The Stuff of Nightmares, Part 2

Things are looking very grim, and I appear to have lost over 40 hours of work due to a perfect storm (as described in Part 1). I feel physically ill.

When I log back in I see a notification on my toolbar that says “HP SimpleSave is running”. Oh…that’s right I have this utility that’s constantly backing up my
changes to my external HP hard drive! Yes!

I fire up the HP Restore utility. It’s got an outdated interface and says Copyright 2011 but I sure hope it’s still working on Windows 10 in 2016. I click “Restore” and… it disappears. What happened?! I fire it up again and this time click “Explore” and…it disappears again. This really is the stuff of nightmares.

I decide to use plain old File Explorer to peruse the HP drive and I see there are backup logs, and they indicate in which subfolder the backups are stored. I navigate to that subfolder and there are my files! My heart physically moves inside my chest. I envisioned the backups using some esoteric file format that stored reverse-delta diffs are somesuch, but no – they’re in their native format sitting right on the disk. They are a day old because I had the Word document I had been working on open all day so it never backed that one up. I lost a day’s work. I can live with that. If I had lost it all I’d have been very very…distraught.

Nothing focuses your priorities quite like the prospect of losing 40 hours of good creative work. I could have recreated it eventually, but it wouldn’t have been as good and it would have been way past the deadline (which was graciously extended by the conference organizers).

Here are a few things I learned from this experience, some of which I knew intellectually but hadn’t put into practice:

1. The Recycle Bin does not work on SUBST’d drives. This is the core of the issue, and knowing that would have saved me all of this grief. I’ll write about why I use SUBST for my OneDrive folder at some point. There is a fix for this, which I’ve now tested and it works.

2. Turn on File History. I don’t know why it’s not on by default.

3. If you’re using OneDrive, verify that it’s synchronizing with OneDrive online.

4. Periodically verify your backups. I recommend CrashPlan to all of my clients, or Amazon Backup if they’re using a Synology device.

I’m writing this on about 4 hours of sleep so I apologize if it doesn’t make sense.






3 responses to “The Stuff of Nightmares, Part 2”

  1. […] Continued in Part 2 […]

  2. Matt Slay Avatar

    For this kind of work, I usually create a free private Git repo on BitBucket, then I commit locally (often) and push to remote (also often). It’s kind of like an offsite backup system, plus you have every single version of the file(s) through the progress of the work, at their various commit levels.

  3. Eric Avatar

    Good idea. Like the shoemaker, I’ve been extolling the virtues of “source control” for documents at work but didn’t apply it to myself.

    I wish NTFS had a better system for handling this. Linux has some amazing filesystems that do this natively.

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