With the popularity of the JPEG format, it's common to find JPEG images on the Internet, on a camera's memory card, on a phone, or saved on a computer hard drive. JPEG is the most widespread digital image format in current use. As with any other file, JPEGs can become damaged due to faulty memory, hard drive errors, or other reasons. When this happens, it is possible to fix a JPEG file with a little work.
- Skill level:
Open the JPEG file in IrfanView, a free image editor for Windows. Sometimes IrfanView can properly decode a JPEG when other programs show a garbled image or nothing at all. Download IrfanView and follow the installation steps to set up the program. Optionally, uncheck “Install the free Google Toolbar along with IrfanView.”
Start IrfanView and click “File,” then click “Open.” Browse to the folder that contains your JPEG, then double-click the file you want to fix. If the JPEG displays correctly, click “File” and then click “Save as” to save a new copy of the file. When the “Save Picture As” windows opens, select “JPG – JPG/JPEG Format” in the “Save as type” drop-down box. Also, choose a different file name for the new, fixed JPEG in case you decide to try a different recovery technique on the original, broken JPEG.
Close IrfanView when you are satisfied that the JPEG is fixed. If IrfanView displays a corrupted image or an error message when you try to open the broken JPEG, a different method of fixing the JPEG will be necessary. Don't be discouraged, though. There is still a chance that your JPEG can be fixed.
Download and install an image recovery program such as PhotoRescue, JPEG Recovery Pro, or PixRecovery. Many programs claim to repair various types of corrupted or broken JPEGs. One thing JPEG fixing programs all seem to have in common is that they cost money.
Start the image recovery program you installed and browse to the broken JPEG file. Most companies provide a demo version or free trial that lets you check whether an image is fixable. For instance, DataRescue's PhotoRescue displays a reduced-size version of your JPEG after it attempts to recover the file. In order to save the file, though, it's necessary to purchase a software license from DataRescue.
Select the broken JPEG in PhotoRescue's file browser. The trial version of PhotoRescue shows a thumbnail image of the JPEG when the repair process is complete. As an alternative to purchasing a license for PhotoRescue, hit Alt + Print Screen on your keyboard to capture a screenshot of PhotoRescue's output window. Open IrfanView or MS Paint and hit Ctrl + V to paste in the screenshot you just took, which you can then crop and save, leaving you with a smaller, fixed copy of the broken JPEG.
Contact a professional data recovery service if you've exhausted the other options and it is imperative that you fix a JPEG file. According to Google, some of the top data recovery companies are Ontrack Data Recovery, Total Recall Data Recovery and ACE Data Group. Ontrack Data Recovery, for example, offers a specialised digital photo recovery service for “lost, deleted, damaged and inaccessible photos,” whether the images are on a hard drive or a memory card.
Obtain quotes from more than one data recovery service, to compare prices. Keep in mind that professional data recovery is likely the most expensive option for fixing a JPEG file. Most services require that you send the physical storage media by mail, with a wait time of at least a week or two.
Familiarise yourself with a company's individual policies before you make an agreement with them. For example, even if the company is unable to recover your JPEG, they might still charge a service fee or ask that you pay for the shipping and handling. While professional data recovery is potentially pricey, it is the most sure-fire option to fix a JPEG file.
Tips and warnings
- Check if there is a backup copy of the JPEG file somewhere. This might not be obvious at first glance. For example, you might have sent the JPEG in an e-mail or posted it online a while back. If the broken JPEG is a photo you snapped with a digital camera that you then uploaded to your computer, maybe there is still a pristine copy of the JPEG on your camera's memory card.
- In Windows XP, you might notice that Windows Explorer shows a “non-broken” thumbnail image even for a “broken” JPEG. This is because some JPEGs contain an EXIF thumbnail within the JPEG file itself. An EXIF thumbnail is a low-resolution version of the image meant for display on digital camera screens. If only part of the JPEG file is corrupted, the thumbnail may survive intact. While it is possible to extract the EXIF thumbnail in certain cases, the size of the thumbnail is too small to be very useful.
- Back up your important files, including the damaged JPEG files you intend to recover, before using image recovery software or sending your files to a data recovery service.
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