A Cautionary Tale

If tales of bad luck compounded by stupidity upset you then look away now.

I no longer have the original – but at least I have the low-res version of Sunday mornings “365” image

I had an external hard drive fail last week. Annoying but not the end of the world as it was included in my Time Machine backup routine so in theory it just needed time to restore the files to another drive.

I could have waited until the replacement drive arrived and simply restored everything to the new drive but I needed one of the files urgently for a camera club entry, the deadline for which was the following day. So, I decided to temporarily restore the files to an existing external drive. The only drive with enough space was the same one that the Time Machine backups sat on but as it was only for 48 hours I went ahead. 

Which was when problem two surfaced.

The failed drive had two partitions – one for all my processed still photographs and the other held all my video files including raw footage, music and other digital assets, completed videos and works in progress.  Upon entering the Time Machine I found that only the still photographs had been backed up, something had clearly gone wrong when I configured the system and I had not previously realised. I was gutted but at least I had the three years worth of still photographs. Two and a half hours later they were safely restored to the SeagateMedia drive along with my Time Machine back ups. 

Upon checking my amazon account I noted that the failed drive was over seven years old – all drives fail eventually and this had done better than most.  I tried various data recovery software packages but none of the half dozen I tried were able to access the files that I knew to be on the drive so I concluded it was a case for a data recovery expert. Until that is, the moment I found out the likely cost!

However, I was fortunate and found another copy of the video file I needed urgently on my laptop so I was able to meet the camera club deadline. With three years worth of stills photographs recovered and the entry deadline met I was as happy as I could be under the circumstances.  The loss of the other work was disappointing but as I get older I tend to dwell less on the disappointments and cherish the successes more. Indeed, some rooting around on a drive that I rarely plug in unearthed a folder with a few of the lost videos so all in all things could have been a lot worse.

And then they were.

The new drive arrived – a 2018 version of the SeagateMedia external drive that I already use and that has proved very reliable.  It needs to be formatted for use with a Mac, a simple enough task that takes a matter of minutes. I plugged it in, opened the Disk Utility, clicked on the SeagateMedia drive, selected Erase and click! One freshly prepared drive with a full 4GB of space awaiting my attentions. It’s one of the things I like about this particular drive, it says 4GB on the box and that’s what you get, not 3.8 nor 3.9 but a full 4GB. 

You’re ahead of me I suspect, especially if you’ve been paying attention. The clue is in the words SeagateMedia …

I had erased and reformatted the original SeagateMedia drive which held my Time Machine backups along with the recently recovered image files.

It’s almost cathartic to say it out loud.

As I type this I have yet another piece of recovery software running, this time scanning the drive I reformatted in error. It is over two hours into the initial scan  and it is already suggesting that it will be able to restore over a terabyte  of assorted files so things look positive – although it is also suggesting it will take another eight hours to complete the scan! I suspect that when its finished it will ask me to cough up the money for the “Pro” version to actually download the files but even at £90 that will be considerably less than the data recovery experts wanted – and coincidentally fractionally more than the price of the replacement drive.

It’s been a frustrating and expensive weekend.


UPDATE:  Yes, I did need to shell out the £90 to enable me to actually download the files. The software claims to have “recovered” almost 10TB of files … from a 4TB drive. On looking at the folders it has created there are around 1TB in a folder called “labelled” and around 9TB in one called “reconstructed”.  I’ve been through the “labelled” folder and saved over 10,000 files to a fresh drive taking around 630GB of space on the drive. I can already see that many are duplicated but it’s a relief to know that at least some of my work has been recovered.  Most of the files have unintelligible file names although some appear to have a file name that included the information from the EXIF data.  It will take weeks to sort them all out but I shall take my time!  I’m currently recovering the image (TIFF) files from the “reconstructed” folder although the first of these has not opened so I’m not holding my breath on this part of the process.

BONUS: On looking at the recovered files I have also recovered some of the raw video footage that was missing from the original recovery from Time Machine. I am guessing that these were in old back-up files that had been deleted earlier in the year.  The “reconstructed” folder claims to have video files too so I’m recovering those too although given that the reconstructed TIFF files appear to be corrupted I’m not expecting much from these.

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