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Review: PC INSPECTOR smart recovery

Recover files with this highly recommended freeware tool.

Periodically, we'll veer away from the usual question-and-answer nature of this column to look at some interesting tools out there for the in-the-trenches admin. There are tons of freeware and shareware tools that can come handy in a lot of situations. File and system utilities especially seem to be very popular so the number of such tools appears to be larger than most other utilities available today.

Recently, a friend of mine needed to recover some accidentally deleted pictures from a memory stick on digital camera after a very important European trip. I recommended a freeware tool called PC INSPECTOR smart recovery by a German company called CONVAR. The tool allows you to recover data from Flash Cards, Smart Media, Sony Memory Sticks, IBM's Micro Drive, Multimedia Card and Secure Digital Card or any other data carrier for digital cameras. The software is supported on Windows 95/98/Me/NT4/2000/XP.

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With PC INSPTECTOR smart recovery you can recover videos, audio files and images. Here are the formats that are supported for restoration:

  • Images: .jpg, .tif, .crw, Fuji .raf, Olympus .orf
  • Audio files: .wav and .dss
  • Video files: .avi and QuickTime’s .mov

The vendor claims that even if you have formatted the media or have removed the media during the write process, you can still recover the files.

I downloaded version 4.5 of this tool to recover files from my digital camera. Recovering the files was very simple. I plugged my camera’s USB cable into a USB port on my computer. The camera was recognized as a drive letter in Windows Explorer. I started PC INSPTECTOR smart recovery and selected the drive letter for my camera. I also specified the destination folder where I wanted to save the files and clicked on the Start button to start the recovery process. You can select various multimedia formats for the files that need to be recovered, such as Kodak DCR, QuickTime MOV, GIFF, AVI, etc. I selected the JPG file format and it found all the deleted JPGs on my camera. Some of the files were recent but others were deleted long time ago.

The program offers two settings: Fast Mode and Intensive Mode. The Fast Mode is the default mode and it uses an optimized search to analyze data on the device. The Intensive Mode performs a deeper analysis so it’s relatively slower but you will have better luck in restoring the data. If for some reason you are having trouble reading data off of your media, try this mode.

As far as I know, the program is not supposed to work with USB or hard drives. I decided to give it a try any way. First I tried a USB flash driver. It discovered the drive fine but it didn’t find any JPGs on my USB drive, even though I had intentionally deleted one just to test the product. Next I tried to restore files from my hard drive, which was formatted with NTFS partition. I got a blank pop-up error box with the options Yes or No. I clicked on Yes to see what happens and I received the following error: "The fast mode can not be used with NTFS devices. PC Inspector smart recovery is switching to intensive mode now." (See Figure 1.)

Automatic switching to intensive mode.
Figure 1. Automatic switching to intensive mode.

The next thing I knew it started to recover JPGs on my hard drive (see Figure 2). I guess recovering from hard drive is an undocumented feature of this product.

Recovering files from hard drive.
Figure 2. Recovering files from hard drive. (Click image to view larger version.)

One limitation that I observed is that the program doesn’t recover the files with their original names. You provide a name for the folder where the files will be recovered and then specify the name for the files, such as "Vacation" and it will recover all the files and use the naming convention such as Vacation1, Vacation2, and so on. Perhaps this is to avoid conflicts in file names because most cameras use a certain naming convention where the file names start with certain letters and then add a number, such as DSC0001, DSC0002, etc. If the program were to allow restoring original file names you could end up with several files named DSC006 and would have to provide a different name for each file manually.

PC INSPTECTOR smart recovery is a basic freeware tool that can be downloaded here. When you desperately need to recover important multimedia data from your digital camera media, this little utility sure can come handy.

I would be interested to know what other freeware or shareware tools you use to recover data from digital cameras. Please write to me at

About the Author

Zubair Alexander, MCSE, MCT, MCSA and Microsoft MVP is the founder of SeattlePro Enterprises, an IT training and consulting business. His experience covers a wide range of spectrum: trainer, consultant, systems administrator, security architect, network engineer, author, technical editor, college instructor and public speaker. Zubair holds more than 25 technical certifications and Bachelor of Science degrees in Aeronautics & Astronautics Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Information Systems. His Web site,, is dedicated to technical resources for IT professionals. Zubair may be reached at

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