Nor A Lender Be

In school we learned it’s polite to share. Loaning a digital camera to a comrade is commendable, but never, ever loan anyone a memory card unless you’re aware there’s a risk that the borrower can view the images that you think you’ve deleted—even if you formatted the card.

Digital camera memory cards are efficient and economical because you can “erase” them and reuse them. But here’s the rub: the images you shoot are never actually erased—unless you use special “scrubbing” software which we’ll describe momentarily. Instead, when you delete an image, the space that the image occupies on the media is marked as “available”—which means that another image file can be written over that space.

As a result you wind up leaving whole images and image fragments all over the place. Enough, usually, that when a snoopy person uses “Undelete” or so-called “Image Recovery Software” they can see what and whom you have been photographing. Yikes!

Needless to say, if you sell a camera to a stranger on an auction website (or if you sell a camera to a friend, for that matter) either exclude the memory card from the transaction or use the Secure Erase function that you’ll find in SanDisk’s RescuePro. To be sure, there are other brands of software that will do the same thing, but I use RescuePro because it works. And I recommend it because it comes free with certain SanDisk Extreme memory cards. Secure Erase is activated from within RescuePro—just click the “Wipe Media” tab and she will obliterate the data—including all image fragments—on your memory card by overwriting the 0s and 1s with nonsense numbers. The cards will work fine the next time they’re formatted—they’ll just be squeaky clean.

If you do not want to invest in image recovery software there is another way to achieve a high level of protection. But truth be told, as a photographer who is also a human and, by definition, capable of accidentally deleting an important image, by every measure you should own some image recover software like RescuePro.

Here’s what you can do if you choose not to use Secure Erase to bombard the image data on your card. Set your camera on manual and at the highest resolution possible—RAW if it has it—and shoot pictures of the sky until the card is full. Then format the card and do it again. Like the shampoo bottle says, “Lather, rinse and repeat.” After about four or five repetitions your card should be clean. If prying eyes attempt to sneak a peek, all they will see are clouds. Unless you live in New Jersey like I do, where clouds are visible only when they are passing through on their way to Pennsylvania.