Recover lost photos but not "unlost" photos


Apr 15, 2011
San Juan, PR
OK, a client has given me a huge task of recovering photos from free space on drives. But the drives have 1000s of photos on them that are not lost. The drives have not failed, they were just reformatted at some point and used again. So far my efforts to recover photos is really slowed because my recovery software finds and "recovers" the photos that are not lost.

And because the recovered photos are not an exact match, sorting the photos actually recovered from the others is a huge pain.

One idea I had is to securely delete the photos that are "not lost". The client has those stored separately. If I can securely delete those files, but not the free space on the drive I should then be able to recover the whole drive and not get the "not lost".

The drives (about 20 of them) are Mac OS drives.

Any ideas?


CR Pro
Sep 9, 2015
Calgary, Canada
I am afraid you may be out of luck. There is no way to tell a program to distinguish between same file types (e.g. jpeg) that are lost or not lost, I guess. Perhaps a rather unlikely option is using a recovery tool such as Recuva (for Windows, I guess) and searching a "search string" (e.g. certain file name prefix), assuming it is different from the string for good files. Another option may be looking for unique file types (e.g. *.CR2), again assuming they are no good files of that type on the disk. I hope that someone else could come with a better solution.

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Mar 25, 2011
It sounds very messy, since some of the files were overwritten, they are lost forever, and since the drives were formatted, parts of the original file name are gone too. I'd think that you should recover all possible files to a good drive, back it up, then try software like I referenced below.

Don't fool with the original drives other than to copy files to a good one. That way they are unchanged except for the copy process. In extreme cases, a sector by sector copy from old to new gives you a chance to play around with the recovery without changing anything on the original disk.

You might be able to sort them out with software like Duplicate file finder, I've never used it, so you need to investigate first.

It claims to work with raw image files as well as other formats.

It supports Mac and PC as well.
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Jan 5, 2016
There are programs that identify duplicate files, and allow removing them. Copy the unlost photos to a new drive, recover the lost file, then use the duplicate file finder to remove the unlost files files from the drive. This will leave you with the unlost files on one drive, and the lost ones on the original drive.


I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Jan 29, 2011
I once worked on an SD card and a memory stick for a lady who had reformatted both. It was a very convoluted issue because she was Chinese and the native language in the boot volume was Chinese, as were all the file names on the externals, further she was using a Mac but booting in boot camp and Windows was her OS.

Anyway I recovered 10'000's of images for her using PhotoRec, a completely free open source utility closely related to TestDisc the open source software that is the foundation of most paid recovery apps.

It is available for download with instructions here