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How to Fix or Recover Shortcut Files in a Memory Card

Oh no! So you just came back from a wonderful photo shooting trip, removed the memory card out of your camera, and plugged it into your PC, hoping to transfer all the pics ....

Only to find the folder that contains your photos has now become a shortcut!

You try to click on the shortcut to open the folder — it doesn't work. So what's the problem?

Well, to be blunt - most likely your Windows PC has gotten infected with some funky virus, and that has affected your camera card as well when connected to your computer.

But do not worry! I am going to walk you through the process to fix the issue or at least recover your most valuable photos.

Things you will need:

What happened and why?

There are some unethical programmers out there (aka, so-called hackers) who just like making PC users' lives a bit unpleasant. They develop certain types of malware that can be easily spread over removable devices. This issue was primarily caused by a USB virus. It can infect other flash drives and memory cards as well if they are plugged into the usb port of the same computer. What the virus usually does is hide the files inside a folder by turning the folder into a shortcut — a few kilobytes (KBs) in size — when the actual size could be 500 megabytes or 2 gigabytes.

The good thing is, most of the case the real data are still there. You'll just need some tweaks to make the folder visible again so you can access the photographs stored inside.

Step-by-step Fixes

  • Step 1: Check if the photo folder is in hidden mode.
  • Open the Command prompt in your Windows operation system. For Windows XP, click Start > Run > type "cmd" and click OK to access the DOS window. For Windows 7/8/10, press the "Win" + "R" (or "Home" + "R") to open RUN dialog box > type "cmd" and tap on OK.
  • Type the command: attrib -h -r -s /s /d h:*.*
  • Note: the -h flag assumes your camera memory card drive shows as H: under "My Computer", replace with appropriate drive letter if different. You can copy this command and paste there.
  • Press Enter and check your memory card to see if your photo folder is visible and accessible.

​You can also check out this video if you prefer a visual guide:

If it works, you can simply delete the shortcut. Otherwise, move on to step two.

  • Step 2: Clean the virus using an anti-spyware software.

You can find many available options online, but we recommend SpyRemover Pro, as it's easy to use and works great. You should also run the program and do a thorough scanning of your PC and remove other malware it finds.

Now check the memory card folder; is it still shortcut? Hopefully not. If the issue persists, go to the next step.

  • Step 3: Recover your photos and format the memory card.
  • Before you format the card, try to retrieve your data by using a picture recovery software. I am assuming the files are important to you.
  • Format the memory card via your digital camera's internal format option or Windows formatting function (My Computer > Disk Management > Select your memory card and format.) This helps wipe everything out, including the virus.
  • Now rerun the recovery software to see if you can recover more photos. Note: a quick card reformatting won't erase the data permanently, see unformat solution here.

I hope you are able to resolve the folder shortcut issue successfully. At least you'll have gotten your precious photographs back.

Pro tips:

  • It's essential that you keep your computer clean and virus-free. These days a computer acts as a post-production hub for photographers. Any viruses with the PC can ruin the stuff we've spent hours working on.
  • If possible, try not to plug in your camera cards to a public computer. And do not lend your computer to a friend as you never know what they'll do.
  • Also take a look at these tips to keep your camera data safe, you should find some of them helpful.

Anyway, I hope you find this troubleshooting article helpful.

Once again, happy shooting!

About the Author Helen

Helen is an enthusiastic photographer and entrepreneur based in Bay Area. As much as she's been into technology, she also loves blogging and helping people tackle tech issues.

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