Restoring SDHC and Compact Flash memory

Sep 28, 2009 by Tony Chung in Technology

I meant to write about tools to restore the data from FUBARed SDHC memory cards last year. This week at least a couple of co-workers told me about their SD and micro-SD cards becoming unreadable, possibly due to their computer’s lack of support for the SDHC format.

While this could be true, even though my computer’s built-in SD card reader claimed to support the SDHC format, I encountered similar problems.

In this post I talk about a couple of free and commercial tools that helped me recover lost space when my card reader mysteriously stopped supporting my SDHC card, and recover lost photos from corrupt Compact Flash cards.

HTC TyTN II and 1GB Micro-SDHC card

My HTC TyTN II came with a 1GB Micro-SD card, formatted to 512MB capacity and filled with programs I’d never use. Fortunately for me this card came with a standard SD sized sleeve. I put the microSD card into the SD sleeve, put the SD sleeve into my Toshiba M400 laptop, and ran the Toshiba SD format utility. Bingo! 1GB space. Just like that.

Toshiba M400 problems

Later I purchased a couple of 8GB MicroSDHC cards from an eBay seller. My M400 laptop wouldn’t recognize them until I upgraded the card slot driver. This worked well, and I copied files between  my laptop and my phone memory card to my heart’s content. At least, until the laptop stopped recognizing the SDHC card again.

Apparently, a Windows XP update killed my laptop’s support for high-capacity SD cards. When I reformatted my Micro-SDHC card I found that 8GB was reduced to 113KB of usable space.

Calling all Google

A quick search for “lost SDHC memory card” lead me to the Philippines Asus EEE user group discussion forum, which led me to download the Panasonic free SD formatting tool. In the blink of an eye, the 113KB became 8GB once again.

Panasonic SD Formatter tool

Panasonic free SD Formatter tool

Of course, this only formatted the card back to the proper capacity. However, there are other utilities that would have recovered data as well.

Problems with Compact Flash too

Just so you Compact Flash aficionados don’t get too cocky, I’ll let you in on a problem we had with my dad’s Nikon D300 camera’s 4GB Compact Flash card. After a really important birthday party, we tried to copy the files using a multi-card reader, but the files wouldn’t load. Somehow the data on the card must have gotten corrupted while still in the camera.

More searches found the DataRescue PhotoRescue commercial recovery tool. It was inexpensive, and besides, the birthday pictures were so important, money was no object. This little bit of magic not only recovered the lost files, but repaired the corrupt data and returned the card to full working shape. I’ll bet this utility also works with SDHC cards.

Datarescue Photorescue commercial recovery tool

Datarescue Photorescue commercial recovery tool

Calling all memory card geeks

Have you ever had problems like these with any of your memory cards? What did you do to solve them? I invite you to leave comments about other tools that helped you get your photos, music, and other important data back. I’m interested in hearing what worked for you.