Computer, gear, Linux, macOS, photography, review, software, technical, Windows

How to recover lost files – a software review (ad because of naming a product)

Photographers nowadays need solid IT skills for their job. How to run a computer. How to install, update and uninstall software. How to do backups. Know your operating system (Windows, MacOS, Linux) and the relevant file-systems. Each photographer hoards huge piles of valuable data (the images) on his or her computer disks. They need a strategy to recover the images after a disaster i.e. computer theft, hard disk failures or SSD corruptions (you know, each cell in flash storage has a limited lifetime because the cells die after a certain number of write cycles).  Sometimes one is faced with an empty storage card because of an unintentional re-formatting. So, what can you do?

 

The basics

First of all, be prepared! Here you can find information on how to recover such lost files. Get the necessary software now and practice with test data to know the steps when it comes to such a disaster.

In the past, Microsoft brought us FAT as the filesystem. In 1977 it appeared first in MS-DOS. Since then it was developed further and got more features. Because of the ease of organizing data (especially when it comes to sequential writes), it’s still popular for storage cards used by smartphones and cameras.

The computers itself use usually more sophisticated filesystems like NTFS, HPFS, HFS, HFS+, APFS, ext2, ext3, ext4, xfs, btrfs and more. Unfortunately, these modern filesystems are organizing data very differently to FAT and its ascendants like vFAT, exFAT or FAT32. So, recovery data from disks using one of the modern filesystems looks like a game of hazard or spinning a huge wheel of fortune where only one winning chance is set randomly. When using data recovery software you might have luck recovering recently deleted files. On FAT the chance is much higher because of the different principles the data is organized.

Now you might remember having read some reports of found data on thrown-away disks. Yes, that’s true. Forensics are able to recover the blocks of destroyed disks and scratch tiny pieces of data from the disk and reassemble it. Data is organized in blocks. The size of each block is about 512 or 2048 byte, depending on the used filesystem. For getting information like names, account data, credit card information or so, that’s enough. But, look at your images. Each image uses several MB on the disk. To recover your image, it’s a necessity to have ALL blocks and they must be in the right order. A single corrupt byte is tolerable but a couple of bytes can result in a complete loss.

In more than 20 years of handling digital photos, I never lost a complete card. But, 2 or 3 times I deleted a couple of files from the cards unintentionally. In the past, photorec was the tool of my choice. It’s an open-source tool. You can download and use it for free. But, you have to understand, how it works.

First, you have to avoid any further writings on the disk from where you want to recover data. That’s essential for successfully recover files.

 

Photorec (part of the open-source product testdisk)

The installation of photorec is easy. Linux users can install it usually by using their packet manager, while Windows users need to download it from the developer’s homepage and unpack the zip-file. MacOS users can install it via brew

$ brew install testdisk

Now you open a console (Terminal on Mac or Linux, and CMD on Windows). Next, you start photorec by telling it, where to search

MacOS / OS X

$ photorec /Volume/SD-card (or whatever name the card has)

Linux

# photorec /media/SD-card (or whatever name the card has; mountpoint also might vary i.e. /mnt/)

Windows

C:\> photorec d: (or whatever drivename the device has, where you want to recover files. Check it with the Windows Exporer)

If photorec recognizes an already started recovery, it asks you if you want to continue the session or start a new one. Next, it tries to read the directory and offers you to browse where the lost data was stored. Photorec can recover several types of data, not only jpg images. It can also recover lost partitions, if necessary. But that’s beyond the subject of this post.

When you’re fine with the position, photorec needs a location on a different disk to copy the recovered data to. After that, it only needs time.

FAT filesystems don’t delete the data on the disk when files are deleted. Instead, only the first letter of the filename in the directory is replaced by a ‘?’ which makes the file invisible and marks the occupied space as reusable. So, the magic is, photorec reads the directory and scans for filenames starting with ‘?’. Then it looks up each filename and checks based on the location information (block numbers) stored along with the filename if the relevant file is completely available (all blocks from the chain of blocks ’til the end-of-file mark). If so, the blocks are copied to the chosen target destination. But, the filename is lost. Instead, the name of the first data block, where the file was stored, is used to keep filenames unique.

As photorec runs in the console, not everyone feels skilled enough to use it.

 

Disk Drill by Cleverfiles

Recently, I got a review version of a newer data recovery software: Disk Drill by CleverFiles. It’s available for Windows and for MacOS and has a visual GUI to be handled with the mouse. On MacOS the current version needs at least the latest version of Mavericks. But older versions are also available for download, in case your MacOS is still running an older version of OS X for whatever reason. Disk Drill comes as an app to be pulled in the Applications folder only, to get installed.

I installed Disk Drill on my Macbook, which I’m also using for developing my images.

