Magazine Article


Digital Meltdown


Digital Meltdown
How to Recover—and Avoid Losing—Priceless Data

Text by John Christopher

An engineer at DriveSavers reviews recovered photos from a digital camera recovery.

The relationship between digital cameras and computers is tenuous; once-in-a-lifetime events captured on "digital film" can simply disappear in an instant. So how do you protect yourself from a digital meltdown?
Here's a case in point. Like many people, Almitra Von Willcox enjoys a good walk. Of course she's taken it to the extreme: committing herself to walking around the world. She spent two years walking across Australia, went on to Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, and China. Traveling with practically nothing—except her Mac PowerBook and multiple digital cameras—she chronicled her journey on her website,, with images and personal reflections.
For months she captured hundreds of images of China, storing them on CompactFlash cards. While copying images from one of the cards to her computer, something went terribly wrong. Suddenly she was unable to access her images.
Being as far away from help as she could possibly be, Von Willcox contacted Kodak via an Internet café. After a few email exchanges, Kodak recommended she contact DriveSavers, Inc. (, a Novato, California, company specializing in data recovery from crashed or physically damaged storage devices.
She shipped her Flash card to DriveSavers and held onto hope. A few days later, she got the good news via email: Her images had been saved.
Von Willcox's unusual story illustrates the fragile nature of digital photography.
How do you prevent a data loss?
1. To start with, stay up-to-date with the latest version of driver software, necessary for your computer to communicate with your digital camera. Manufacturers frequently update drivers, especially when new versions of operating systems are introduced. If you install a new version of the operating system or buy a new computer, visit your camera manufacturer's website for the latest.
2. When it comes to convenience, digital photography has some real advantages over film. But one tradeoff is the increased risk of losing images. One way to minimize the risk of data loss is to rely on an old friend-you guessed it: film. Sure, it's a pain to lug more gear around, but it could spare you real grief if the unimaginable occurs.
3. Another danger you face is the accidental deletion of images on your camera's storage media. This might occur if you format the card, or simply delete the wrong image to free up space during a shoot. Some cameras allow you to lock images individually to protect them from accidental deletion. Check the user manual for details.
4. Even after you transfer photos from your camera to your computer, your job of protecting your images isn't finished. Hard drives are mechanical devices that can fail anytime-even right out of the box. It's extremely important to back up your digital photos from your computer's hard drive. Invest in a backup device that meets your current and future storage requirements, because you're always going to need more capacity.
5. In addition to the practical suggestions offered here, we recommend you keep information on a data recovery service company, like DriveSavers, handy. Alter-natively, check with the manufacturer of your storage media for a recommendation.

John Christopher is a data recovery engineer at DriveSavers Inc.