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Photo recovery applications move cross-platform  
Thursday, March 14, 2002 | by
Mac users, as well as Lexar Media Pro Series card owners on either platform, will soon have new options for recovering lost photos on CompactFlash media. This spells good news for pro digital photographers, regardless of whether you call Windows or Macintosh home.

PhotoRescue for Mac

First out of the gate for Mac will be Data Rescue's venerable PhotoRescue. Already, the US$29 Windows version is a must-have application for pro digital photographers. While Mac users are able to utilize Photo Rescue for Windows through Virtual PC now, the native Mac version will considerably reduce the expense and hassle of photo recovery from the Mac platform by eliminating Virtual PC from the equation.

I've had an opportunity to run a beta version of Photo Rescue for Mac through its paces this week. All signs point to it being equal in effectiveness to its Windows sibling when released. The screen shots below provide a glimpse of the upcoming PhotoRescue.

Selecting a CompactFlash card in an early release of PhotoRescue for Mac

PhotoRescue for Mac digs through the contents of a 256MB CompactFlash card

If you've been waiting for a good reason to install OS X, PhotoRescue may be that reason. Data Rescue has opted to pour their Mac development efforts into an OS X version of PhotoRescue; earlier Mac OS versions are not supported. While this may cramp the style of some Mac-based photographers in the short term, in my view this is a sensible move, since OS X is clearly the future of the Mac platform.

Regardless of your take on this, the fact remains that to run PhotoRescue for Mac will require Mac OS X (Data Rescue's latest internal development and testing has been under 10.1.3). In addition, only the Microtech Zio! USB CompactFlash card reader (and its variants, like the Delkin eFilm Pocket Reader-10) will be officially supported at the time of PhotoRescue for Mac's official launch.

Delkin eFilm Pocket Reader-10 (left; without label); SCM
Microsystems Microtech Zio! (right; with included USB cable attached)

The PhotoRescue for Mac public beta program is now underway, and is open to licensed users of the US$29 PhotoRescue for Windows. This is to ensure, says Data Rescue CEO Pierre Vandevenne, that the beta testers are already well-versed in the ways of PhotoRescue, and can therefore be most helpful in ferreting out bugs and oddities in the Mac version.

The price for PhotoRescue for Mac will be US$29; a discounted bundle that includes both the Mac and Windows version is planned as well. Beta participants will receive the final release of PhotoRescue for Mac at no charge. To participate in the beta program, contact Data Rescue at

Image Rescue for Windows 98/2000/XP and Mac

Lexar's Image Rescue application, announced at last month's PMA event, is also coming to the Mac, though its release is not imminent. Currently, a version for Windows 98 is being distributed to certain Lexar dealers, to enable them to perform card recovery for customers.

Image Rescue scans a 256MB Lexar Media CompactFlash card for contiguous files

Image Rescue recovers lost photos in a manner that is similar to at least one of the methods PhotoRescue employs. It scans a CompactFlash card (it will only work with Lexar-brand media) for contiguous image files, files that have been written sequentially to the card. As this is often the case, especially with cards that have been formatted before re-use, this method of recovering photos can be quite powerful, as long as the program knows the layout of common image formats and can recognize them as it's scanning the card. Image Rescue is designed to recognize JPEG, standard TIFF and several RAW formats.

Based on an examination of a prerelease, Windows 98-only version of Image Rescue over the past several weeks, it would appear that Image Rescue will be a powerful photo recovery tool for Mac and Windows users alike. Look for both it and PhotoRescue to best virtually any other data recovery software at the restoration of photos from cards that won't mount, were accidentally formatted or were subject to a host of other common digital goofups.

Image Rescue doesn't stop at card recovery. Other functions include:

  • A Card Test mode that will scan a CompactFlash card for errors. Since a CompactFlash card should never report an error, Image Rescue's test is a good way to diagnose whether a card is in need of replacement, instead of being returned to active duty.

  • A Factory Formatter that lays down the key bits of the DOS file system in a manner that's identical to a DOS-equipped PC. As I discuss in the sidebar of The Ultimate Photo Recovery Kit, plenty of devices designed to lay down the DOS file system do so in a manner that is not the same as DOS. Image Rescue's format function may help eliminate some card quirks that may be resulting from quirky DOS formatting with other devices now.

  • A Secure Erase function that overwrites all physical sectors with zeros. In The Ultimate Photo Recovery Kit, I outline the importance of this step before returning a misbehaving card to service, coupled with a scan for card errors. Once secure erased, the card is automatically formatted.

Testing for card errors

Overwriting all physical sectors with zeros

Development continues to move the program to the Mac, as well as Windows 2000/XP. All versions are to be compatible only with Lexar Media CompactFlash cards and the company's USB Jumpshot card reader. No release dates have been set.

Once Image Rescue is finalized for both Mac and Windows, Lexar intends to roll it out to the end user. The focus will be on purchasers of Pro Series Lexar CompactFlash cards, though the mechanism for distributing Image Rescue, and to whom, are among numerous details still being finalized.

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