So, I have a lot of images on my disk (raw data), which I process and delete after processing them. Thus, I should have a lot of files potentially being recoverable on my disk. It’s a 512 GB SSD formated with APFS. The deep scan has run for about 40 minutes. But, as expected, Disk Drill found nearly nothing! No raw-file, no jpgs, no text documents or spreadsheets. The only files Disk Drill found were a couple of files I have had in my trash bin, which was emptied just before installing Disk Drill.

My other tests were on a disk formatted with Windows NTFS and an SDcard from my camera formatted with FAT.

Recovering files (raw data written by my digital camera) from the SDcard was very successful, just like expected. A 256 GB drive was scanned in a couple of minutes and offered tons of recoverable files.

I also run Disk Drill on a 1 TB NTFS hard disc formatted by Windows. The scan lasted nearly 3 hours while the well-equipped computer got a lot of stress and the fans run at a high level for certain times. But, I was able to work with it as usual for the whole time. In the end, the so-called deep scan found a reasonable number of recoverable files of different types. Unfortunately, all of them lost their names and were offered to me for recovery grouped by file type. Hard to find the file you accidentally deleted 😦

So, the result is not much different from the outcome of photorec.

Similar to photorec, Disk Drill also works with sessions. But, differently to photorec I was unable to make Disk Drill forget the saved session and do a re-scan after i.e. running a cleanup (I tried to wipe out some files I don’t want to be able to get recovered and check if they are unable to be recovered)

Further functions:

Disk Drill has a couple of further functions.

You can open a backup of an iOS device (as long as you know the recovery passcode) stored on your computer and recover files from iOS backup (iTunes). Works great. You can get contacts, appointments, reminders, photos, and even files.

There’s also a cleanup function. It seems it is to wipe out unused space. But, in fact, I was unable to find any result. So, I can’t say, what this function is doing.

Next, there is a function suggesting it could duplicate the boot disk, but instead it only creates a boot media similar to the recovery boot mechanism you always have on your mac. So, I have to stay with Carbon Copy Cloner for this feature.

After finishing my tests I uninstalled Disk Drill. Unfortunately, a not-quitable tool survived in the menubar. I had to dig through my applications folder and my Library folders to find where this tool resides to delete the files. After a reboot, it was finally gone!

Resume

Now it’s up to you to decide, how often you have to recover lost files and on which filesystems they are stored. I was very interested if a professional tool is better than the open-source tool. The lack of a GUI is a point against photorec. But, in my opinion (as an IT pro for more than 30 years), that’s not so dramatic. I even found the text interface much more straight forward and clearer than the GUI of Disk Drill. On the other hand, I guess, Disk Drill is even more complicated than photorec.

Nevertheless, I repeat my statement from above: be prepared for the disaster because the disaster situation isn’t a good time for such a complicated topic. Get a tool and make yourself familiar with it to avoid making a disaster situation worse.

 

 

Computer, software

reclaim free disk space again (ad)

For a few days, I’ve installed CleanMyMac on my computer. This software is meant to help me freeing as much of my hard disk space as possible. Therefore I can scan my disk for double files, huge (forgotten) files, junk files, temporary files, caches and unneeded audio files needed to support all the other languages beside mine.

It can also help me uninstalling applications. When uninstalling apps manually, always some files remain. Often these are located in my home, in hidden registry files or even in hidden folders (i.e. settings or registrations). CleanMyMac scans the app before uninstalling it to find all those remains and offers to delete them too.

CleanMyMac resides in the bar on top of the screen and watches some internals of my computer (network speed, ram usage, free disk space) and offers help whenever the recycler is too full, an app hangs or so.

The OS also has a good mechanism, to kill hanging apps. So, this feature is kind of useless. There are also some other apps available, that help to uninstall apps without leaving files on the disk. Deletion of i.e. languages files is (in my opinion) useless because they come back with the next update.

So, finding huge files and doublets is the main feature, besides seeing the size of the installed apps. You get an inside view of your hard disk and get the overview to decide which files to keep and which ones to delete

Secure deletion of files (= overwriting them first), searching for app-updates (even for those not from the Apple app store) and deletion of iOS-device backups from iTunes are really helpful. Decide, if you need it. Some of these features are not available otherwise. You could install the free trial and check it out on your own computer.

Computer, photography, postprocessing, review

Luminar 3 – What a disaster!

Recently, I got a review copy of Luminar 3. You know, you get it as a free upgrade, if you own a copy of Luminar 2018. When having paid for an older version, you can get it for a reduced price.

This version finally brings the long-awaited feature “Library”.

Unfortunately, this is simply a remake of an editing module, where all edits are saved in a library, instead of single files just like the previous versions. But, first things first.

