Broken photo files

Restoring of damaged images

One of the reasons, why it is so hard to recover broken images and why there are so few specialists in JPG repairing, is the big number of possible image errors. These faults vary from file to file and every failure must be treated in a different way.

Sometimes the photo header is corrupt, or the JPG markers are invalid, or there are bit errors in JPEG scan. We offer here a brief overview of the most frequent JPG corruptions.

Bit error in a JPEG scan (Color - Error)

One of the worst problems with photo files are single or multiple bit and byte errors in JPEG scans. In this case a file is for the most part in order, but because of the problems with storage medium or because of transmission errors some pieces of data in the image are wrong.

Such faults are especially hard because JPEG format does not "pardon" any bit errors (at least in the basic version of JPEG, the so-called Baseline). JPEG scans have a feature of sequential compression. This means, a data region in the image file is compressed with the help of data from the previous data region in this file. When a certain piece of data in a JPEG scan is wrong, decoding will result in erroneous data for this data region itself and for all successive data regions in the JPG file. Because the parts of an image are coded horizontally, there appear the so feared faded lines in wrong colour. The image to the right shows a typical photo file with such an error.

We offer:

  • We offer recovery of these errors as a special service. Please visit the following website to learn more: Colors)

Corrupt photo header

A JPG file can be roughly divided into two parts.

  1. JPEG-Header (~ 0.05 percent)
  2. JPEG-Scan (~ 99.95 percent)

If the header of a image file is invalid, the repairing is often impossible. The JPG header contains all the data necessary for decoding a JPG scan. A JPEG header is built in such a way that even a small error makes the whole header invalid. When a header is corrupt, it can still be possible to use a header of a different photo file instead of the original header, provided the photo files are technical similar. Theoretically, a image file achieves its best compression results only if its header is adjusted specially for the image, but the majority of digital cameras do not optimize the header. The reason is: without header optimization the photo compression is faster. If the header is not optimized, the standard header setting, recommended by JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group, a united Committee of ISO and ITU-T, which developed the standards JPEG and JPEG 2000), are used.

Here it should be mentioned, that the JPG header makes only 0.05% of the file (see above). So a situation when a header is corrupt and the rest of the photo file is valid is very improbable. This can only happen if a coding program of a poor quality (for instance, the program in the memory of a digital camera) has created a broken header. Because of that such errors still occur.

We offer:

  • We can find broken JPG headers and completely or partially replace a broken header with a header from a sample file.
  • Even when the replacement of a broken photo header is not successful, our staff will try to manually adjust the damaged header.

The thumbnail of a JPEG can be yet seen

We often receive question like this:

"I can yet see the thumbnail of my photo file, but I can't open the file itself."

This Problem is easy to explain. According to JPEG format, a thumbnail of the image is saved in the header of the file to quickly enable preview of the picture. When a digital camera saves the shot picture in the image file, a miniature of this image is saved in the header of the file. This JPEG preview can be shown in the browser or on the camera display without loading and decoding the whole file. Some errors in images result in the situation when the JPG preview can be displayed but the JPG scan itself is invalid. More than that: some digital cameras save even two thumbnails in a file, and a JPEG file has than three images inside. Below we show sections of a typical JPEG file.
A JPG file contains:

  1. JPEG-Header
    • Thumbnail of 160 x 120 pixel
    • Thumbnail of 640 x 480 pixel
  2. JPEG-Scan
    • Original image with the resolution of 2576 x 1932 pixel

We offer:

  • We can recognise thumbnails in every resolution in valid and damaged photo files. These thumbnails will be shown in the list of the recovered photo files.

Incomplete JPEG scan (grey area in the image)

The transmission of images from a digital camera to a computer or to some other storage medium often results in a data failure. If the reason for the failure is a physical defect of the storage medium, a part of the original data can be for ever lost. At the same time it is not possible to view even the rest of the image because graphics software requires a valid ending of the JPG file.

We offer:

  • We determine incomplete JPEG scans and modify the file so that the other graphics programs can open it.
  • Highlight: even when both the beginning and the ending of a image file are missing (i.e. the photo has no header), we can make the rest of the photo visible using a sample file for the restoring.


We have helped clients with the following issues: (See Guestbook)

Checking how much can be recovered from undeleted jpg files.
I transfered pictures from a corrupted drive and they come out blank and there is no thumbnail image either.
I formatted my harddisk and now I want to recover my images.
Can not open the photo. No image appears in the thumbnail after it was recovered using recovery software.
The JPG pictures from camera show only the right half.
I formatted my SD Card by accident and now two picture got joint.
I have corrupted jpg image files after undelete from memory card. It damaged some of our wedding photos.
iI edited a picture through my mobile phone and now I can't open it no more! I get the error: 'Windows cant recognise the format or the file is corrupt.'
My pictures have been recovered but appear grayed out and damaged when I try to open them.