Monday, July 21, 2008

Forensic Hero III

Look at the blog title and the poster at the side, hmm... some may think I want to blog a review on the famous Hong Kong series? Ha! Not really, though I quite like the series. Just these 2 days I was working as a "forensic hero" to help my uncle to recover his lost photos that were inadvertently deleted when doing transfer between PC and the SD card. Well, how much it worth for the photos? What do you think if I say the photos were taken during his 8D7N trip back to China, or precisely our root kampung, Eng Chun 永春 with a group of extremely extended infinite far relatives, and he paid +/- RM10,000 for it? He could probably pay for second trip, but the group wouldn't be the same and there might not be any special worship ceremony to the ancestor anymore, plus he was being teased and laughed off by his friends on his silly mistake. I am always the free technical support to the family and branches, this time round I think it is a one-time golden business opportunity for me, I am definitely not over if I demand for RM5,000 to recover the photos right? And should have incentive or performance bonus if I manage to recover ALL, isn't this a perfect moment for me to gain some capital for my next baby, the iPhone 3G? LoL.

My "business risk" over here is, I can not go wrong with the SD card even for once! No try and error for me. Even if it's just a single new bit written onto the card, one photo might be destroyed and forever not recoverable. Further, my expert reputation might be ruined merely because of a wrong decision. So before I started anything, the very first thing I did is to lock the card for write access. I knew Windows DOS comes with a command RECOVER, though I could just simulate the "deletes" with another spare card, but to me, that's a little risky to try on the command and may not produce the ideal result (you'd know, Windows tools always have limitations). So I spent some time to google the internet. Plenty of software you can get from the result, some freeware some trial/shareware etc. I believe majority of them could do the trick to recover the files, but I have never use any of them before, one wrong click and bye bye my business! I downloaded few reputable software, most of them trial. One of the readme of a trialware triggered me that I could only view the recoverable files but unable to recover them with trial version, so I need to buy...

While I was still deciding which to go, I browsed to my software folder for some housekeeping works. I was then greeted by a software called TestDisk. This simple software helped to recover my ~90GB of media files in a 100GB lost partition in my Archos. I unzipped it and navigated to the folders, I found an executable called PhotoRec_Win.exe. Ha! The name sounds very charming to me at this critical moment! :) Quickly I googled it and also visited the site at this page. Bingo! Its description describes exactly what I want! I was so excited about this and full confidence on this tool 'cause it (the TestDisk) recovered my data without a single loss, it has good comments in some photography forums as well! Further, some forumers shared the experience that it does not write anything onto the card, it reads bits by bits from the card and recovers the files onto your harddisk folder. Therefore, it's safe to give a try.

Without further hesitate, I slotted in the card, double clicked the tool, carefully went through each question, hit Enter and my heart beat shot up to 5000 beats per second (each beat for a Ringgit). Haha!

It looked promising... I was thinking to go for a worship while waiting for it to complete. Hehe... After about 40 minutes (faster than 1 hour shown above), I was dancing in my room when saw the screen below. Hehe...

Next day, called the customer aka my uncle to verify how many photos he deleted, and I laughed "langsi-ly" when he told me roughly about 60-70 photos. I recovered double of the number with no duplicates! He collected the card 30 minutes ago and smile happily to show his satisfaction with the service given. What a business success and enterpreneur am I?! And if you remember there was a scene in Forensic Hero II that the heroes recovered a deleted video from a phone, so may be I can change the poster a little bit since I recovered 149 photos...

Don't you think it looks cool? Haha... lost my mind already :p

Back to serious matter, this tool (PhotoRec) and the other (TestDisk) have been proven (by me la) to be the savor when you need to recover files or disk partition respectively. Both are freeware, developed by CGSecurity, you don't have to buy those commercialware, I would rather suggest you to use the tool(s) and donate to the creator. However, bear in mind, one very simple rule for the tool to work successfully is to STOP using the card (copy, paste, delete, format etc) immediately when you discovered data loss. Otherwise, you may not be able to recover or fully recover your data. My uncle reacted well on his mistake that he instantly stopped using the card and kept it in the safe place (the housing).

Below are some snapshots of the tool in sequence. If you notice, you can narrow down your recovery to certain file types in the 4th screen, which I believe it accelerates the recovery process depending on your selection.