Learn From My Mistake!

So… my hard drive, now, is busted,
And my backup’s busted, too,
And I sorta have to wonder…
If it happened, say, to you…

Is there something irreplaceable
You cannot do without?
The odds are you will lose it,
Why, there’s very little doubt!

So, consider this a warning
(Cos I’m trying to be nice)
It could all go south tomorrow–
Best to back it all up… twice!

The Tech geniuses at Cuttlefish U. tell me my desktop computer is a total loss. Which would not be a problem (I have an external drive dedicated as a Time Machine backup) except that my external drive is also now a paperweight. The computer is nine years old, more or less, which means it is older than Cuttlefish is (more or less), and has files I don’t remember writing. Much of what is there has been backed up multiple times… but if it is like every computer disaster I have known, there will be one or two things that I discover some time next month or next year that cannot be replaced, that I just lost.

Last time this happened, I was moving offices, and a case of notes I had held back (so as not to be lost in the move) was thrown away. They were what might, by now, have been a book (and no, not a book of verse). This time, I have much more of it backed up here and there. It will likely be a month or two before I discover I have lost some irreplaceable file.

But… (and this is my point)… I just lost a lot of data that I thought I had backed up. In fact, I just lost a lot of data that I *had* had backed up. So… back up your data twice. Be redundant. Burn a disk or two or seventeen, as well as that backup hard drive. Or that cloud thingy really I don’t actually understand or trust.

And… What’s the worst you have ever lost this way? Testify, so that others may learn from your losses!


  1. Cuttlefish says

    Three or four computers ago, I lost a sound file in a backup. It was, near as I can tell, the only file that did not get copied over. I had used it as an alert sound for some particular purpose… the sound of my infant (at the time) daughter’s laugh.

    Magic, and lost forever.

    Back up your files. Twice, at least.

    You never know.

  2. geoffarnold says

    One word: BackBlaze. A local backup is no good if there’s a fire, or a robbery. No connection with the company, except as a satisfied customer with 1.17 TB backed up.

  3. jstackpo says

    Did the Techies tell you what (physically, or logically, or whatever) happened to your machine to toast it (other than old age and decrepitude, like the rest of us)?

    Meanwhile, my deepest sympathies.

  4. Johnny Vector says

    I’ve always had a backup the one time my main HD died. Nowadays at work I have three backup drives (one at work, one at home, and one in my laptop bag), and a remote backup provided by my management that as far as I can tell has never run (except that one time when it spent a full day bringing my system to its knees while attempting to back up).

    At home I have one Time Machine drive plus CrashPlan for remote backups. (I love CrashPlan a lot; totally invisible to me, encrypted, and pretty cheap.) Plus all my code is pushed to BitBucket. I do like the idea of having both my own local backup that I control plus one that won’t get lost if my house gets broken into.

  5. Pliny the in Between says

    I keep work critical files on an encrypted cloud service and two copies on aux hard drives that I keep in a fireproof safe (things that pertain to 15 years of proprietary IP). My bigger problem has been updating file formats from programs or saved storage devices that are no longer that are no longer supported. My saved file archive is more like a museum of obsolete technology than a useful library.

  6. Kate Jones says

    I have some old files still on floppies. My new gigantic gigabyte stick, on the other hand, pretended to have all my files saved but then turned out to be empty. Older sticks have been faithful and reliable. What I did lose, not realizing it was not being backed up, were 6 years of emails with all personal and business contacts, including addresses and lengthy correspondences. It has taken 3 years to heal some of those gashes, but my eloquence in hundreds of epistles that were never converted to paper is gone forever. Depending on electronic storage has made wetware memory seemingly unnecessary, so those six years of my mortal strivings are a gaping loss I must simply live without. So make sure your email archives are operating and saved independently.

  7. Die Anyway says

    I have backed up on an irregular basis at home. As a software engineer, my ‘office’ work was always backed up but I was lax at home. I have files dating back to the 80’s but, as Pliny noted above, the requisite software is no longer compatible with today’s hardware. Try running software designed for the 8088 chip on the latest version of Windows. Due to that irregular schedule I have gaps in my files as various machines have died over the years. The worst was from a lightning strike. It took out computer, monitor, TV, VCR, and several other components including the UPS which was supposed to help protect against such damage. I’m sure I lost a bunch of files that time but the one I miss the most was a spreadsheet with the record of all the races I had entered… date, distance, finish time, average pace, etc. But as D.C. noted, it isn’t just computer files that can be lost. We lost paper, books, and artwork to water damage… broken washing machine hose, rusted out water heater, overflowing sink. Everything is temporary.

    D.C. , On those TV detective shows the IT geniuses can retrieve data from burned, smashed, or waterlogged drives. Surely your guys/gals can do the same. ;-)

  8. lorn says

    Just a thought, but a few years ago I heard from a computer repair guy that he had saved the day when an office manager had had their main and backup drives go south. The hint was that both failed at about the same time and both were hooked up to the same machine. The drives were not actually broken, they were both fed by an decrepit and failing power supply. Once power was good both drives worked well enough to allow contents to be recovered.

    It seems worth a try to substitute a known good PSU.

    Another thing to consider, old hat for aging repair folk, this used to be a regular issue twenty years ago with weaker HDs, is that if the drives have been repositioned, reoriented in relation to gravity, around the time they stopped working might work if you restore them to their previous orientation. Sometimes this trick is just enough to allow one last read. There are also the refrigerator and ‘soft whack’ tricks.

    Slideeeeeee Charlieeee Brownnnnn, Slidddddeeee.

    There are data recovery services but they are aren’t cheap and recovery takes days, if not weeks. It can pay to call around and talk to managers. Hit it off with a sympathetic person in charge of a smaller business and the usual rates may be negotiable. Perhaps a trade of a published account for a break on the data recovery. As usual schmoozing and haggling are arts. YMMV.

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