I know there is an answer that covers recovering photos from sd card and plenty of links online but I need one that can cover RAW files (specifically sony raw files in my case. arw). Is there one that can do that?

  • The answer isn't any different for RAW files, or really any other file type. Many of the "photo" recovery tools work the same regardless of filetype or in some cases even file system. See How can I recover deleted photos from an SD Card? – dpollitt May 5 '13 at 21:04
  • 1
    A file is a file, recovering RAW files is no different. – Esa Paulasto May 5 '13 at 21:32
  • 1
    @Esa That's not quite true. Since formatting destroys the directory information, including filenames, data recovery software works by looking at the actual bits on disk and looking for patterns that match known file types. So, if a particular format isn't recognized by the software, files of that type can't be distinguished from junk. – Please Read My Profile May 6 '13 at 2:21
  • 1
    @mattdm - Ouch, thanks for making me feel old. I took a quick peek into file recovery as it is today, and realized how long it is since I did such work myself. I found out they nowadays use heuristics (along with basic knowledge) to determine files from fragmented mass of data. It was all so much simpler when I was young. And yes, they do need the info of filetype characteristics. My bad :( – Esa Paulasto May 6 '13 at 5:41

Free, open source, cross-platform software PhotoRec can specifically recover many RAW formats, including Sony ARW (as well as Canon CR2, Nikon NEF, Pentax PEF, and others).

Although the interface isn't particularly slick, the underlying functionality is the same as any proprietary program, and I'd be surprised if any of the more expensive options can recover anything this can't. Of course, if this fails, you can always try one of the demos of the commercial software to see if it can do any better. But I don't think they actually have any extra magic sauce — in fact, I've seen anecdotal reports that PhotoRec is more thorough.

| improve this answer | |
  • good answer (+1). Maybe incorporate in it the comment you made about the fragmentated files. That one convinced me to start formating my cards on each new series ^^ I used to just delete files, which is not the same, as it could start on a different position. And It'll also help with some weird slowdowns (probably when fragmenting occurs) – Olivier Dulac May 7 '13 at 16:47

Any general file recovery tool will do. For image-centric ones, there are also plenty available. The most popular ones are Image Rescue and Photo Rescue. They each offer a free-trial which shows you thumbnails and guarantee that anything that shows a thumbnail will be recovered once you pay. I can vouch that both of these work and I have seen them recover RAW files from several brands of cameras, although I have not tried with Sony RAW ones.

| improve this answer | |

If the card is actually full formatted, then you will be out of luck. If it was quick-formatted then you'll likely be ok with any normal data recovery tool that supports SD cards.

The reason that file recovery normally works for deleted files is that there are two parts to a file. There is the data itself and a record of where the file is on the drive/disk/card. When you delete a file or quick format, the record of where files are is wiped out, but the file data itself remains in place. A file recovery tool looks for these fragments and tries to put them back together for you. A full format however will write 0s to the entire drive rendering any previous files destroyed.

| improve this answer | |
  • Does camera format usually do a full format? How do I find out for my camera (Sony A99)? – erotsppa May 5 '13 at 18:54
  • If it doesn't spell it out in the documentation, then the best bet is to try a file recovery package and see what it can do. Most of them offer a file discovery option for free and you only have to buy them to be able to actually recover the files it detects. – AJ Henderson May 5 '13 at 18:56
  • 2
    It almost certainly is a quick format. Full-format is too slow on multi-GB cards, an anyway increases flash wear unneccesarily. If formatting takes a few minutes as opposed to seconds, then unfortunately it's the more destructive kind. But in any case, it's worth trying it to see what you get. – Please Read My Profile May 6 '13 at 2:10
  • 3
    Also, if the files are actually fragmented, it's a lot harder for recovery to work. Recuva apparently doesn't even try, and with PhotoRec you need to enable the very slow "Brute Force" option and even then it is uncertain. Fortunately though, if you always start with a reformatted car and refrain from deleting individual files, fragmentation is unlikely — each image should be contiguous. – Please Read My Profile May 6 '13 at 2:35

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.