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How to Recover Dash Cam Footage

While browsing our dash cam community forums, we came across a very concerning issue: losing footage.

For example, you get involved in a crash or fender bender. You’re confident that it’s not your fault, plus you have your source of evidence to prove it, your dash cam. You quickly checked the device, mobile app, or memory card of your dash cam after the incident, but the footage of the accident is nowhere to be found! Now, what should you do? Can you still recover them?

In this article, we will elaborate on the reasons behind lost dash cam footage and provide you with possible options to retrieve missing dash cam files.

5 Reasons Why You Lose Dash Cam Footage

1. Physical damages after an impact

In the first situation that we encountered, a dash cam user was panicking because he got involved in a car accident. When he checked the dash cam footage, the user noticed a sudden jump in file names from “998A.mp4” to “001A.mp4.”

This scenario can occur due to a momentary disruption in power to the dash cam caused by the impact. As a result, the footage might be saved incorrectly. If you were involved in an accident, the impact could have also caused physical damage to your dashcam, and it’s power supply as it goes through the frame of your vehicle. When power is disrupted, it’s important to consider what power source the camera has inside, and we see this happen more often with Lithium Ion batteries compared to Supercapacitors. This is mainly because while Supercapacitors jump to action when power is lost, supplying their full charge cycle to retain and ensure that the most recent footage finishes writing to the SD card, the same is more difficult with lithium-ion. While they take longer to charge, they also take longer to begin discharging as well, with a delayed response in such an event. This can result in a momentary loss of footage, when you need it most.

And during a strong impact, it’s also worth noting that the airbag deployment can displace and harm the mounting bracket of the dashcam, or cabling.

2. Corrupted files

In another frustrating scenario, we also found a story where the dash cam files seemed to be corrupted after an incident. Particularly, the actual clip of the accident is only a fraction of the file size, rendering it unplayable.

Dashcam file corruption can occur as a result of power outages, aside from using a faulty SD card and improper ejection from the dash cam. Errors in your video data's file system can hinder proper operations. Fortunately, the user was able to figure out how to “un-corrupt” their files. In this case, he discovered that playing the video back on the dash cam itself repairs the file, giving the camera another chance to fix the footage, now in a more stable situation.

Sometimes, the culprit behind lost dash cam footage is a faulty or low-quality memory card. If you want better performance, dash cams require high-endurance SD cards designed to handle constant read and write cycles. Using subpar cards may result in data corruption and loss. SD cards will eventually give out over time, so regular formats, and replacements when needed can help ensure reliability. Moreover, make sure to look for the footage in all possible folders, including over the computer, as a last resort. Any corruption in the file has the potential to make it end up somewhere other than it should be.

3. Overwritten Files

Another common reason for missing footage is file overwriting. The disadvantage of dash cam storage devices is that once full, newly recorded content overwrites and loops over existing recordings. As a result, you must begin your data recovery process as soon as you discover any erased files.

If you don't extract the crucial footage promptly, it might get overwritten by new recordings. This underscores the importance of regular data retrieval. Make sure not to wait too long before accessing important footage, and stay aware of just how long you have before your camera loops over older footage.

The good news is that some dash cam brands like Thinkware take this into account and provide memory partitioning settings, letting you manually select how much space on the memory card you would like to dedicate to each format type.

The best way to avoid this is to press the manual record button on your camera in the event of an accident, as well as using a larger SD card, giving you a larger window of footage for the camera to store to.

A larger SD card will also ensure that you have a long history of footage before looping occurs. Find Dash Cam compatible SD cards here.

4. User Error

User error is also a common reason for lost footage. If your dash cam settings are not configured correctly, it could lead to lost footage. Ensure your dash cam is set to record continuously and that the loop recording feature is active to prevent gaps in coverage.

Beyond that, out-of-date firmware runs the risk of faults and glitches destroying your data. Using unsuitable storage media can cause compatibility issues with your dashcam video recording storage. Moreover, failed data transfers can lead to file destruction since your dashcam OS may erase partially transferred files.

Noticed that all your files are missing? This is also something possible to happen, especially if your dash cam has a built-in format button on the unit itself. Chances are, you may have pushed the format button, or formatted using the File Explorer by accident when attempting to copy video material from the storage device. You may also have removed the dash cam recording straight from the vehicle's dashboard.

How to Recover and Protect Dash Cam Footage

Manually Check Your Files, and Play Them

As mentioned earlier, the key to recovery often lies in manually exploring your dash cam's memory card. Sometimes, the missing footage may be tucked away in an unexpected location due to abrupt power disruptions. So, carefully review all your files, even those outside the designated event folder.

Use a Third-Party Software

As mentioned earlier, the key to recovery often lies in manually exploring your dash cam's memory card. Sometimes, the missing footage may be tucked away in an unexpected location due to abrupt power disruptions. So, carefully review all your files, even those outside the designated event folder.

If you've exhausted your manual search and still can't locate the footage, you can also consider third-party data recovery options. Applications like Disk Drill, HandBrake, Recuva, or PhotoRec can help recover lost files from your dash cam’s memory card. Just remember to follow their instructions closely to maximize your chances of success.

Choose High-Endurance Micro SD Cards

Investing in a larger, high-endurance SD card can significantly reduce the risk of data loss. High-endurance cards are designed to withstand constant read and write cycles, ensuring your footage remains intact even during extended use. Learn more about the importance of choosing the right micro SD cards here.

Choose a Dash Cam with Memory Partitioning Feature

Some dash cam models, like those from Thinkware, offer advanced features such as memory partitioning. This feature allocates a separate section of the memory card for event footage, ensuring that regular recordings do not overwrite crucial clips. This can be a lifesaver when you need to retrieve accident footage.

Save The Scene, Save Yourself

Losing critical footage on our dash cams may be frustrating, and worse, costly. Understanding the probable causes of lost dash cam footage, and discovering recovery strategies can improve your chances of having the important evidence ready when you need it the most. For us, investing in high-quality SD cards and dash cams will keep you away from this mishap. While these are small accessories, choosing good quality will lead to bigger protection for you and your passengers ahead!