My SD Card Failed and This Was a Huge Lifesaver

Recently, one of my SD cards failed on me when I trying to access it. After I inserted it into my Transcend card reader, I was able to access the card momentarily until the folders abruptly closed down, preventing any further access to the data. As you can imagine, this was quite concerning to me. 

Fortunately, a company called Stellar Recovery reached out to me asking if I wanted to review their software. This was quite a strange yet very welcome coincidence, and in my latest video, I test the software on an actual failed SD card. In my career as a photographer, I've had approximately four storage devices fail on me. It's unfortunate, but it does happen, and the most recent failure was much harder for me to swallow. The images on the card were ones that I needed, and I was a little careless, as I had not previously backed up all of the files. In any case, I have now managed to recover all of the required files due to Stellar, and I'm very pleased to have those images back. 

Since uploading the video, I have received some really helpful suggestions on how to ensure I can recover data more effectively in the future. For the most part, I've been told not to format the card before I perform any recoveries. This is because performing a quick format as I do in the video creates new directories on the storage device, and this could inadvertently overwrite existing data that you may want to recover.

I am by no means an expert when it comes to recovering data, so please check out the video and let me know if you have any of your own suggestions on how to recover data more effectively. Ultimately, I'm very pleased that I have been able to recover the images and files I needed, and I highly recommend Stella Recovery. 

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56 Comments

Something, something, two cards slots.

Lane Shurtleff's picture

Or stop using garbage SD cards all together. Flimsy unreliable cards that no manufacture should still be using.

Agree. It's like buying an expensive luxury fast car but with cheap tires — not a good combination.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Do you seriously think people can just switch card types? SD Cards are more reliable than your snobbery purports. https://petapixel.com/2011/06/20/photos-recovered-from-camera-that-spent...

Chris Rogers's picture

yarp. I've washed and dried a single memory card 3 times while it was in my pants pocket and it still works fine to this day.

As long as you're not using some cheap knock-off brand or a counterfeit there really are no garbage cards these days. The tech and the manufacturing process has basically been perfected.

The very real value of redundancy is something that a lot of people just cannot seem to accept. It is objectively better to duplicate everything where you can.

Lee Christiansen's picture

And the crowd who say "I don't need two slots... cards don't fail..."
What do they say to this?
Had it been a 2 slot camera, the feature could have been nice and short... "My card failed, so I downloaded from the other one."

Usman Dawood's picture

I agree two card slots are a must for me

If cameras you are using have the crappy SD format, then more than one card slot is a necessity. The issues that plague SD cards are very different from other types of cards. I rather use a single slot XQD camera then any with two SD slots. Two memory slots of a crappy design do not make it better.

Usman Dawood's picture

That might be true about XQD cards but currently I don’t think we have enough information on their overall reliability. This is purely because of how few of them are being used relative to SD cards.

Chances are they might be better but I’m not sure we can be certain about it.

Lane Shurtleff's picture

XQD is the most reliable and solid storage media compared to SD cards there is. The NAND storage and ultra redundant internal failure protocols the XQD cards use is vastly superior to cheap, poorly designed bad firmware SD cards. Sd cards were designed 1999 !! They were never designed to handle the volume and speed today's high MP cameras produce. Sd card architecture is designed for low data bandwidth for long durations (think HD camcorders) not 46MP DSLRs shoveling fast burst 90+Mb files onto it. SONY the owners of QXD format (like the old Betamax) days are numbered. It is being replaced by open source and higher sped and data volume capability CFexpress.

Usman Dawood's picture

What are your thought son CFast please?

Lane Shurtleff's picture

CFast is good but because the card is shaped identical to a regular CF card, users who have multiple cameras that use both can confuse them. They don't work in each others "slots". CFast 2.0 specs support SATA-III with bus speeds up to 600 Mb/sec, compared with the CompactFlash limit of 167 MB/sec. CFexpress will run a PCle interface with up to 8 lanes that can handle 1GB/s each. That’s 8GB/s transfer speed. All while being way cheaper than CFast or XQD. The future is CFexpress for at least 10 years or more.

Daniel Medley's picture

And don't forget that card failure is just one risk that can be greatly mitigated with dual card redundancy. In today's digital world in which one can easily have thousands of images on a single card, and the ease in which a second card slot can be implemented into a design, having two card slots is a gigantic no-brainer.

Usman Dawood's picture

I think there are some rumors that suggest the next X100 camera may have two card slots which would be brilliant. I've lost a fair few images with that series of camera, unfortunately.

