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SD Card Encryption Broke Photos

Discussion in 'Android Devices' started by TMac117, Oct 11, 2019.

  1. TMac117

    TMac117 Lurker
    Thread Starter

    I have an S9+ SM-G965U - Android v9 - Kernal 4.9.112

    Last night I encrypted the SD card through Settings > Biometrics & Security > Encrypt SD Card. When the operation finished all of my pictures were broken/unviewable. In the Gallery, they are all just grey squares with an (!) in the middle. When I go to My Files > SD Card > DCIM > Camera they all appear as pink icons with mountains or as the purple video symbol, opening them does not display the picture. I have gone through the reverse process to decrypt the card but photos still will not display... Any idea on how I can get all my photos back?


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  2. svim

    svim Extreme Android User

    When you encrypt any kind of storage media it's not a simplistic process like renaming a folder, it's a change to the file system itself that involves formatting the base file structure. Whatever data that was on your microSD card previously has been deleted and in a permanent way -- now that the card is encrypted, old files that were stored on it are no longer accessible even with the magic file recovery utilities that claim to restore anything. And new files you save to the card will reside on the now encrypted media, so even if you pull the card out and mount it on a computer, any data on the card will appear to be scrambled gibberish when accessed. Regarding trying to decrypt the card, the data was wiped during the encryption process, there are no files that can just reappear. Encryption >< decryption isn't just a matter of switching between one state or another, it's a fundamental change to the storage media a low level.
    But getting back to those lost photos, if you had set up something like the Google Photos app to automatically backup and sync your photo library into your online Google account, your photos should still be accessible. (The Gallery app does not include that function). Or if you had previously set up some kind of automatic backup solution into other online storage services like Dropbox, OneDrive, etc. than check those. But recovering files off that now encrypted microSD card isn't an option.
    This comes off as preachy and dismissive but from this point on be sure you have set up a good backup solution for anything you want saved on your phone. Smartphones are not reliable as long-term storage.
    Another option is to set up Samsung's Smart Switch utility, which includes functionality to do full back ups. If you lose your phone or need to do something drastic like a Factory Reset it also makes doing a restore less of a hassle.
    puppykickr and ocnbrze like this.
  3. TMac117

    TMac117 Lurker
    Thread Starter

    Thanks for the reply Svim, even if it is a bit dismissive. The reasoning for trying to lock down my phone is that I am traveling in South America, and a friend was pickpocketed yesterday losing his phone. In addition to losing the phone whoever has it now has locked him out of GSuite and all his social media accounts, demanding a ransom in bitcoin to let him back in. I feel awful for the Dude, but I am also taking it as a lesson for me to be aware of my belonging but also never be in a position where I can't recover my data and wipe my phone.

    I do have google photos as a backup and confirmed that most of my photos are there, but there seems to be a bit of a lag for photos getting uploaded to the cloud, so I have a handful of pictures from this week I wanted to recover. As it so happens, I solved this issue myself in the last hour.

    Should anyone else come across this thread in the future,
    1. I mounted the encrypted SD card on my laptop
    2. Transferred everything off the card to a new folder on my laptop
    3. Formated the SD Card in ex-fat
    4. Put it back in my phone
    5. Encrypted the empty card
    6. Pulled it and mounted it to my laptop again
    7. Transferred the encrypted files back to the SD card
    8. Pulled it and put it back in my phone
    9. Decrypted the card
    Voila, I can see all my photos again. Perhaps encrypting the card is the wrong way to go and I should just be backing up photos daily, but I am certainly happy to hear anyone's full OPSEC plan for if their phone is lost or stolen.
    Tahcandiloro and ocnbrze like this.
  4. ocnbrze

    ocnbrze DON'T PANIC!!!!!!!!!

    no need to back things up daily. google photos automatically does it for you. i never have to back my photos up to my pc.

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Forum

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus release date was March 2018. Features and Specs include a 6.2" screen, 12MP camera, 6GB storage, Exynos 9810 processor, and 3500mAh battery.

March 2018
Release Date

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