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DPChallenge Forums >> General Discussion >> Old Hard Drives - Photo Recovery
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02/17/2021 10:18:53 AM · #1
Was not sure where to post this...

I was going to post it on Toms Hardware forums which I can still do - however, thought folks here may have encountered this before and may know of some best practices to keep from loosing photos when computers or hard drives are upgraded, etc.

Obviously I have neglected this for sometime now but after doing a clean up during the quarantine I have found that I have five hard drives from old systems that I know have photos on them.

Wondering what is the best way about getting them off and I was thinking if I can get them off I would put them all onto a SSD drive. I am not sure where else I could store them. I have some cloud storage but probably not enough space for the number of photos I most likely have.

Curious to know if there are any programs out there for doing this type of recovery or is it merely doing a scan for all photo file types, weeding the ones you want and then copying them to the new drive?

Thx for any help or suggestions.

02/17/2021 11:00:16 AM · #2
First step is getting access to the drives. If these are rotating SATA drives, you can get adapters that allow them to be connected to a USB port. Then you can attach the drive to any laptop or desktop without opening the case.
Next, you can take two approaches:
1.) Explore the drives manually
2.) Do a search
If all your photos are in JPEG format, doing a search will also turn up tons of unrelated .jpg files. I suggest a hybrid approach. Run a search, look for some photos that are what you expect, and figure out what folder they are in. That would tell you the path(s) at which your photos are stored. You can then explore manually and copy whatever you deem necessary.
02/17/2021 01:20:14 PM · #3
This would be a good time to set up your ongoing backup process. Ideally you will have almost all photos in at least three places (working drive, external drive copies, offsite drive copies). Set up something that works for all your photos as you make them, and fit your prior images into the new structure. Think carefully about the risks of limiting yourself to "a SSD drive" for your pictures (seems to imply only one drive).

Here is my process:
1. Import every shooting session from memory card to both my internal ssd drive and an external rotating hard drive (originals archive). I use Photo Mechanic to automate file naming and folder creation.
2. Automatic daily backup of working drive images (including processed output files) to a separate external "swap" drive. Could be many times per day if desired.
3. Weekly take the external swap drive to the bank safe deposit box and exchange it for an identical drive with copies updated through the prior week. I used to have offsite drive at my office, could have been at a relative's house. Some people use cloud storage for the offsite copies. Pay attention not just to ongoing costs but also to how long restoring from the cloud would take. Local drives are typically faster.

All drives fail, some sooner, some later (unless you routinely replace them while they are still working). When my internal computer drive fails, I can restore from the external working copy. If my house burns down or computer is stolen, the offsite copies become the source to restore the content (more important for financial files than images, actually). Many variations are reasonable alternatives - balance costs and risks to taste. Every system will have gaps or disadvantages. But almost any system is better than no system.
02/17/2021 05:21:21 PM · #4
I recently (time available ... lockdown ... retired a year ago) put all my images on a single hard drive, combining them from different laptop disks via usb adapter as described by kirbic. I did not use a program, I just copied them all over into folders per month/year.

Then I copied that disk onto the internal SSD of my new PC and loaded everything into Lightroom. So I am protected against crash of a single disk. I should probably export also the Lightroom catalogue back to the external disk.

For about half of the images I have DVD backup and I still have an USB DVD reader, but that will end at some point.

All my images (both disks) are still stored physically in my house. I still need to make an extra copy of the disk for external storage but did not get around to this... dangerous I know.

I also considered converting all my RAW images to Adobe DNG format, because that might be another accessibility issue in the long run. I am not sure how well accepted the DNG format is currently and I don't see any threat yet to the Nikon NEF RAW format, so that also is unfinished business. Does any of you use the DNG format ?

Going forward I will copy my images from PC SSD to external disk on a monthly basis. (each time I get an automatic reminder to calibrate my screen I will also copy the images)

02/17/2021 06:21:16 PM · #5
Originally posted by willem:

For about half of the images I have DVD backup and I still have an USB DVD reader, but that will end at some point.

Probably not that soon, but the media has a limited life (20 years?) anyway.

There's someplace (maybe an old salt mine in Kansas?) where "Hollywood" archives films (including the unused outtakes) under highly-controlled conditions. Apparently it costs something like $16K/year for the climate-control, security, etc. for a feature shot on film, but that with the added costs for equipment, media, energy, and time/labor involved in constantly migrating to new formats a feature shot digitally might cost as much as $160K/year to maintain.

