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Ask Max: Lost Photos After Importing To An External Drive

Asked on 09/16/2008:

About a month ago, I imported images from my Sandisk Extreme III CF Card to my G-tech external hard drive.

Now that I have time to look through the photos, I went back into the folder on my drive and only 10 of 200 images are available. The other 190 show up as files ("cmd-i" even shows some metadata, but Zero KB size.) but I cannot open the files to view the image. When clicking the image file, I get a Mac warning that the file cannot be opened.

What happened here? Is it the CF card, the drive, the card reader...I am a photographer and my stomach is turning just thinking if this was to happen to images for a client.

Is there any hope for me Jacob, or should I close shop now and form a new relationship with disposable cameras?


This problem has all the tell-tale signs of an interrupted copy.

Sometimes in the process moving files, the device connection is broken or interfered with, and only filenames are imported as empty placeholders. Whenever you move files from one source to another, double-check that all the files are accessible at the new location.

Using photo management software, and not the Finder, to move the files is probably your safest method for this kind of work. That is the value of Apple's Aperture and even iPhoto. The simple act of organizing the photos gives you validation that the pictures are intact.

It sounds like investing in some photo management software might keep you from jeopardizing your client projects.

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