Magenta file corruptions

I had a streak of computer bad luck. After the hard drive failure, the tricky repair and my contentment when everything was restored, many photographs started to look like the example below.

A light & shadow composition that was pepped up by copying errors!

I was very alarmed! Had the Lightroom database played havoc with my photographs? Google searches revealed that I was not the only one experiencing such corruptions, which wasn't really a consolation! However, different commenters were convinced that the real source of the problem was somewhere else. I was still doubtful and tested a few Lightroom alternatives, but the same files always looked similarly corrupted and the problem did not propagate - the same files stayed corrupted and no new ones became corrupted. According to the knowledgeable comments in a Photoshop help-forum, the most likely sources of file corruptions are:
  1. the storage card
  2. the card reader
  3. direct transfer from the camera to the computer
  4. hard drive or other computer problems
  5. defective cables between external drives and computers
  6. moving image files from one location to another
I could exclude the first three possibilities because I know that the files were intact once (I look at all the photographs at least once during the first screening). As I have already mentioned, I did indeed have hard drive problems, but had just installed a brand new hard drive. I was also not aware having changed the cables attaching my external hard drives. Therefore, copying errors seemed the most likely, because I had moved the entire image file collection during the restoration of my computer. Luckily, I also backup all image files immediately after transfer to a second backup drive. This backup has not been moved or touched in any way. After restoring the working copies of all images  from this backup with a dedicated sync/backup tool all photographs are perfectly fine again!
Such copying errors can be scary and permanently destroy images. I was lucky since no permanent harm was done and I even learned a thing or two that I am sharing with you hereby. Based on my experience I would highly recommend to:
  1. immediately backup all image files after transfer to your primary location (and even create a backup of the backup)
  2. never move your files from one location to another (by drag-and-drop) - ALWAYS USE BACKUP/SYNC SOFTWARE
I hope that these recommendation will prevent some of you from loosing precious images. If you have other or additional recommendations, need more information or have questions on my workflow please do not hesitate to contact me! 
In my particular case almost exclusively RAW files were corrupted (the reason may simply be that bigger files are more likely to get corrupted). It may therefore also be worthwhile saving a copy of each image file in a regular format (not RAW) or to record a RAW and a jpg-file simultaneously. I have not done so in the past but may start doing this in the future.
I am really glad that Lightroom most likely had nothing to do with the file corruptions at all (I even apologize for having thought otherwise at the beginning). All my digital photographs are handled by Lightroom from beginning to end and it would have been an incredible effort to learn a new piece of software and to reestablish a workable order. Even more so since I really really like Lightroom, although such a statement may be misinterpreted as undercover marketing (I do not receive any form of compensation for writing that and have bought all versions of Lightroom myself).   :-)


2012/07/25 by Florian Freimoser
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