When I started Luminar 3 right after installation, I was asked, where my (raw) images are. I save them in a structure on my hard disk until editing the job is finished. In the past, I explained that principle for you in a separate blog post. But, only jpg-files popped up in the light-table view of Luminar 3. After a while, I decided to restart Luminar, and surprisingly, my raw-files also appeared on the screen. But, they didn’t appear in chronological order. Instead, the images of all folders were mixed. Raws mixed with jpgs and all of them seemed to follow no specific order. What a chaos! I was unable to find my raws, instead I opened accidentally an already edited image. I was totally confused.

Later, I found out, I can browse the folder structure on the right to find a specific folder. But, it still offers all image files (raw and jpg). Until now, I can’t say, how to tell Luminar to ignore sub-folder.

When ready editing an image, you can export it to jpg. But, you can’t save the edited file. All of your edits are saved to a database. I have no idea, how to backup this database, to finish the edits at a different computer. I even don’t know, how to exclude the edits from the database, when I’m ready with the edits at a certain pile of images (finished a job). In the past, I simply moved the source folder to a NAS and the edited files to a different NAS, while the final jpgs go to my fileserver.

While Skylum destroyed Luminar, they didn’t bring the really needed part: a library for the finished jpgs where you can store the metadata: GPS, camera, lens, all of the exif data and all the necessary categories as well as the tags. These are the important information I need in a database together with thumbnail images in low quality and an external link to the fileserver, where the final jpg-file resists, to find certain images quickly.

Up to now, I can only say, it’s unusual! Stay with Luminar 2018 and don’t do the upgrade! It’s simply a copy of the mechanism already known from Adobe Lightroom (but, without the necessity to subscribe to a plan, that continuously costs you monthly fees to use it).

Here starts an ad:

So, when you’re still willing to give it a try, you can get it here. The trial is free. The final version will be available from Dec, 19th, 2018.

When using the code “SOLANER” during checkout, you can a few bucks.

 

art, Computer, photography, postprocessing, software, technic

A new kid in the block: Aurora HDR

20150729_204950-610_1948_hdr_wIn my previous post on HDR images I already mentioned this new software by MacPhun: Aurora HDR.

I got the opportunity to test it. As I mentioned in that post, I use HDR sometimes to enhance some of my images. Until now, I worked with Photomatix HDR, Luminance HDR, HDR Efex, Oloneo PhotoEngine and the build-in HDR function of Photoshop. All of these are great. So, why another software?

First of all, Aurora HDR can open RAW files. The other tools only work with TIF or JPG files (never try HDR with a bundle of JPG files!!). Next, it will align your images if necessary and remove ghost artifacts as well as chromatic aberrations. It also works great with a single image, although this is not the common situation when it comes to HDR 🙂

The image alignment and ghost artifacts removal functions work really great. The above image consists of 3 single images +/- 1EV and were all shot hand-held, because it was an unplanned shot. Thus, I didn’t have had a tripod with me. While the alignment function shifts the images in layers in a manner, so that all lines are in the exact same positions, the ghost artifact removal function tries the same with moving elements. You know, taking a few images in a row, moving elements (i.e. the people in the above image) are moving further and the software hast to estimate, which parts to keep for the final image and which parts to skip.

The GUI is very similar to the other MacPhun tools, like Tonality, Intensify and so on. In the lower right corner you get a collection of presets grouped in categories as a starting point. At to bottom of your screen, you can see a small preview of a the pre-sets applied to you current image. You can suppress this area, once you have chosen a preset. Now, you work with the sliders on the right of your screen to adjust the settings inherited from the chosen preset. Each change is displayed at once. So, you can see, what you get when changing a setting. An other similarity to the other MacPhun products is, you can work with layers. This is, you can paint an enhancement in parts of the image, while having a different setting for other parts of your image. So, you can work in layers without Photoshop. On the other hand, Aurora HDR will also work as a plugin for Photoshop (just like the other MacPhun products, too)

Although it comes with many presets, I miss some of the typical HDR presets available in the other tools. Those, with the over the top colorful output. OK, I won’t ever use them, but I guess, some guys out there will complain about it. In my opinion, there are enough presets. Finally, you will end up using only a few of them on a regular basis, those fitting most to your personal style. And, you have the option to save your own presets and eventually exchange them with your friends.

Jump over to MacPhun and get your trial. You can also apply for a free seat and attend a webinar to see this software in action. Currently there’s a Black Friday Promo running ’till December 1st.

 

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photography

macphun Focus for free

Yesterday evening I got aware of an interesting offer for photographers:
macphun is giving away their Focus for Mac (standard, MAS version) for free this week & till the end of October.
You can do a lot with Focus. Easily highlight the most important subject in your photos, add a professional look to portraits, enhance landscapes, create miniature masterpieces & more.
Mac users should visit www.macphun.com/getfocus and order a copy. Everything is quite simple and straightforward.
Focus is also good as a stepping stone for an upgrade to Pro or the Creative Kit Plus at a reduced price. So, don’t miss your chance!