Notes from the Recovery

This is not a literal depiction of my problem.

Those following along at home will know that a short while ago I suffered a catastrophic hard drive crash.  Initially I thought this was no big deal since I had a back-up system in place, but for reasons I cannot understand, my backup has not backed up for several years (even though I would have sworn that it was telling me that it was — however, I cannot confirm this since the computer that it was supposed to be backing up won’t boot at all).

The failure was (I think) not hardware but system related.  My Windows XP seems to have lost it’s mind.  I’ve been using different data recovery utilities (Recuva and Data Rescue)— so far I have managed to retrieve about 1/2 of my TIFFs (my favorite format for keeping scans of original art), a huge number of jpegs and what looks like most of my music.  Thus far it looks like huge numbers of photos (as opposed to scans of drawings) are gone. Some of the photos I had backed up elsewhere can be restored; others cannot.  There are still archives of recovered files to search through, so I can’t tell if I’m going to get back all or more of what I had or not. And, since my filing system is gone, I’m relying on human memory to tell what’s missing — and my memory is crap since I keep finding scans of things that I had forgotten about.  And I haven’t really started on the text, docs and pdfs, so there is still a lot to do.

My plan is to recover as much as I can and then take the disk to somone else for an estimate on what it would cost to restore it as much as possible — if I can afford it, I’ll go for it.  I think its a good idea to recover what I can first in case the professional recovery effort does more damage than good. Hopefully, the ‘professionals’ can do a better job than I can and get the folders, etc., all back.  Right now, the ‘recovered’ files are stored in folders which bear little or no resemblance to my filing system and knowing where to look for a particular image was half the value of my computer image archive.

In the meanwhile, any solid reccomendations on a back-up utility?  I had been using Windows XP back-up, but either it let me down or I didn’t have it set up right.  My new computer is Windows 7 and I have a new 3TB external I plan to use for a ‘recovery’ drive and my first priority is backing up my data. I’m a non-techie, so simple words and short sentences appreciated.


8 Comments on “Notes from the Recovery”

  1. Kelvin Green says:

    To be honest, I use a brute force approach and just drag and drop things over to a backup drive every couple of months or so. It's not elegant, but it works.

  2. Same here. I'm still running XP (and Office 2003) because it finally began to work after several years of BS, and couldn't sit through 3 years of Microsoft debugging Vista. Having said that, I don't trust a built-in back-up utility. I also don't use the folders called My Documents, My Blah Blah, My Fucking Ego, etc., and I had a sense that this is what the MS back up utilities liked to use. Drag and drop is more DIY.

  3. When I suffer a system failure, I don't even bother trying to fix Windows as the first step – I just pull the drive and see if I can copy the files to a working system. I've had to do this with three drives that fortunately were just fine – only Windows got hosed, but all of the files were salvageable. Each time, I popped a new drive into the system and now use the drives as external drives. I have probably been lucky, but at least I didn't have to spends days trying to get Windows working again…

  4. Paul says:

    On my Macs, I use the built-in Time Machine software. On Linux, I have a nightly job that rsync's everything to an external drive.

    All the data also gets offsite/cloud backup to Crashplan. If you have two machines at home, Crashplan can also be used (for free) to backup from one of your local computers to another. Offsite backup is a good idea in case you have a fire, robbery, lighting strike, etc.

    I only deal with Windows in the enterprise these days, but SyncBack was pretty good for desktop backup as of a few years ago.

  5. Dan of Earth says:

    You might try to load a boot disc or USB boot of Linux, like Ubuntu or some other one, and then see if your hard drive is accessible as it runs in the RAM. For backing up I use SyncBack, just be sure you have your settings the way you intend for writing at the destination.

  6. Dan of Earth says:

    when I say boot disc I mean LiveCD.

  7. Stephan Poag says:

    Dan of Earth: Yup, tried that already. When it first went bad I tried boothing from CD without luck. I bought adapters/cables that let me turn an internal drive into a USB for about $15.00 online and used that to patch into the drive and saw the partitions, but nothing in them other than 1 or 2 empty folders. The recovery programs proved to me that there was still info on the disc… I guess the directories and everything else are mysteriously gone.

  8. […] Almost three years ago I had a cataclysmic computer failure in which I lost a great number of my files. I thought I was protected because of my Windows back-up system… but that was not backing up. The only part of the loss that really bothered me was the loss of so many scans of artwork. Most of these images were organized into folders which gave the name of the project, the notes from the work, scans of the pencil sketches, scans of the artwork and then the final scans ready for layout — so there was a lot of info in there. I liked being able to look back over previous projects and being able to see what I did… sometimes using these files as reference to new work. In many cases I no longer own the original, so a good quality scan is all I have left. I tried a few recovery solutions and got some of it back but nothing was really satisfactory, so I set the hard drive aside. […]


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