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Digital Image Recovery (DIR)

By Robin A. Clark

Image RecoveryThe more I turn from film to digital photography, the more I’m forced to learn new lessons in the computerized version of photography…not all of them pleasant. One huge lesson is that while the cards used by these cameras can hold a lot of data, they are not always reliable. Those precious photos of children, pets, flowers—whatever we hold dear—can disappear in a flash with one corrupted bit or one accidental delete.

That is exactly what happened to me after a trip to Nevada last week to visit my sister. All 71 photos on a 64mb SmartMedia™ card of nieces, nephews and neon vanished in an instant when my camera corrupted the card. What to do?

I searched the internet for undelete programs and found two that claim to restore data from SmartMedia™ cards. One cost $80 and the other cost $59. Being frugal, I paid $59 for the second program and set out to recover my 71 pictures. The program showed that 53 pictures were in good shape and recoverable (not great, but better than nothing), so I pushed the Start button. The program restored two whole pictures, and one of those was not recognized by Photoshop. Definitely not good news.

So I searched some more. Finally, in a newsgroup on digital cameras, I found mention of a free program that would restore photos from corrupted cards. Okay, if the expensive program couldn’t do the job, then I figured that a free one wouldn’t be much better. But if it restored even one additional picture, I was ahead of the game. Besides, it was free, so there was nothing to lose. It took a minute to download and another minute to install. Fingers crossed, I ran the program. It showed that all 71 pictures were recoverable. I pushed the button. The program chugged away, slowly recovering every single picture on the card except for the last one. When I checked the pictures out with Photoshop, two of them were corrupted and unusable, but to have 69 photos back and usable was good news at this point.

DIR opening screenDIR claims that it will recover files no matter how they become corrupted. Whether you deleted the images, formatted the card or pulled the media out during a write process, DIR says that it will get those files back. So I ran an experiment and tried all of those cases. No matter what I did to the card (except for scratch it—I won’t go that far with expensive media), DIR recovered all of these files. The only time there were any bad files was when the card was corrupted the first time. All other times every photo came back just fine.

Digital Image Recovery (DIR) is freeware, written by Alexander Gru. He not only provides the easily installable program, but he also offers up his source code (in Delphi) for anyone who would like to customize the program to their own needs.

DIR will recover many different types of images (JPEG, exif, TIFF, PNG, GIF, BMP, Canon CRW) and audio/video clips (AVI, MOV, WAV) from most existing data cards (FlashCard™, SmartMedia™, Sony Memory Stick™, IBM™ Micro Drive, Multimedia Card, Secure Digital Card and Compact Disk). It does require that you either run a memory card reader, or that your camera appear to the computer as a drive. DIR runs under Windows® 9X, ME, NT, 2000 or XP (I have Windows XP). I tested DIR with two different 64mb SmartMedia™ cards, restoring JPEG and MOV files.

DIR gives you several options to pick during its operation, such as language, directory to recover the files to, prefix for naming the recovered files, number of retries for errors and numbers of sectors to read at a time. For most of these options you’ll be happy with the defaults. As soon as you hit the Start button, DIR begins its work and keeps you apprised of its progress (how many files have been recovered, how many read errors it has encountered and how many sectors it has left to process). If you want to cancel the process of recovery, then you can simply hit the Cancel button, and DIR responds immediately.

Easy to use. Effective. Free. My kind of software. I highly recommend Digital Image Recovery to anyone who owns a digital camera and treasures the pictures that they take. Remember, you can’t always trust those fragile memory cards. The website for Digital Image Recovery is

Special note- the link we use to have here led to the program for people to download. Since that time a company took notice and brought the rights to it, so it is no longer freeware. Go to they do have a demo version you can download, I don't know all of what it can do. The cost is $39.95.

From our May 2002 newsletter

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