Tuesday, October 08, 2013

After Using Photorec: A strategy for sorting through the recovered file mess

Note Apr 20, 2015. Since UniqueFiler seems to be returning an error page, perhaps VisiPics might work.  http://www.visipics.info/index.php?title=Download

Also, HowToGeek has an article about finding and removing dupes for Windows, Mac and Linux.


I used Photorec under windows to recover several thousand family photos from a dead external hard drive for a client. Photorec does an amazing job at recovering images from hard drives that won't mount, seem to be dead, or images that were accidentaly deleted. That being said, it's not like using a professional hard drive recovery service. If you use Photorec, or my instructions, you are taking matters into your own hands and you are responsible for your own data. I may have missed an important step, so be careful and smart.
Photorec stacks the files it recovers, in the order it finds them, into recup folders. Each folder is full of images, docs, videos, exe files, html files....whatever photorec finds that it thinks is a file. So in this case I ended up with 7000 files in 20 folders.
What I wanted was all the image files sorted into folders by date, renamed according to the date/time they were taken, with no duplicates.
  1. Use Photorec Sorter to sort the files out of the recup folders and into folders according to their type.
  2. Use Unique Filer to find and delete duplicates.
  3. Use Amok Exif Sorter to move and rename all the image files.
Step One. Photorec Sorter. It's very simple. Just follow the directions on the page.
Step Two. Unique Filer. Download the .zip of the program and run it from the directory where you unzip it.
Stage One: I looked in the JPG folder and saw that there were a gazillion 1KB files. These were all little tiny play buttons, blocks of color, 1 pixel files, etc. All junk. I deleted them all, thus saving me a bunch of time on the next step, which involves comparing potential duplicate images
Stage Two: Compare File Size and Contents. A welcome box pops up. Choose the Wizard. Then, since this is your first scan, skip adding a folder and click Next to go on to the next step. Now add your JPG folder which was created by the Photorec Sorter. For Scan type choose Compare File Size and Contents. This stage will remove all the files that are exact duplicates. Same file size, same dimensions. You can confirm this by clicking on the images in the left-hand pane and noting that the images displayed in the right hand panes are all the same.
All the dupes are marked by a red bar in the top pane on the compare side, and when you click File Management > Delete All Marked it will get rid of all the perfectly matched dupes.
Stage Three: Compare Images. Click on the Wizard button, and go through again, skipping the Base Files step again. This time on the Scan step, check the Compare Images button. Now Unique Filer will go through the images and try to find similar images based on contents of the images. It's pretty good at it. You end up with a list on the left of images that might have dupes. Again, click on them on the left, and on the top there will be a list of the images that might be dupes. The top one in that list will show up below as the image on the left. Compare that image to the other ones in the top pane list. Mark the ones you want to get rid of by clicking on the image and hitting the space bar. Then, when you have gone through the whole list on the left, click File Management > Delete All Marked.
Now you are de-duped.
Step Three. Sorting images with Amok Exif Sorter. Download the .zip of the program and run it from the directory where you unzip it. It runs based on which version of Java you have(32 or 64bit). If in doubt, download the 32bit version. Extract the .zip contents and double click Exifsorter.exe.
Click on File > Add Directory and add the JPG folder.
Choose "Move" for Sort Method. Click the edit button next to Directory and remove %day% so that your photos will be sorted into folders by month (unless you want them in folders according to the day of the month)
Choose a target directory. I made a new folder inside my JPG folder, but you can put them wherever you want.
Then click Start and away you go.
Happily, I ended up with almost all the photos in folders arranged by year - month - day. There were a pile of pictures in a folder for the day I did the Photorec recovery because they were scanned images and didn't have Exif data, only a file creation date set by Photorec.
Be sure to go through the other folders that Photorec Sorter made, to look for any other files that are valuable. In my case there were a few movie clips from the camera, and the rest was junk. You may find .doc files, or .pdf files or a bunch of other goodies.
Are you happy to get your photos back? Donate to the guys who made it possible!!


Techwiz said...

Thanks to http://eosrei.net/articles/2011/01/managing-results-photorec-recovery-windows for some of the ideas I used.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to trying this myself tonight. The Uniquefiler site seems to be down though, do you know of a mirror / reliable version number by any chance?

Techwiz said...

Looks like CNET's Download.com has a mirror.

Anonymous said...

From 2001(?!) Will try it. Please post if you hear of any newer / upgraded programs though. Thanks for the post.

Techwiz said...

Did you find a place where you could download it?

I found a download of Unique Filer at http://www.filedropper.com/uniquefilersetup