Free CF Card Data Recovery Software and Guide

cf card recovery

Oh no…so you formatted your Compact Flash card and now you want to recover the deleted pictures Or the CF card was corrupted and became unreadable while connected to a computer?

​If that’s what has happened to you, then check out this guide as we are going to show you how to recover the deleted or lost files from a CF card, STEP BY STEP, with free CF card recovery software.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a compact flash card manufactured by SanDisk, Lexar, or any other brand.​ They are essentially the same in terms of storage mechanisms.

Note: you’ll have to use a computer to get this done. That’s why we are breaking down the solutions into two separate sections: on a Windows-based PC, and on a Mac machine.

What is Compact Flash Recovery?

In case you are new to the data recovery world, CF card recovery refers to the procedure of recovering deleted, formatted or inaccessible files from a compact flash card which you probably use on a digital camera, usually with the use of a CF card data recovery software.

Common CF card data loss scenarios include:

  • Accidentally formatted the card in a camera.
  • Deleted some pictures while syncing data to a computer.
  • The card is corrupted, showing weird “the disk can not be detected or formatted” error on a PC, making all photos inaccessible.
  • The card has been infected by a virus, and the data got wiped out completely.
  • Other scenarios.

Are those lost files still recoverable? Yes, a simple deletion or card reformatting won’t erase the data immediately. The data stored inside may be still intact.

However, it depends on whether the data are overwritten or not. In fact, when you use conventional methods to get rid of files, the data are only marked as “invisible” — waiting to be written over.

What does that mean?​ Stop writing to the CF card!

The key to data recovery lies in whether the data contained in your deleted files (pics, videos, etc.) are occupied or not. If you continue shooting more pictures or videos and keep saving new items to the same flashcard, chances are the overwriting will happen sooner or later.

So, what should I do? Remove the flash card out of your camera and put it in a safe place before you start the recovery process.

CF Card Recovery Guide on Windows PC

This guide is for those who are using a PC with Windows 10 operating system. We’ll be using a free CF card recovery software called EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard (which allows you to recover 2GB of data for free)as an example. If it doesn’t help, try out a paid program and we reviewed the best Windows data recovery software here.

Step 1: Insert your CF card into the USB port of your computer. Make sure your computer can detect your memory card (no? check the tricks below).

Step 2: Get EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard and install the program on your PC. Launch it. On the menu, select the drive your CF card stands for, click “Next” to continue.

Step 3: Let the software scan your CF card and seek the file types you pre-defined (if you specify). It may take extra seconds or minutes. Just be patient.

Step 4: Now it comes to the magic moment. When the scanning process is complete. Navigate through the found file list to look for your lost pictures and recover them.


CF Card Recovery Guide on Mac

This tutorial is for those who use a MacBook, iMac, or other macOS-based computer. We’ll be using a free CF card recovery program called Exif Untrasher as an example. In case it doesn’t help, see our best Mac data recovery software review for more options.

Step 1: Connect your compact flash card to your Mac computer first.

Step 2: Get Exif Untrasher and install the app on your Mac. Open the app. You’ll see the main screen like this.

Step 3: Now select the right drive, specify file formats, and have a scan. It may take extra time depending on your CF card size and the file types you specify in step 2.

Step 4: Preview the found files once the scan is over. If you find your lost photographs, select and save them to a different destination.

What if CF Card is Corrupted and Unreadable?

This issue usually occurs during card write and read activities. It’s unlikely that a new CF card will show such an error, if it does then perhaps the card has quality issues and it’s best to contact the provider for a replacement.

If your CF card indicates an error similar to “the disk is not formatted, do you want to format it now”, you’ll need to reformat the card and make it work again but you may lose some pictures.

Check out this article on how to fix memory card not formatted error for detailed troubleshooting guides.

If it’s a pin issue, you need to remove the card and the battery of your camera first. Take a closer look at the card slot to check if the pin is bent. If it is, then use a screwdriver to bend the pin back straight.

Well, it doesn’t have to be perfectly straight. Now gently insert the card back into the camera and see if it’s working properly. You can watch this video tutorial as well:

Final Words

​Compact Flash (CF) cards are considered to be more reliable than other types of memory cards. But they are not immune to one thing: data loss. It’s possible that your CF card has certain errors, or you mistakenly delete something on the card.

When that happens, it’s often annoying even devastating.

Fortunately, it’s possible to recover the data if you take action sooner and follow the dos and don’ts we’ve introduced above. Hope you find this CF card recovery guide useful, and I hope you have managed to get back the lost photos.

Next time, remember to back up your card data more often.

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