Data Loss

I lost some pictures last night. From 20110222-0814. I think I got them all back. Here’s the story.

At the office, I had moved the files from my Nikon D90’s 8GB Kingston SD card to my new MacBook Air. That went fine. Lots of pics. It had been far too long since I’d processed the pictures on this card.

First mistake: Moving them from the SD card instead of copying from the SD card and then renaming the directory on the SD card until I’d made lots of copies of the image files.

Last night, around 9pm, I was moving those pictures from my MacBook Air to my external hard drive, where I store my pictures, using ForkLift (which I love).

Second mistake: Moving instead of copying and renaming the directory on my MacBook Air until I’d made another copy or two of the image files.

Something was funky with Forklift. It wasn’t throwing an error but the source directory wasn’t disappearing and neither were its files. I restarted ForkLift, happened again. Tried with another folder, happened again. Files were getting copied instead of moved. Could it be permissions on my new MacBook Pro, which I had recently transferred settings and files to from my MacBook Pro via Apple’s Migration Assistant? Rebooted, problem happened again. So somewhere in here, I probably did an undo or two or a delete. Who knows. But suddenly I found myself with two identical folders, one of the Mac, one on the external drive, each with one crappy locked JPG in them and no other files. Uh oh. This is where I started to turn white. Undo didn’t handle. No redo was available. I was screwed.

I wound up recovering the files using my MacBook Pro, Parallels Desktop and a free tool named Pandora Recovery. It found no deleted JPGs to recover on the SD card, but its surface scan recovered a whole lot. Lost filenames and modification dates, but the EXIF data includes the picture taken date, so I can restore modification dates.

Many older pics were also restored. I’ll use Directory Opus to compare all the recovered images to existing images to weed out the majority of unnecessary files, at least that’s the plan.

Next, I found Exiftool (spelling?) by Phil Harvey. Wow! Just wow. What a neat tool. I used the following command to successfully change all 3500 JPG files’ modification dates to that of the photographed date in each picture’s EXIF data. This is the command:

exiftool ‘-DateTimeOriginal>FileModifyDate’ .

A non-free tool, exiffile (part of ExifUtils) also works, but I’ll take the functional free version, ExifTool in this case.


  • Don’t let pictures sit on the camera so long. Get them duplicated fast.
  • Don’t delete images from SD card until they’re in two or three other places.
  • Don’t move files — copy, then rename directory of originals, keeping it around a while.