5 Tools to Repair Corrupted JPEG Photos and Images

We have previously written articles about recovering deleted digital photos from memory cards and flash drives and also recovering files in general with data recovery software. In most common situations, images and other types of files can be recovered or undeleted if the data hasn’t been completely overwritten. However, there could be a chance that a recovered photo might be not viewable after recovering. This usually happens if the file has not been 100% correctly recovered and perhaps some data has previously been overwritten or that specific area of the card/drive has bad sectors and is corrupt.

Some of the photos you get back might display perfectly and others might give you the message that the picture is damaged or corrupted in a picture viewer such as Windows Photo Viewer.

No Preview Available - Repair Image

This type of error will be displayed if the photo cannot be identified as a JPEG image and usually means the beginning part of the image is corrupted, the part which tells other software what type of file it is. Of course, digital photos can be megabytes in size so it might not be the start of the file that has the problem. In that case, you might see some or all of the image displayed but there are problems with it.

curruption in the middle of the image

The image above has issues and the middle of the file has corrupted data. The second half of the image appears to be there, at least in part. In terms of computer software, there’s virtually nothing around that can repair these image problems for free. There is however, a lot of software around that claims to be able to restore your corrupted photos for a fee. Software developers know how valuable these memories can be to many of us which is why they believe people might be willing to pay big bucks if the photos can be rescued.

To see just how effective these programs are, we’ve run a simple test on 5 well known photo repair applications (4 paid and 1 free) to see what they can and can’t repair. To mimic a real corrupt image, we’ve taken a JPEG file and zeroed out various parts of it to emulate common issues:

Image 1: First 8 bytes of image filled with 0’s
Image 2: First 32 bytes of image zeroed
Image 3: First 1KB zeroed
Image 4: 32 bytes zeroed in the middle of the image
Image 5: 1KB filled with 0’s in the middle.

The first 3 images will not usually open in an image viewer/editor and will produce the type of error shown in the top screenshot. The bottom 2 will often show some of the image but data below the corruption will be garbled or incorrect. Just 32 corrupted bytes in an image can be noticed, like below.

slightly corrupted image

We’ll now see what the programs can do with the corrupt images…

1. Stellar Phoenix JPEG Repair 2 ($39)

Stellar Phoenix JPEG repair

Stellar Phoenix JPEG Repair claims to be able to repair corrupt or damaged JPEG/JPG files, even if the files are completely unreadable. It also offers to repair and save embedded thumbnails. This program is perhaps the most heavily advertised around the internet and you’ll see more about this online than most other photo repair programs.

Image 1: Image restored
Image 2: Failed to restore
Image 3: Failed to restore
Image 4: No change to original
Image 5: No change to original

Download Stellar Phoenix JPEG Repair

2. Picture Doctor 2 ($99)

Picture Doctor

Users of PhotoShop might be interested in Picture Doctor because it lists PSD files and layers as being repairable in addition to JPEG files. Recovered files are saved as BMP files after the repair. What’s disappointing about Picture Doctor’s demo is the watermark covers most of the image so it’s hard to see if the fix has worked or not. All the shareware tools here watermark their results.

Image 1: Image restored
Image 2: Failed to restore
Image 3: Failed to restore
Image 4: No change to original
Image 5: No change to original

Download Picture Doctor

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