Message edited by author 2021-02-17 18:21:49.
02/18/2021 02:16:31 AM · #6
Originally posted by GeneralE:

Originally posted by willem:

For about half of the images I have DVD backup and I still have an USB DVD reader, but that will end at some point.

Probably not that soon, but the media has a limited life (20 years?) anyway.


The important thing is also to make sure you keep the equipment to read those DVDs. I threw out some DVD players and old PCs with DVD players in them and realised I still needed to keep at least one, connected to something that still operates. So the external usb DVD reader for PC is a good option.

I also managed to convert old magnetic tape with video recording to digital files recently after 23 years, so even in uncontrolled circumstances life expectancy can exceed the expected one. (but better not take the risk and do it earlier). Amazed to see that several years of video recording off my kids growing up fitted on one usb drive/stick ;-)
02/18/2021 04:32:32 PM · #7
I have an old Belkin drive that I might try to open. Contains many old images of sentimental value.
02/25/2021 08:52:17 AM · #8
I am finally getting back to this....

Today I bought off of Amazon a 1TB External SSD drive to use for now. All my photos are present are on a standard hard drive and as I mentioned they are the raw drive since they were pulled from my prior three computers and laptops.

While I understand there is no program to find all of the files. I know how to do the overall drive searches to hopefully find them all and then I can figure out the directory and move them to the SSD that way.

However, once they are on the SSD or better said all in one place but still in various directories do you guys know of any program that will go through all of the photos and then allow them to be displayed/view based upon when the photo was taken. I believe if not mistaken there could be up to three dates on the file, Date Taken, Date Created and Date Modified.

I am thinking if there were some sort of program that would allow that then I could logically set up new directories that are named more meaningful for ease of finding photos, etc.
02/25/2021 09:53:39 AM · #9
There are a number of cataloging applications that will do almost anything you want as far as displaying by date taken, or other parameters you may be interested in. I don't know what program you are using for editing, but if you are a Ps user, and you have the Adobe Photographer's Bundle, then you can install Lr (Lightroom) classic, which, in addition to its RAW processing capability has a very powerful catalog function.
02/25/2021 03:29:50 PM · #10
Originally posted by kirbic:

There are a number of cataloging applications that will do almost anything you want as far as displaying by date taken, or other parameters you may be interested in. I don't know what program you are using for editing, but if you are a Ps user, and you have the Adobe Photographer's Bundle, then you can install Lr (Lightroom) classic, which, in addition to its RAW processing capability has a very powerful catalog function.


I can confirm the above since that is exactly what I did recently. I moved all my pictures onto one disk, made a copy, and loaded then all into Lightroom classic (18 years of history). Within Lightroom you can display date and other info in the Library module grid view and you can also use camera, exposure and date info to filter your images. If you want to go a step further and want to spend the time while loading your images into Lightroom, you can assign your own keywords as well and use those for filtering later.
02/25/2021 04:12:56 PM · #11
Originally posted by willem:

Originally posted by kirbic:

There are a number of cataloging applications that will do almost anything you want as far as displaying by date taken, or other parameters you may be interested in. I don't know what program you are using for editing, but if you are a Ps user, and you have the Adobe Photographer's Bundle, then you can install Lr (Lightroom) classic, which, in addition to its RAW processing capability has a very powerful catalog function.


I can confirm the above since that is exactly what I did recently. I moved all my pictures onto one disk, made a copy, and loaded then all into Lightroom classic (18 years of history). Within Lightroom you can display date and other info in the Library module grid view and you can also use camera, exposure and date info to filter your images. If you want to go a step further and want to spend the time while loading your images into Lightroom, you can assign your own keywords as well and use those for filtering later.


And I'll do you one better... you can tell Lr who specific people are in photos, and it will take that training and recognize the same people in all your other photos, then you can search on them. I even found it works (to a degree) for dogs, LOL.
02/25/2021 04:59:46 PM · #12
Originally posted by kirbic:


And I'll do you one better... you can tell Lr who specific people are in photos, and it will take that training and recognize the same people in all your other photos, then you can search on them. I even found it works (to a degree) for dogs, LOL.


Also with LR classic? Probably that face recognition uses a cloud service?
02/28/2021 03:55:38 PM · #13
Originally posted by willem:

Originally posted by kirbic:


And I'll do you one better... you can tell Lr who specific people are in photos, and it will take that training and recognize the same people in all your other photos, then you can search on them. I even found it works (to a degree) for dogs, LOL.


Also with LR classic? Probably that face recognition uses a cloud service?


Face recognition is available from Lightroom 6 onwards, including Lightroom classic (I am using version 3.6 so I don't have it)
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