Even storage bloggers lose data: in my case 100 GB of MP3s. Here's what I did to recover.
Disaster I maintain several backup systems so I have 2 and sometimes 3 copies of everything on about 5 TB of disk. How can I lose data?
Human error People are a major cause of data loss. Even professional storage admins have been known to pull the wrong drive during a RAID rebuild.
In my case, I'm not sure how the data loss occurred. My 2 TB backup drive was full and I found 2 copies of my 100 GB iTunes music on it.
The day the music died I zapped one and went to the source drive and zapped the iTunes folder there. A week later I brought up iTunes, clicked on a song, and iTunes couldn't find the file.
That's happened before, so I browsed for the iTunes folder. That's when I found it and the backup were gone.
Sinking feeling After a moment's panic I realized the files were likely still there. Like most Storage Bits readers, I know that when files are "deleted" it is only a directory entry that is changed. The files are still there until overwritten.
First, do no (more) harm That means it is vital to stop writing new files. With a single disk system shut it down until you add an external drive. Download any recovery software to it.
The music wasn't on my system disk, so no worries. But I needed recovery software.
Selecting file recovery software I evaluate online software in this order.
- Does it have the functionality I need?
- Marketing signal-to-noise ratio. Do they present themselves well? For example, sites that hide their prices or promise free software without noting limitations make me suspicious.
- Reviews, especially in user forums. A couple of negative reviews are not an issue - there's always somebody who can't figure out a package or expects miracles - but I'm skeptical if I don't see “it did what it promised” reviews.
Googled for Mac file recovery software. Found one package that retailed at $179 that looked promising but crashed on start up. Next!
After looking at a half-dozen packages I chose FileSalvage by SubRosaSoft. It was the lowest cost product at $80 - still not cheap - but user forum comments were good.
I downloaded the trial version and it reported over 30,000 files that it could recover. I bought a license and set to work.
A short and winding road It took a while, but in 90 minutes I had a folder with over 30,000 MP3s. Yay!
Then I opened the folder. Every file had numbers and digits instead of the track's name.
SubRosaSoft's documentation said they had a file name rebuilder. Relieved, I set to work.
Only it didn't. After less than 3000 files it stopped. Boo!
7pm Sunday I emailed SubRosa's support with the problem and figured I was done. But less than 20 min. later SubRosaSoft's Mark Hurlow responded with a fix. Yay!
Department of redundancy department Still, at least half of the MP3s were duplicates.
Found a $15 product called Dupin that looked promising. I imported all the MP3s into iTunes and set to work.
Dupin has many ways to classify duplicates. I hosed the low-bit rate duplicates. Then I trashed the remaining dupes. Done!
The Storage Bits take Data protection is a marathon, not a sprint. You only have to lose data once and it's gone.
If you suspect you've lost data take a deep breath and calm down. Don't get frantic at the thought of losing irreplaceable data. You'll live.
Next, stop writing new data to the affected disk. If needed add an external drive and send downloads to that drive.
Research. Data recovery folks know that you're in a tough spot and their marketing reflects that. But even some of the highest priced products don't work well. Take your time, find a well reviewed product, and let it do its job.
And remember, always back up your data. Even though I managed to munge my original and my backup, I still had two sets of lost files to recover if needed.
Remember, the universe hates your data. It isn't if you'll lose data, but it's when.
Comments welcome, of course. I purchased the products with my own money and didn't tell SubRosaSoft I blog about storage.