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Recover Files from a Corrupt Memory Card Using Mac Disk Utility

Your memory card can be the most important piece of gear on a shoot. It stores the one thing that can get you paidbut what do you do if it becomes corrupt? Ive had a bunch of memory devices become corrupt; a brand-new CF card while shooting HDR and portraits on Zuma Beach in California, a trusty SD card in my main camera while shooting video interviews for Under Armour, and even an AJA hard drive while recording my multi-camera sports production for ESPN.

They say everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. But there are steps I can take to prevent it from happening to me. On Zuma Beach, I was shooting a Nikon D810 which has two card slots. I was rushing to catch the sunset and get my model in position, set up my camera, and work with directing the talent. Instead of putting both a CF and SD card in my camera, I just opted for a CF card, which has worked for me on loads of shoots before.

During the shoot, everything was going great. I was excited seeing the results on the back of the camera and couldn’t wait to get back and process the images. Back at the hotel, I shut the camera off and removed the memory card. When I plugged it into my computer, it wouldn’t mount to my desktop. Panic . . . not quite, but I was still bummed out.

The next step was to see if the computer could even see the card. So I opened Disk Utility and the card appeared in the left-hand column. Phew, so now its not the card reader or my computer.

I clicked on the card and went to the First Aid tab. Here there are two options: Repair Disk Permissions and Repair Disk. Not knowing if it would work, I went right to Repair Disk on the lower right corner.

After about 3-4 minutes of scanning a lot of 1s and 0s, Disk Utility told me the disk was repaired. When I checked Finder, the memory card mounted and all of my photos were there. Woohoo! Crisis averted.

If this didn’t work, Id have to try and use special recovery software to access the data on the card. Those programs can run from $50-200. As a last resort, there are services that can rebuild the data, but to the tune of more than $1000. It can be worth it, depending on the job and client, but its still a big expense.

You never know when something like this might happen, so its always best to make multiple copies of your data straight out of the camera. Has something like this ever happened to you? Lets share our stories in the comments.



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