program that improves its thumbnail rendering routines, fine tunes the interface and provides support for FAT32-formatted volumes. In addition, Data Rescue has posted a beta version of Card Wiper, a free camera storage card maintenance utility.


Changes in PhotoRescue

New in v1.0.1.622 of PhotoRescue:

  • Improved thumbnailing. More reliable display of thumbnails from recoverable photos in the Windows version, and display of thumbnails from Nikon and Canon RAW formats too on both platforms, thanks to a new rendering engine that includes simple RAW file processing routines. Kodak RAW files are also recoverable with PhotoRescue, but the program does not yet show thumbnails for most or all Kodak DCS camera formats. As with previous versions, regular JPEG and TIFF formats are supported also.

  • FAT32 support. Digital Wallet-type devices, and other media that is FAT32-formatted, can now be recovered with PhotoRescue.

  • Improved interface. Changes include an option to automatically switch on Expert Mode, then scan the card a second time to look for photos that the standard recovery mode might have overlooked.

PhotoRescue is a free upgrade for licensed users who have purchased the software within the last year (Data Rescue will not be processing most upgrade requests until early next week). New purchases are US$29 each for the Mac OS X or Windows release; bundled together, the price is US$49. Demo versions are also available (though not updated to as I write this).

For adventurous users, especially those with an in-depth knowledge of DOS file systems, photorescue will make available, upon request, PhotoRescue Advanced, a version of the program that adds an additional manual recovery mode. See Data Rescue's tutorial for a look at how powerful and geeky the advanced mode is.

Data Rescue's Pierre Vandevenne demonstrates PhotoRescue Advanced at Photokina 2002 in Cologne, Germany (Photo: Stefan Sobotta)

Clear Digital Cobwebs with Card Wiper

This is a program that just shouldn't be necessary. Earlier this month, however, I was reminded again that the function it performs is vital to a digital photographer. Here's why:

A local colleague's CompactFlash card showed up on my doorstep, refusing to function in his EOS-1D. When inserted, the camera would freeze up, then after several seconds the top display would flash Err (not Err CF, the EOS-1D error message that would not normally crop up if the camera detected a corrupted or nonexistent file system).

Removing the card was the only way to resuscitate the camera. Fearing that the problem might be related to either the card's or camera's electronics, I slipped the card into another EOS-1D. Blam: same problem. Scratching my head, I tried the card in a D100, D1X and D1H. Photos recorded to it just fine in all three.

Fifteen minutes later, after running a card wiping routine similar to Card Wiper, I reinserted the card in the EOS-1D. The camera didn't lock up, and instead offered to format the card, as it always does when a CompactFlash card that's without a file system is inserted. I formatted it, returned it to the photographer, and it has been working fine ever since.

The application I used was WipeDrive, a DOS program that I talk about in Building the Ultimate Photo Recovery Kit. WipeDrive completes its appointed task - overwriting a CompactFlash card with zeros - with aplomb, but it's a pain to have to run it from DOS. I've run WipeDrive at least a dozen times in the past year to restore photographers' cards while on-site conducting digital camera training, and in every case it has solved the same kind of mysterious card problem I outline above. I don't know why, but it does.

Enter Card Wiper, released in beta form last week by Data Rescue. It does the same thing as the venerable WipeDrive, but from the convenience of Windows (a Mac OS X version is in the works), not command line DOS.

Card Wiper

In fact, it offers two wiping modes:

  • Wipe Card. The entire card, every physical sector (except for those containing the code that controls the card), is overwritten with zeros. No attempt is made to read back the data to verify that it was written correctly, though Card Wiper will report an error if a write operation fails. This mode is near-identical to WipeDrive, and it appears similar to the Secure Erase function of Lexar Media's Image Rescue too.

  • Test Media. Card Wiper writes a pattern of zeros and ones, then verifies that the data was written correctly.

Both modes should be equally effective at clearing file system corruption, and both modes provide a check on the physical health of the card too by reporting read and/or write errors. Though most camera storage media problems are file system related, and not as a result of physically damaged media, it's important to rule out a dying CompactFlash card before pressing it back into service. If either the Wipe Card or Test Media modes report an error, the card must not be used, since all errors should be handled internally by the card itself. In other words, errors indicate a card that is on its way out.

I've tested Card Wiper under Windows XP Professional with 16 different CompactFlash cards and three CompactFlash card readers. It has worked as advertised with all cards, and two of the three readers. While the Microtech FireWire CameraMate and Microtech Zio CompactFlash readers appear fully compatible, the Lexar Media FireWire CompactFlash reader does not. Data Rescue is aware of the problem, and working on a solution.

Card Wiper beta for Windows is a free download from the Data Rescue web site. Card Wiper for Mac OS X is slated to be released in early October.

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