Jacques Cornell's picture

"And don't forget that card failure is just one risk that can be greatly mitigated with dual card redundancy."
Examples of others? I mean, you can't put that out there and not explain what they are.

Daniel Medley's picture

I've seen cards lost or physically damaged, or data mistakenly deleted. In other words human error, which I think is probably more likely card failure. Normally it wouldn't be such a big deal, but with cards able to contain literally thousands of files the consequences of human error can be quite large.

It's part of the human nature to occasionally drop the ball, as it were.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Good points, but these are easily minimized by smart tactics. Instead of putting thousands of photos on one card, swap cards periodically to minimize the number of images at risk. Use multiple bodies (a requirement in event/wedding photography and other non-repeatable work regardless of the number of slots). Keep your cards in a sturdy waterproof wallet. I've been working digitally for 18 years. Made over 200,000 images. Haven't lost a single image to card failure, loss or damage. I did lose a CF card (after I'd downloaded the photos) to bent pins in a card reader. I regard CF as a fatally flawed design for this reason.

Daniel Medley's picture

True, but non of them are as easy as simply having two card slots. It's the most basic of basics in redundancy. It's why we have backup drives on computers. It's why any enterprise worth its salt will have simple redundancy as a precaution against data loss whatever may cause the data loss.

In today's digital world, it's absurd to not have simple built in redundancy; especially when it can be implemented so easily and inexpensively.

I've driven many thousands of miles over the last several years. I've never had a flat tire. I purchase the best tires I can get. I maintain them well. I still maintain the simple and inexpensive redundancy of a a spare tire in my car.

Jacques Cornell's picture

"non of them are as easy as simply having two card slots"
That's only true if the camera you want has them. Otherwise, it's a bitch to retrofit them.

Daniel Medley's picture

Well, I suppose. But I'm talking, as I think most people would be, about camera manufacturers releasing cameras without two slots. It just doesn't make sense; from a design and manufacturing POV, it's not difficult. Also, a camera without two slots is a camera that I, personally, don't wan't.

Jacques Cornell's picture

I use a Panasonic GX9 as my third camera in event work. It has one slot. I don't want a larger camera on a neck strap when I'm already carrying two larger cameras on a double sling. And, besides, the odds of failure are vanishingly small, and, because I'm shooting with three cameras, the odds that such a failure would prevent me from delivering the job are nil.

You don't need to spend money on recovery software if you just use Nikon Z. Nikon ambassador Gherry Jhionis stated he has not lo lost ONE SINGLE photo in 27,000 weddings and the Z6/7 is continuing that streak even with one slot.

Tony Northrup's picture

Gherry, save some weddings for the rest of us. Maybe just do two or three per day from now on, bro.

Lee Christiansen's picture

What he means is - he hasn't lost a shot... YET.

A bit like crossing the road with your eyes shut and saying it is safe because you haven't ever been hit by a car... YET.

The SD card format is a horrible design. It is prone to failure on so many different levels. The pins are exposed which means the electronics are constantly being zapped and will fail eventually. The plastic housing offers no mechanical rigidity so the board and pins are constantly being flexed and will fail over time. It is just a bad format

Jacques Cornell's picture

"the electronics are constantly being zapped"
Say what?
My SD cards have been more reliable than my CF cards. Some of the latter got "zapped" by bent pins in readers. Now that's a lousy design.

"I have photographed well over 1,000 weddings (and more than two-thirds of them on a digital camera) and I only ever had a problem with two memory cards in my career – both were compact flash cards and the images were ultimately recovered. I have been shooting digitally since 2001 and it was only until a few years ago that some pros started using the 2nd card slot as a back-up (rather than for overflow). We have all become used to that luxury and now feel like it is a “must have,” which I completely understand. That said, I have more confidence because the camera will reject an XQD card that is suspect. The XQD (and pending CFexpress) form factor is also stronger, faster and far more reliable than anything else on the market. I personally have never experienced a problem with an XQD card nor have I heard of anyone else having an issue." - Ghenny Ghionis

Re: " I personally have never experienced a problem with an XQD card nor have I heard of anyone else having an issue."

I will never forget election night 2016 when it comes to wild claims about the infallibility of xqd. I bought several new Lexar XQD cards from BH Photo before the big day. I was testing a remote camera with the new XQD card and got a card fail error. I could not format the card and it kept on displaying the ERR message. Luckily was able to go back to BH Photo nearby and return it. On that night I had to shoot CF as main card because I did not trust XQD.

Jacques Cornell's picture

"A bit like crossing the road with your eyes shut and saying it is safe because you haven't ever been hit by a car... YET."
If you've been crossing that same road every day for the past 18 years...

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