I'm totally perplexed. My 32 gb card was fairly full at over 28. I had just downloaded some images to my iMac. I pulled the card out without ejecting, but I often do that with no issues, as I was only downloading images rather than writing anything to the card. I took probably 30 more Fine + RAW images. I shut off the camera and stuck the card into the computer, and there are no image files from today. At first I thought the lost images maybe were not picked up by the PhotoMechanic ingest, so I looked in the finder. Not there on the card. I looked on the entire hard drive for any files created today. Nothing. And when I was shooting the images, I did review the last shot image, but never browsed the images.

I tried Disk Drill, but that did not find any new images, although it did find older deleted images.

I just downloaded Remo Recover Photo, and it will take some time more to run.

While it will be sad if I lost my pictures today, it is a scary thought that this could happen again.

Any advice?

This seems related: Lost photos on my SD card while shooting with Nikon D80.

However, I didn't delete any images nor did I get an file system or camera errors. It's just like I never took the photos today.

UPDATE: Great news. I saved the images! Remo Recover Photo did find the images, so I knew there was hope. Here's some info:

  • Disk Drill did not find anything, as it was looking for deleted images.
  • Remo Recover Photo did find the images, but it costs about $80 to recover the images. A fair price, certainly, if you want a GUI program.
  • I decided to try out Test Disk and Photo Rec, primarily based on the positive comments in other threads and it seemed like a good idea to back up the partition.
  • Test Disk and Photo Rec (photorec) are strictly old school command line programs, BUT they turned out to be VERY easy to use. They are menu driven, so it's not like you have to figure out the exact program arguments.
  • I thought the program was Windows based, but it is definitely not only for windows, and the windows program uses cygwin, which I'd rather not use. (Cygwin makes windows seem like Unix, and I would not like to have that extra layer).
  • When I used photorec the first time, I only scanned for deleted files, and sadly, that did not find the missing images. Yikes!
  • There's a second option to pull all the images off of the disk. That one takes way longer. Yipeee! The images were recovered.
  • In order to find the images, you have to scroll through all the recovered images. I found that the faster way to do this was to use the "Coverflow" Finder view and to then hold the arrow key down. Amazingly fast. This is way faster than browsing with the Remo Program. Once I identified the images, both Raw and JPG, I copied them to another folder, and then I imported (ingested) them in Photo Mechanic.
  • I was worried that the match up with JPG/NREF (raw) would not work, so I did a test of a couple of images, and it did work, maybe because I configured the import to rename the files based on the date of the shot. Thus the JPG and NREF files got the same base name. Nice!

  • So what's interesting is that images were not accidentally deleted, but they just were LOST on the disk. How could that happen??

  • I launched the Mac Disk Utility app and fixed the disk (SD Card). This is what it said:

Verify and Repair volume “NIKON D5100” Checking file system** /dev/disk3s1 ** Phase 1 - Preparing FAT ** Phase 2 - Checking Directories ** Phase 3 - Checking for Orphan Clusters Found orphan cluster(s) Fix? yes Marked 38776 clusters as free Free space in FSInfo block (661485) not correct (700261) Fix? yes 807 files, 22408352 KiB free (700261 clusters)

***** FILE SYSTEM WAS MODIFIED ***** Volume repair complete.Updating boot support partitions for the volume as required.

TestDisk reported the following:

Disk /dev/rdisk3 - 31 GB / 29 GiB - CHS 62333952 1 1

The harddisk (31 GB / 29 GiB) seems too small! (< 4138 GB / 3854 GiB) Check the harddisk size: HD jumpers settings, BIOS detection... The following partitions can't be recovered: Partition Start End Size in sectors

FAT32 LBA 8198 62333957 62325760 [NO NAME] FAT16 LBA 547937725 3058513629 2510575905 FAT32
625236559 4854941652 4229705094 HPFS - NTFS 1046975980 4268849006 3221873027 FAT16 <32M 1179154657 1394262273 215107617 FAT16 LBA 1190194560 1283178343 92983784
FAT32 LBA 1191159894 4199350433 3008190540 FAT16 <32M
1215105326 2090480530 875375205 FAT32 LBA 1368455581 4916619455 3548163875 FAT12 1411469445 4019530375 2608060931

So a happy ending, but this definitely was pretty stressful.

