Windows Live Photo Gallery Cleanup Begins

by JL Beeken on 11-12-2010

Windows LiveI hope none of you got struck down by the Windows Live Photo Gallery disaster, although, I already know that’s not possible or true.

InfoCenter, Carbonite Online Backkup

My own cleanup is underway now and will likely go on for months. I was able to retrieve some backup files from Carbonite. The ANCESTORS folder suffered the heaviest losses. Tip for online backup users: At the first sign of trouble, freeze your backup. There are options for Carbonite from the system tray. ‘Freeze’ will stop the backup altogether until you unfreeze it.

During the two weeks I spent cleaning up the GPS damage I didn’t know about the EXIF and compression damage yet so I wasn’t aware that I was going to need to restore my files. The files in the ANCESTORS folder were the most recently changed and Carbonite ran on doing its thing, overwriting the backup photos.

Because my old computer crashed in August, there are two different backup paths on Carbonite; the XP-path and the Windows 7-path. The backups are split between the two paths so I have twice as many backup folders to sort through as would normally exist. In other words, 250 instead of 125.

If I restore entire folders, Carbonite will choose the most recent backup dates and the files will be returned with the same file-names as the ones on my computer. These all have to be renamed to integrate them with the damaged ones.

This doesn’t work consistently because any files backed up to Carbonite after October 19th are damaged. Sometimes there are backups that pre-date Windows Live Photo Gallery – I can’t believe it’s still online for the unsuspecting public to download – but they have to be restored individually. That requires searching the backup files one by one. To keep this in perspective, that’s 12,077 photos to search. If I find any, they’re returned with file-names such as: 1968-0003 (Restored) 12-19-2009 21.43

ExifToolGUI

ExifToolGUI

Then I copy them all back in with the original (damaged) files, so I can move onto the next step: Previewing the changes in ExifToolGUI.

In ExifToolGUI I can see the damaged and restored files in chronological order while viewing the metadata in the adjoining column. In some cases there are two backups of the same file. The list has to be narrowed to one backup per photo to make the subsequent steps possible, so I examine each and decide which one to keep.

The file-damage is different depending if it’s a photo from my digital camera, a slide, or a scanned photo. Although not every photo suffered compression damage, unchanged file-size is not a good indicator of ‘undamaged’. In every single case, the metadata was altered in several other ways.

Once I have the preview on a folder complete, I move on to the next step in Photo Mechanic.

Photo Mechanic

Photo Mechanic

In Photo Mechanic, I run a series of searches looking for anything where IPTC has been added since the backup date; captions, keywords, city, sub-location, state/province, country, source, copyright, and then the GPS. The backups are as much as 18 months old so there were many changes to the files in the interim. Batch searches for missing metadata don’t take changes into consideration so I still have to click through the files one by one. My 12,077 photos are now 24,154.

If the files are changed I copy and paste the IPTC from the damaged file into the backup.

Most of my photos are already doubled because there’s the scanned original and the edited copy. Now I have to sort the scanned from the edited and the damaged originals from the restored. Then I move the originals to the “Finished” folder instead of deleting them in case I find more problems later. In some cases, I’ve seen originals in better shape than the restored and it’s not always clear when it ‘should’ be.

For each photo, I’ll have something like this:

1968-0034 (Restored) 12-19-2009 21.49.TIF
1968-0034.TIF
1968-0034s.TIF
1968-0034s.tif-restored.TIF

If there are JPGs thrown in there at random I have to rename in small batches looking out for anything that doesn’t fit the pattern. It’s a process that makes me break out in a sweat.

GeoSetter

GeoSetter

Then I run each folder through GeoSetter, forcing a rewrite so I can see any meta tag warnings.

Right now I’m working backwards from 2009 because they’re here and that makes them easier. Right now (Day 3 of the cleanup) I’m at 1999 and so far I haven’t found any photos missing. Starting in 1965, going backwards, photos start showing up with no un-damaged backups. By the time I get to the ANCESTORS, there will be lots missing to further confuse the issue but I may have backup discs from relatives by that time. They’re old discs, unfortunately, so I’m only partially relieved. Then I’ll start the process all over again, matching up missing photos with what I can find. I have periodically re-named files and re-arranged my filing system so matching photos is going to be ‘interesting’.

Most of these photos also have AFCP damage from MediaDex so, surprisingly, not everything is the fault of Windows Live Photo Gallery. Removing AFCP is a process that’s done pretty much one photo at a time in ExifToolGUI. Just a little extra in case I had other plans for 2011.

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