Most Likely This is Hopeless-Filter
March 10, 2007 1:45 PM   Subscribe

So, my friend, a new Mac user, accidentally deleted roughly five years worth of personal photos from his computer. Yeah. Is there any way to get them back?

He's tried Disk Repair and PhotoRec, which probably actually made things worse if what I know about Mac file structure is true. In any case, they didn't work. Frantic googling has only come up with more of the same. Are there any free/open source programs/utilities we can try. Any Mac OS hidden tricks? Anything? He's fairly devastated.

Also, some of his photos are on his Ipod Nano 2gb. How to get them off?

I plan on telling him about the magic and wonder of regular backups later on, but now isn't really the time.
posted by chichimimizu to Computers & Internet (18 answers total)
What version of Mac OS is he using?
Try this google search and hopefully you'll find something that works.
posted by PowerCat at 2:04 PM on March 10, 2007

Others may come along with real suggestions but for the moment DON'T USE THE COMPUTER.

Deleting files on a computer doesn't immediately trash them. It just marks them as being space that can now be copied over.

Ipod-- Just connect it to the computer and copy off.

extra hardrives are cheap. Remind him at some point.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:06 PM on March 10, 2007

I was able to recover some deleted things with Data Rescue.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:17 PM on March 10, 2007

No free or open source data recovery tools that I know of. Be sure to let us know if you find any.

Otherwise, you might look into Data Rescue II or a data recovery company like OnTrack.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:17 PM on March 10, 2007

Response by poster: When we try to copy the photos off the Ipod, we're not able to view the individual photos. Only a file called Photo Database and two files that end with .ithumb. After googling, we came up with "Keith's Ipod Photo Reader," but either we're not using it right, or things are about to get much worse. The Photo Reader is only able to see 9 photo files, and they all come up as "green blurs" not precious memories. We're still able to view and scroll through the pictures on the Nano.
posted by chichimimizu at 2:25 PM on March 10, 2007

Unless you chose to copy over the originals, the images on the Nano are most likely very small thumbnails suitable for viewing on the Nano's very small screen. Sorry.
posted by docgonzo at 2:49 PM on March 10, 2007

Disk Warrior. Can't believe no one suggested it. It's not free, but it's a steal for the price. Every serious mac geek has it in her/his toolset.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 2:58 PM on March 10, 2007

To be clear about Brandon's point: your friend should stop doing ANYTHING on the computer from which he's trying to recover files. No googling, no opening or closing programs, no going through any further shut down / start up cycles. Almost everything you do on a computer causes something to be written to the drive, and every little thing that's written to the drive makes it that much less likely you'll recover all the deleted files.

Professional data recovery is not cheap, so this may come down to how much he's willing to pay for a chance (not a guarantee) of getting those photos back. The MOST important thing he can do right now is stop using the computer in question so no more of the data is overwritten.
posted by allterrainbrain at 3:08 PM on March 10, 2007

I'm going to ask a more basic question than the previous posters: by deleted do you mean that he actually emptied the trash after deleting them? (Or alternatively, that he deleted them from the command line.) If so, listen to the previous posters, but if not, they're probably just still in the trash can. Deleting them in the finder moves them to the users's trash can, and deleting them in iphoto seems to move them into iphoto's internal trash can.
posted by advil at 3:50 PM on March 10, 2007

3rd-ing Data Rescue II - I've recovered data in a couple of similar situations for other people as well as getting a lot of data off a HDD that I thought was totally toast.
posted by maniactown at 4:20 PM on March 10, 2007

DiskWarrior is *not* going to help with recovering deleted files. In fact, it just might make it harder to recover those files. Data Rescue is a good bet, and to reiterate what other people are saying: *stop* doing anything else on the computer until you're ready to recover the files.
posted by edjusted at 4:21 PM on March 10, 2007

First, back away from the computer and turn it off

Borrow a second mac. Boot the mac with the deleted files and hold the 'T" key down, putting it into Target mode (essentially an external firewire drive) that you connect to your 2nd mac.

Data recovery utilities here:

"Undelete" search at versiontracker

"iPod Photo" search at

There aren't any open source "recovery" tools.
Diskwarrior will repair drive damage, not undelete files.

Look, for the the recovery, you're going to pay money. It's still there, as LONG AS YOU'RE NOT USING the drive. Otherwise, files are being written as we speak.

There are a number there you can try, see if it sees the missing data, and then pay for the shareware/commercial recovery price.
posted by filmgeek at 4:24 PM on March 10, 2007

I've recovered files via Disk Warrior on several occasions.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 4:56 PM on March 10, 2007

Stellar phoenix worked for me after some other data recovery programs failed (but that was on a pc).
posted by Rc at 5:02 PM on March 10, 2007

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:04 PM on March 10, 2007

no one has mentioned it, but if he "deleted" them from iPhoto, they are still in the iPhoto trash folder and can be dragged back out... obvious I know, but worth mentioning.....
posted by HuronBob at 9:10 AM on March 11, 2007

This has actually been asked before. Here is my answer before and I stick by it. I corrupted my partition table and was still able to get all of my pictures back that I had lost (about 100). The software I linked to has a free trial, so give the trial a shot and see if it can find any of the things you are looking for.
posted by chrisroberts at 9:40 AM on March 11, 2007

Just out of curiosity, how did he manage to delete all those photos?
posted by Dasein at 12:30 PM on March 11, 2007

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