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We took some great photos with our friends on the beach. We were using an older Nikon D3100. My girlfriend, who was the one who took most of them, noticed that a few of them were missing. She thought our friend had deleted them because she didn't like them.

We went through them that evening - right in the camera's gallery - and everything seemed fine. The next day we took some more photos while sightseeing, and after that none of our beach photos appeared. Not in the camera, not on the SD card, and they weren't found by Disk Drill or Recuva either.

My question is - what could have caused this? And how can I prevent this from happening again? Should I get a new SD card?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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3 Answers 3

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By far the most likely explanation is that the SD card is dying. Given that they are relatively cheap, just get a new one (and throw the old one in the bin. No point risking any more photos).

If it happens again with a new card, you may need to do a more detailed investigation.

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    \$\begingroup\$ To be paranoid, cut the SD card up before you throw it away. In addition, it should be treated as eWaste and disposed of appropriately rather than just throwing it in the trash. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Commented Sep 4, 2023 at 21:38
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Did you unmount/eject the card properly before removing it from your computer?

It happened to me twice, when I forgot to unmount and just put my laptop to sleep, then removed the SD card. Linux did not automatically sync and unmount the card (and might have still used the old filesystem cache later?).

Same symptoms: pictures were missing on the computer, still visible on the camera, then gone forever.

Now I always make sure to unmount the card, and it has not happened again.

My card reader started to have problems sometime later, so this might also have been early signs of a failing card reader.

My equipment at the time: Nikon D3100, Lenovo ThinkPad T520, Debian Linux 9 (stretch).

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There are many ways in which an SD card can go bad. This answer from 10 years ago is still an exhaustive list of what can go wrong.

Make sure that your storage devices, especially removable ones, are backed up regularly. With 128 and 256 GB cards readily available it is easy to rely on them for long term storage, but it is important to consider them temporary. Inserting and removing multiple times means that they are subject to physical stresses that hard drives, even SSD drives, are protected against. Static discharge is also a possibility every time the card’s contacts are moved along the camera’s or card reader’s contacts.

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