I inserted a SanDisk 32GB compact flash card thinking I'd formatted it. I was able to take 100's photos on a recent holiday. When I tried to transfer them to my computer I was informed on the computer & when I tried putting it back in the camera that the card was not formatted. Is there any way of recovering my photos?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you saying that the camera didn't give the error message when you first used the card? Also, exactly what happened when you tried to access the card from your computer? \$\endgroup\$
    – ChrisF
    Commented Jul 4, 2012 at 9:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ These cards always come already formatted, and your camera would not have let you take pictures were it not. Something went wrong, either with your camera or computer. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jul 4, 2012 at 12:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ At this point, probably the best thing to do is to look at photo.stackexchange.com/questions/3323/… \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jul 4, 2012 at 12:33

2 Answers 2


Compact Flash cards always come formatted, just like all other types of flash memory.

If it was not formatted, the camera would have been unable to shoot.

What is going on is that your computer is unable to recognize the card's file-system. This sometimes happens with an incompatible reader or older operating system. This is highly likely because of the size of your CF card which is not so common. At this point you need to try something:

  • Use a different card reader
  • Use the camera directly
  • Use another computer
  • Check that you have the latest drivers for your camera or reader
  • Try another operating system. You easily do this with a LiveCD which boots from the drive without installation. This will let you see your files and even copy them onto your hard-disk.


Sorry, I had not noticed you said the card no longer works in-camera. Your last hope is to use a recovery software like Photo Rescue or Image Rescue. These software usually show you a preview of the files they can recover before you have to pay. Actually, if you bought your Sandisk recently, you may have a coupon for a one-year licence.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. But I think it's likely that something bad happened on the computer, because of how the camera doesn't recognize the card now. If the photos were valuable, make sure the card is write-protected before doing anything else, and run photorec or the equivalent as soon as possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jul 4, 2012 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ photorec is completely free, although the user interface is straight out of the 1980s. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jul 4, 2012 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you had 'shoot without card' enabled on your camera, it is possible to shoot without a recognizable card. However, I suspect that your camera would have put up a warning about the card being unrecognizable first. \$\endgroup\$
    – cmason
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 13:09

Are you connecting the Compact Flash via the camera or in a separate reader? This is usally less of a problem with Windows7 so are you using Windows XP?

The data is not missing as such it is just that the file system between camera and your computer are not reading the data.

First, try connecting the CF Card in another computer preferably with Windows7. Windows 7 has a utility that will recognise if the card is not compatible and give you an option to repair.

Try this: http://www.easeus.com/resource/drive/compact-flash.htm It is a free service so I do not know what limitations this will impose but it it worth a try.

This is a little like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted but, do remember to format the memory card IN CAMERA before starting to take photos.


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