Not If But When…

Computer Backup and Recovery


That was drilled into us from the time I went to a computer programming school in San Diego 37 years ago.

You will have a failure on your computer – either hardware or software – that renders all of the work you’ve done – sometimes for decades – gone.

It happened to me on my old Hewlett-Packard HP 3000 mini computer at work years ago once or twice.

It’s happened on my desktops at home maybe three times in 20 years.

The failure can be either hardware or software induced.

In this latest incident that started about five days ago, it was a problem with my Windows 10 operating system.

I have learned as an old programmer that one has to be careful your audience’s eyes do not glaze over when explaining some things. Things that are interesting to you but no one else.

Oh let’s just say to keep everybody awake that my Windows operating system became corrupted and would not boot up through a software issue.

“No problem I thought”. I’ll just go to the full back up I made the previous night and recover everything.

Only to my dismay I discovered the back up had backed up the damaged software and I could not make what is called a full image recovery.

I have used this back up software for years, Acronis TrueImage. It allows you to back up multiple ways but I have always chosen the full image back up. It backs up everything on your disk and makes a mirror copy of it. Including the operating system. Once this is done, usually with a few simple steps. you are as before the crash. 

In most cases if you need to restore it makes your new disk or the old disk exactly as it was when you backed it up.

With no drama.

Only this time, as I had mentioned, there was drama.

So I reinstalled a new copy of Windows and then attempted to recover critical folders.

Folders that held things like the work I did for lex’s website. Including 700 or so of his entries that I got off the Wayback Machine so if we ever need to repost them they are there.

But you have to be able to get to them 😁

Things like thousands of scanned slides of my travels over the decades. It took me over a year to scan these. Like rebuilding Lex’s posts, I did about 20 slides an evening. 

Thousands of digital images made from my digital cameras of trips over the years.

All depending on me to get to that encrypted backup file and recover.

Well long story short it looks like I am now able to recover all that work I did over the years. 

When is done I will clean up this post from the desktop.

Hint: Want a trick those of us with some unix / linux background have used? That makes file recovery so much easier? Put as much of your work as you can under one folder. In my case, under the main Windows area (C:\ ) I have one folder: \usr. From \usr I put dozens of directories that hold various things from my own photos to work I did for Lex’s website. When recovering, you then just say “I want the usr (or whatever you named it) directory and everything under it”. 

With the \usr (and all the subdirectories), and Windows documents (which I have with dozens of subdirectories by subject), and the Windows music directory (with the 1000 songs I have downloaded from Amazon, sorted by folders from the 50s through the 2000s), it was all done. 

Three major directories. 

I’m writing this on my iPhone and WordPress app to keep my little desktop busy with the task at hand. It’s disk drive is going crazy with work. Which is a good thing. I’m leaving it alone 😁

Lessons learned? It’s best not to have a dual boot system which most of you do not have. I had Fedora Linux on one disk and windows on the other and Fedora made a boot partition on the Windows disk which was nice until this happened.

“Do you want to start up in Linux or Windows?“ it would ask.

It was a nice feature until this file suddenly got corrupted putting everything out of reach.

Another thing I learned: if you’re depending on your back up program to recover, make sure it is in a separate directory all by itself on an exterior drive and not within your encrypted backup file 😁

I needed the backup program that made all of the backup files, but it was in the encrypted backup file 😉 Was able to get my key and copy off the Acronis website. 

It looks like things will be OK now as it seems to be recovering about 40,000 files. Pictures and documents.

I was thinking the other day of how disk drives have improved so much for little desktops and laptops. As an old programmer to me it’s unbelievable to see today the capacity you get on a little desktop drive for $100. Capacity that in the 80s only huge corporations could afford. In San Diego I learned on an IBM main frame with removable disk packs that were maybe 4 MB 20 MB for tens of thousands of dollars. And those are 1980s dollars. Now I’ve got a little disk drive that is 2 trillion bytes (terrabytes) that cost maybe $130.

I can remember in the 80s when having a 20 MB (megabytes – millions) disc was the ultimate. But they would last maybe a year or two.

My main Seagate drive has about 30,000 hours on it and from the tests I’ve run is still fine.

There will come a time though when it will give out and I will need a back up archive to recover everything.

Not if, but when.

Oh, and the last thing I learned from this exercise? I’m going to keep my Linux on one laptop that I’ll buy and keep Windows on the desktop to keep things simple.

It would’ve been a simple image recovery had I done that. But then, if I didn’t have the Linux system on the other drive that corrupted the Linux boot partition on my Windows drive, I wouldn’t be writing this 😉 

How about your system? Do you have things that you can afford to lose?

If you don’t I hope you are in a fairly regular back up routine.

It’s not if, but when



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