how to prevent and fix loss of recording time on a flip ultra video camera

As you know, students in my Writing, Research, and Technology sections are using Flip video cameras to create video oral histories and other short video essays. We are using Flip Ultra cameras (non-HD, model F260W), which has 60 minutes of record time. After the first semester of use (spring 2009), I noticed that several of the video cameras appeared to have no videos on them yet the record time had dropped to less than 60 minutes. The drop wasn’t substantial—maybe a minute or two—and I attributed it to upgrades in the software.

After the fall 2009 semester, however, I noticed that several had a substantial loss of record time. Two indicated that they had 20 minutes of record time remaining, and one had just over 4 minutes remaning. I explored the memory to verify that video files hadn’t been renamed (the Flip will not recognize renamed videos) and that there were no video files outside the DCIM folder or inside the DCIM and 100VIDEO folders. All were empty.

Stumped, I called tech support. Here is what they told me. The loss of record time problem occurs when users who want to delete videos drag video files from their camera to the trash and then eject the Flip video camera before emptying the trash. (Deleting files in this way is much faster than having to delete them manually.) It seems that the problem is especially pervasive for Mac users. This makes sense; in spring 2009 the class met in a PC lab and I had only 2 Mac home users. In fall 2009 class met in a Mac lab and half the students were Mac home users. I recall telling students that they could drag video files to the trash.

So, to prevent the a loss of record time on a Flip video camera: if you drag video files from the Flip to the trash to delete them, make sure you empty the trash before you eject the camera from the computer.

If, however, you are like me and have a camera that already has a loss of recording time the fix is easy.

Here is how you restore full record time in a Flip Ultra video camera (note: this fix may be specific to my model camera–F260W):

  1. You will need a non-networked PC to fix the problem. The tech support woman and I tried several cameras several times on my Mac and each time the fix failed.
  2. Make sure that the video camera has no videos on it and/or that you have a copy of all videos that you want to save.
  3. Connect your camcorder to your PC.
  4. Close any window that pops up asking what you would like to do.
  5. Double click or open My Computer.
  6. Right click on the Flip Video icon.
  7. From the menu, select Format.
  8. Under File System, open the drop down list and choose FAT (this should be the default).
  9. Click Start and then click OK on the warning window.
  10. A bar will appear with the status of the formatting. Depending on the speed of your computer, the formatting process could take a few seconds to several minutes.
  11. When complete, properly eject the Flip from your computer.
  12. Turn it on. You should now have 60 minutes of record time.

I tried this with 3 cameras—the two with 20 minutes and the one with 4 minutes—and both were fully restored to 60 minutes. The process could have been simpler.

Good luck!

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