Memory misery

So you made a complete Bass of yourself by dropping a digital camera into the surf? I can help you retrieve the images; I can also help if you accidentally deleted a bunch of photos.

The Hassle: My digital camera decided to take a dip in the ocean. Though I recovered it, the camera is toast. Is there any way to rescue the memory card - and all my precious photos?

The Fix: I can't give you a step-by-step for resurrecting the camera (I lost one that way, too). But I've successfully recovered photos on both an SD and a CompactFlash card. It's critical to keep the card submerged in water (salt water if necessary) to avoid corrosion. When you're ready to start, soak the card in fresh water for a few minutes; rinsing isn't as good, since you need to remove the salt water from all internal contacts.

Air-dry it (don't use a hair dryer - it could damage the contacts). Gently clean the SD or SmartMedia card contacts using a cotton bud and a small amount of isopropyl alcohol (don't saturate it). Once they're dry, lightly rub the contacts again with a clean pencil eraser. CompactFlash cards are tougher to work with. Using a small flathead screwdriver, gently pry the enclosure open just enough to slide the circuit card out. Work from the sides, not from the connector end. Then follow the steps above, starting with air-drying the card.

I'm not as optimistic about the camera. But if it's already dead, you can't hurt it, so go ahead and try the same rinsing routine outlined above. Then dismantle the camera, let it air-dry, and clean all the contacts. And keep your fingers crossed.

The Hassle: I pulled my CompactFlash card out of my card reader while it was moving images to my PC. I can see some of the images on the card, but others aren't there at all and still other photos show up with only half an image. What's going on here?

The Fix: You found out the hard way that you need to wait until all reads and writes are complete before removing a media card. (Ditto for any other external storage device - MP3 player, hard drive or flash drive.)

You'll need a tool to resuscitate those files. For deleted files (nope, they're not in the Recycle Bin), the undelete program you already own may work. If not, try my favourite, PC Inspector Smart Recovery ( It's free, it's easy to use, and it brings dozens of file types back to life, including all the standards (JPG, BMP, TIF and GIF), plus AVI, MOV and many types of RAW files. The downside is that the program is slow: it took 10 minutes to recover three deleted files.

If your image files are corrupted (on a memory card or on a CD), try ImageRecall. The $US40 tool restores deleted files, recovers damaged files, and determines whether your card is damaged. A trial version (available from recovers ten images.

Once you've moved the image files from the card to your hard drive, use your camera to reformat the card. That way you'll repair any allocation errors and save new images contiguously; subsequent photos will write faster and be easier to recover in case of a mishap.

Convert and Enhance Your Video

What a dope: I took a bunch of short videos with my digital camera while holding it in portrait orientation. When I played them back, the videos were sideways (surprise!) After hours of fiddling around and searching the Web, I discovered AVS Video Tools ( This $US30 tool has dozens of features for converting and editing videos. Besides handling conversions between a huge range of video formats, it lets me choose from about 40 effects, including adding titles, changing perspective, and splitting or joining videos. And yes, I can also rotate them. The trial version on the Cover Disc of the August 2006 edition of PC World Magazine places a banner across the image.

Auto contrast is just one of the functions available in AVS Video Tools, click here to see the effect it has.

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Steve Bass

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