So the final question is what should I do with the SD card? Reformat it on the mac or camera? How? Safe to use?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you able to still view them, or any, on the camera itself? \$\endgroup\$
    – BBking
    Oct 7, 2012 at 22:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ The error message from TestDisk seems interesting. What card is that? Did you buy from a reputable seller or was it maybe off Ebay? Frauds are known were the card size is falsely reported to the system. \$\endgroup\$
    – Francesco
    Oct 8, 2012 at 10:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ I should try to empty the card from pictures and the format the card (in the camera). \$\endgroup\$ Oct 8, 2012 at 13:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Card was bought from amazon.com. It's a San Disk Extreme HD Video 30MB/s. And the images were not visible from the camera or any computer without doing a recovery. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 8, 2012 at 19:15
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It's still a good idea to format the card in the camera after backing up (as I have also suggested in my answer). Glad you recovered your images! \$\endgroup\$
    – BBking
    Oct 9, 2012 at 3:03

3 Answers 3


The following is based on a large amount of personal experience.

With memory cards almost anything conceivable can happen, and sometimes does. If there is an approved means of shutting down a memory card before removing it from the camera or computer AND you care enough, then you should use it. I almost invariably swap cards in both computer readers and in cameras without ejecting them or powering down the camera, and I almost never experience any problems as a consequence (with probably somewhere in the ~~~ 10,000 range card removals over many years) BUT it is always a possibility.

The most likely reason in your case is that the card directory structure was "open" at the time of removal in such a way that the card removal left it in an illegal state such that the information for the new files was invalidly formated and so was ignored. It could also have been "happenstance" based on a system glitch (power spike, alpha particle event*, ...) that just happened to coincide with the card withdrawal, BUT this is less likely. It is more likely that you were the author of your own misfortune. At a minimum, if there is a "write in progress" indication from your operating system (unlikely), or card reader/writer or camera (usually a red light) then do not remove the card. Data may be corrupted if the computer has written it to a buffer but the buffer has not been "flushed". Some systems offer the option to disable buffering of memory writes to selected devices and doing this will often increase data security at the possible expense of increase transfer times. I disable buffering where possible.

If you care about data integrity from portable devices then, to the maximum extent possible ensure that data transfers have been completed before taking actions that may compromise data, copy & retain rather moving (= copy + delete indivisibly), make a backup copy of copies data before deleting the original.

*Alpha particles are generated within the encapsulation material of memory or other electronic devices by cosmic ray events and very occasionally can and do cause 'bit flipping" in semiconductor devices. Occasionally these make Murphy's day. Modern devices are generally designed to minimise the effect of such events. An especially energetic cosmic ray may in due course help you to lose photos :-).

===> Wikipedia 'Cosmic ray' notes - see section"Effect on electronics""

  • Cosmic rays have sufficient energy to alter the states of elements in electronic integrated circuits, causing transient errors to occur, such as corrupted data in electronic memory devices, or incorrect performance of CPUs, often referred to as "soft errors". ... This has been a problem in extremely high-altitude electronics, such as in satellites, but with transistors becoming smaller and smaller, this is becoming an increasing concern in ground-level electronics as well.[26] Studies by IBM in the 1990s suggest that computers typically experience about one cosmic-ray-induced error per 256 megabytes of RAM per month.[27]

  • To alleviate this problem, the Intel Corporation has proposed a cosmic ray detector that could be integrated into future high-density microprocessors, allowing the processor to repeat the last command following a cosmic-ray event.[28]

  • Cosmic rays are suspected as a possible cause of an in-flight incident in 2008 where an Airbus A330 airliner of Qantas twice plunged hundreds of feet after an unexplained malfunction in its flight control system. ...

  • \$\begingroup\$ The phantom downvoter 'man with no name' is back. If you think that this answer is not useful then you need to study the subject more. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 7, 2012 at 2:11

I am not really familiar with your problem. But you could take out your memory card and try it on your computer with a Reader to see whether it is the same problem on your computer.If it is the same, and never save anything new on the memory card and then try a recovery program to help you.


OK, I don't have an exact answer but...

Can you still view the images on your camera? Try putting the card in the camera and connecting it you your computer through the USB cable. This has happened to me before. Images would show up on the camera but not in a card reader on a PC. Connecting the camera to the computer, I was able to transfer them. I can not explain it, though.

If you can get hold of a Windows PC, Zero Assumption Recovery is a worth while program. Although you have already tried (or going to try) to recover them, different programs can yield different results. Otherwise you can google image recovery software mac/apple.

In the future, I'd suggest to format the card in the camera once they have been backed up.

Please report back with any findings! :)

I was also going to suggest an SD analyser program and a camera reset if you run into issues again. You may have caused it to corrupt while taking the card out but see what you can do first.

This might be an interesting read also.

  • \$\begingroup\$ They images were not visible on the card when viewed back in the camera, yikes! Any way, see my update above... \$\endgroup\$ Oct 8, 2012 at 5:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's still a good idea to format the card in the camera after backing up. Glad you recovered your images! \$\endgroup\$
    – BBking
    Oct 8, 2012 at 23:56

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