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How to recover files from an SD card that has stopped working... for free

Your SD card is broken or corrupt: here is what to do

SD card

We show you how to get files off a corrupt SD card. How to recover photos and other data from an SD card that has stopped working.

Expandable storage such as SD cards are great. They can make your phone or camera a much larger and more versatile beast. But when a card corrupts you can lose a lot. Here we've focussed on recovering photos: apps you can reinstall, and if they come from a legal source music files can be replaced free of charge. But in any case the principles are the same.

Here's what to do if your trusty SD card has stopped working. First of all, don't format the disk if you want to retain any of the photos on it. And unless you have a lot of valuable data that you absolutely need to get back, we'd caution against employing a third-party data-recovery company. At least not before you have tried the following.

How to recover files from a corrupt SD card

You will need some specialist recovery software. We were recommened a program called ZAR (Zero Assumption Recovery). Other similar programs are available, but ZAR worked well for us and is free for this purpose.

Install ZAR, then insert the damaged SD card into your PC's card reader. Launch ZAR. (You may have to disable your PC's security software, in which case we recommend you also disable the internet connection).

When prompted, click the Image Recovery (Free) option. This will help you to recover photos from an SD card.

ZAR will now look for devices that are installed, and you need to point it toward the offending SD card. Select the correct disk and click Next. ZAR will now analyse your SD card. This will take a few minutes.

Once this is complete you'll see a list of the recovered files. On most SD cards the chances are that clicking the 'Root' checkbox will select all the images. Click Next and you can then select the folder into which recovered files will be placed. By default this will be the same as the folder your chose to save (so 'Root', in all likelihood).

One important point: you will be asked to select a destination folder for the recovered files. Make sure you choose one on your PC's hard disk and not back on to the corrupt SD card. The latter option will help you not one jot!

It will take a few minutes for the files to copy across. Once this is complete browse to the destination folder you selected. You should find most if not all of the files you wanted to rescue.

See all How to articles. Get free tech support in the Helproom Forum.

Visit Windows 7 Advisor and Windows 8 Advisor for more Windows advice. Or email our Helproom Editor for bespoke advice.

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