Windows can’t read from my camera’s memory card

Editor’s note: since writing this article, I have had huge problems with RTools spamming me. I have asked them many times to stop, yet still they persist. My advice is do not use any RTools product. Or that if you must use RTools, do NOT register, otherwise they will pester you forever. Using the free Linux alternatives is cheaper and much better for your privacy!

This is more a basic “how it works” rather than a comprehensive “how-to“, though I have provided links to some of the resources I use when confronted with flaky camera chips or flaky hard drives. 

Windows itself only gives you limited ways to mount a volume. Basically, if Windows  cannot recognise the volume’s file system then Windows assumes it does not exist. Two basic ways round this. Whichever way you do it it is vital you do not write data to the corrupted volume.

  1. If you are still using Windows then you can install an application such as RTools on your Windows PC – but NOT on the corrupted volume. This effectively bypasses Windows file management system and creates one or several file allocation tables on another volume that it uses to piece together the data on the corrupted volume. You then use this to restore your data to another volume. It’s expensive but worth the money because it does not require much technical knowledge.
  2. OR connect the corrupted volume using an operating system such a Linux that allows you to mount file systems manually and that allows operations on data when no file system appears to be present. It requires more technical knowledge than method 1 but everything you need is free. Indeed there many tools at your disposal, some of which are detailed in a recent paper published under a “Microsoft Permissive License” entitled “Recovering Data from Windows Systems by Using Linux”

However, having used both methods with a fair measure of success, I’d add that they are both tedious and time-consuming!

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