SDHC cards have become a staple of mobile storage these days. Be it digital cameras or smartphones, SD cards are the best way to extend the storage capacity of your portable devices.
But like any other storage method, they are vulnerable to data loss. There are many factors that can lead to your SDHC card losing files or entire partitions. And as very few of us create backups of this kind of data, the loss can be devastating.
That being said, there are ways of recovering data from SDHC cards. If you move quickly and stop using the card right away, you have a good chance of regaining the lost files.
If you keep using it, you run the risk of overwriting the data signatures with new files. Once that happens, even a data recovery tool cannot work its magic. Connect your SD card to your PC only when you are prepared to start recovering data.
How can you lose data in SDHC devices?
SD cards are designed to be tough and reliable. But even so, there are many ways of losing your valuable data stored in these cards. Here are some of them.
- 🔨 Data Corruption. Improper shutdown of the device or suddenly ejecting the card can often corrupt the data in it. This is the worst way to lose your data because repairing corrupted files is difficult. Sometimes, the file system itself gets corrupted, making the whole drive inaccessible.
The chkdsk utility can help repair these corrupted file systems and restore some files while at it. If that doesn’t work, try out a data recovery tool instead.
- ❓ Accidentally deleted partitions. Another big reason for losing your data is accidental deletion. Everyone has accidentally deleted an important file every now and then. But thanks to the Recycle Bin, losing individual files is seldom a problem.
The problem is when you delete entire partitions. This is more common than you might imagine since partition management tools have become rather easy to use. All it takes is one misclick to remove a partition full of important data from existence.
Thankfully, recovering this data is equally easy. A deleted partition merely removes the partition table; the files themselves remain intact. Use a data recovery tool to get them back.
- 🐜 Viruses and Malware. Viruses are a major culprit in wiping out data from USB drives and SDHC cards. They can delete entire partitions or make the whole card RAW.
Some types of malware delete the files directly, while some just make them hidden. Using the attrib command can reveal hidden files, though it does nothing for deleted ones. The best way is to use sd card recovery software to scan the whole card. It will retrieve files removed through any means.
- ⛔ Aging and Bad Sectors. Even if you are using the card correctly, there is a limit to how long it will work. No storage media functions forever, and an SDHC card is no exception. Like other forms of memory, an SDHC card has a limited number of read/write cycles. As the cycles are exhausted, sectors become unusable. Data is shifted to new ‘cells’, keeping the card working. Over time though, finding new cells becomes harder and harder.
Ultimately, data writing operations will fail entirely, and you will start losing data. The OS might even show the whole card to be unusable. As soon as this happens, you must move quickly to avoid losing any data. Fire up a data recovery tool and restore files from a memory card while you still can.
How to Recover Data from SDHC Card
The most foolproof way of recovering data from an SDHC card is a data recovery tool. There are a couple of command-line tools that can help too in certain situations.
Method 1. Attrib
The attrib command, as the name suggests, modifies the attributes of a file. It cannot recover deleted files, though. The attrib command is generally used for revealing hidden files and folders on a drive.
But how can files get hidden in the first place? Aren’t only system files concealed like that?
The answer is malware. Not all viruses corrupt files or delete them. Some simpler viruses just hide the data, making it seem lost. Thus it is a good idea to try out the attrib command before turning to advanced methods.
Using the command is easy:
- Open the command prompt as an administrator. You can search for it from the Start menu.
- Now type the following command:
attrib -h -r -s /s /d X:\*.*
Where X is the drive letter of your SD card. The rest of the letters are optional parameters that make the search more stringent.
- The computer will now apply these new attributes to all the files of the drive. Any files that were hidden before will be visible in the File Explorer.
Method 2. CHKDSK
The chkdsk utility is one of the most useful tools available from the command prompt. Using this command, a user can repair bad sectors on any type of disk, and even recover corrupted files successfully.
And as the utility is bundled with Windows by default, you don’t have to download an application to use it either. The only downside is that it doesn’t always work. Sometimes the drive is corrupted beyond basic repair. In such cases, you need to resort to data recovery software.
Here is how you use chkdsk:
- Open command prompt as an administrator. Type cmd in the search box of the Start menu to locate it.
- To perform a basic repair, enter the following command:
chkdsk C: /F
Where C is the drive letter in question. Replace this with the letter of your SDHC card. This is only the simplest command, however.
- For recovering files from the affected sectors and forcibly dismounting the drive, use this:
chkdsk C: /F /R /X
- The drive will now be scanned by Checkdisk, automatically fixing any bad sectors encountered. If this fails to recover your lost data, try another method.
Method 3. Data Recovery Software
Data recovery tools are designed to recover lost files from any storage media, including SD cards. The cause of the data loss doesn’t matter either; whether you accidentally deleted a partition or were hit by a virus attack, the software should be able to get your data back.
For this guide, we will be using Disk Drill. It can recover data both on Windows as well as Mac and comes with a free plan to boot. With its tiny download size, you can get started with recovering your files in no time.
- First, connect your SDHC card to the computer. It is likely that your laptop or PC already has a built-in card reader for this. Otherwise, slot it into an external card reader that can be connected through the USB.
- Download the installation file from the official site and run it. Use Options to choose a custom install location, and click on Install. The installation will proceed quickly.
- After the installation is done, run Disk Drill. Navigate past the initial set up windows to reach the main screen. It lists all drives connected to your computer. Choose the SDHC card from this list by checking the file system and size displayed alongside each entry. Hit the Search for lost data button to proceed.
- With the scan in progress, files will be discovered and sorted by their type. You can Review found items at any time to take a look at what has already been found. The scan can be resumed easily once you are done.
- The recovered data is shown with its complete folder structure. In addition, you can filter the results by file type to find your desired data more quickly. If you notice an important file, select it and click on the Recover option to save it.
- Choose a destination location for the recovered file to be saved to. It can be anywhere on the PC except the SDHC card itself. This is because storing it on the card can overwrite the rest of the files still to be scanned.
Recovering lost data from SDHC cards is easy. Just fire up a trusty data recovery application, and you will have your files back in no time. Whether your files were accidentally deleted or corrupted by a virus, a recovery tool gives you the best chance of getting them back.
Command-line utilities can help in some cases when the problem is related to bad sectors or hidden files. Even then, using data recovery software is often easier than messing around with the command prompt. Just remember to take action immediately after losing your files, and all will be fine.