Corrupt Tiff headers

Posted on 2009-12-30
Last Modified: 2013-11-19
We had some software that by accident, deleted 40,000 scanned document images, all tiff files.  I found them all with recovery software and was able to restore all of them, but now, they cannot be opened in any photo editing software.  Photoshop can't read the header, and neither can anything else.  Is there a way to fix corrupt headers if that's the only problem?
Question by:dannyboy266
    LVL 38

    Accepted Solution


    I'm afraid the prognosis is not good. My experience with corruption of image files such as you describe has been that recovery is rare.

    * For the following items, always work on COPIES, not on your originals *

    First of all, try photo recovery software: PhotoRescue ( - for both Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X). This can deal with corrupted graphics files, and help repair the damaged files. I've had some success with PhotoRescue.

    You can also sometimes open the files in a Hex editor, and alter the data stream slightly, allowing them to be opened with a graphics program. However, if there is a lot of information missing from the files, it is impossible to fully recover the images. The basic procedure is something like the following:

    Open a working image file from the same source (same scanner, etc.) as your corrupted files in a hex editor, and take a look at the flow of the files -  The image header for a TIFF image is a fixed 8 byte segment always occurring at the beginning of the TIFF section of the file (some times there's EXIF information that comes before the TIFF header.  To ensure TIFF images can be read properly by PCs and Macs the header must indicate a byte order (in this case, the first two bytes of the file).  The first two bytes will either be hex 49 49 (II) for Intel format or 4D 4D (MM) for the Mac format. The next byte is 2A (decimal 42). This number should never change. Now, get an idea of the flow following that sequence.

    Then, open your corrupt file, and look through the file. You're looking for a place where there's an obvious change to the flow of the data. If you can spot it, you might be able to fix it - at least if the damage is obvious, like a missing TIFF header, an erroneous character or a blank line introduced into the file.

    Not to nag or say "I told you so", but ALWAYS have a backup plan and use it - recovering one lost file, like this, can pay for it.

    Hope that helps,
    LVL 11

    Expert Comment


    Author Closing Comment

    Yes they are indeed mostly corrupt...a few could be saved but not many.  Thanks

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