By Adrian Klein

I wrote a little about this a few years back yet that was more specifically around different backup solutions. I figured that would be the end of it… wishful thinking. After a recent issue occurred during a power outage I realized over the last 7 or so years the issues with image loss from CF cards to hard drives failures run the gamut for me. My wish in sharing these stories is to prevent pain and misery on your end. Every year it seems I learn from an issue and change what I do. What exactly have I experienced? That is a great question. Where do I start I am not sure yet here it goes.

Losing a full CF card covering several days on a trip I likely won’t repeat or cannot repeat in the same way in Alaska. Check. Having a CF card go corrupt with hundreds of images and saying “no image” when trying to download. Check. Looking for images on a hard drive taken during a 10 day trip in Montana and none found and none backed up. Check. Having my so called “mirrored” drives both go out on me incurring hundreds in tech support to retrieve. Check. My supposed surefire RAID like setup with Drobo that should ensure if a drive goes out no data is lost yet having all drives go out and all data lost. Check. Having a PC that won’t boot after a power outage. Check.

The saying “if it can happen, it will happen” seems to be my motto for this topic. I will dive into each these experiences providing more detail and how it changed what I do to ensure I have my files for many years to come.

Dead hard drive from failure

Losing Cards in the Field
I had a horrible system, or no system really, on where I put my new and used cards when I was out hiking or backpacking. This is interesting when I look it now since I feel I have pretty good processes with most things in my life of importance. If I had to guess there still is a San Disk CF card somewhere on Kesugi Ridge in Denali State Park. If you see it, send it my way. It was in my camera bag on day one and on day three it was gone.

Now days I use the exact same pocket for my filled cards and it always stays zipped. Additionally if you have to leave your camera in your car while stopping somewhere on the road and you have irreplaceable images take them with you. Camera gear can be replaced. Not as easy for the images on your cards.

Corrupt Card – No Image Found
I have had this happen in a couple different scenarios. One time was near the end of the card I clicked to take an image and it said “error 99” and then proceeding to image preview said “no image”. Anyway I ended up using Lexar Image Rescue which is very inexpensive. I ended up recovering about 75% of the files. That was a relief.

The other scenario I had is where the card went corrupt while downloading the photos from a CF card reader. I also was able to recover most images yet not all.

Why did this happen. There are reasonable explanations for both, unfortunately. The card that went bad in my camera turned out to be fake San Disk. I bought it new online through Amazon retailer yet according to San Disk the serial number was not a San Disk number. Ouch! Now I only buy from reputable retailers, no more Amazon or eBay. As for the card that went bad on the card reader that was in the old days when I went as cheap as I could for everything. It was a very inexpensive card reader that was failing while trying to download the photos which ended up corrupting the card. Lesson here, buy a decent quality brand name card reader.

Images Not Found on Computer
About a year after a trip to Montana (this was back many years ago) I went looking one day for the images. They were nowhere to be found. Nowhere! At the time I had very lax backup process and I had failed to backup the images before formatting the CF cards. Sigh… How they were deleted I have no idea and may never know.

I learned from this to have a process of how my CF cards flow before they get back into camera for use. Now days it looks like this.

  • Download photos
  • Set CF card on desk near monitor
  • Confirm backup to offsite locations
  • Place CF card in hanging folder

This way I know that the folder that has the CF cards is one I can just pull from when I need more for the next trip.

Relying Solely on Internal Drives
Once upon a time my main “backup” was having multiple mirrored internal drives. This way if one failed the other would be fine. Well I found out that they can both go out together when I got the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) one day. The computer shop was able to retrieve the data yet it costs hundreds of dollars in the process.

I no longer worry about having internal mirrored drives. It takes up more storage and since it failed me once I feel like it can certainly fail me again. Redundancy is now on and off site backups including Backblaze that are not internal to my computer.

Network Attached Storage – Drobo
I still remember buying my Drobo system from the camera store and loved this sleek shiny black box that could house terabytes of data. I had read about it and after seeing the demo I felt this was a must have as a good alternative to a true RAID system.

At first it lived up to the hype and dreams. However over time I realized having it plugged into my PC meant slower performance. Fine, I can deal with that not the end of the world. However a couple years after having it I came down to my PC to see all four green lights had turned red as in all four drives had failed. Sure enough no matter what I tried I could not get my drives working again. Fortunately what I did lose was all client portraits and weddings photos from years back and I never made the guarantee I would have them available after initial purchase. The unit then made it’s way to e-recycling to avoid it’s otherwise destined journey to the landfill.

I am sure there are good systems similar to Drobo (and likely Drobo has made improvements in new generations) yet it burned me and now I stick mainly to external drives I plug in for backup as needed.


Power Outages
Like every other story noted above power outages never concerned me because I never had an issue. I also had a surge protector that I would be fine. Yet it was only a matter of time before this would be an issue.

I woke up a couple weeks ago in the middle of night. I thought it was darker than normal in the house with zero ambient light from the street or neighbors porch lights filtering in. Looking out the window I realized the neighborhood (or what I could see of it) had no power. In my half asleep dazed state I thought about my PC yet said “it will be fine” and went back to bed. The next morning I went down to my office. The PC was off and no matter what I did I could not get the drives to spin up. After an hour I said it needs to go the shop. They ended up getting it going again yet not without some angst of needing new drives, a week without my system and $100 fee.

I realized my power strip surge protector is not that great and I have had it for probably about 10 years. Now I am moving my system to a UPS battery backup and surge protector combo, the APC 350. Something I should have done long ago. There are fancier models yet I don’t need the loaded model with heated seats and moon roof.


As you you can see I had the misfortune to experience plenty of issues loosing images, faulty cards, corrupt files and system malfunctions. My hope is your list of stories is not as long and that it remains short. What stories do you have on this topic? I would love to learn about something I have yet to experience to possibly avoid it happening to me and others reading this post.


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