When disaster strikes

Andrew Rowland | 4 September 2021 | 0 comments

I had intended to write about TV this month, but a personal computer accident made me change my mind. I am often rung up by people whose computer has gone wrong (they do, you know). The PC refuses to boot, the disc is corrupt, it crashes. This week it was a dropped laptop. Last month a power surge fried both the hard drives in a tower PC simultaneously. I can hear the anxiety in the caller’s voice: ‘Will you be able to rescue my files?’ Sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t. So I make no apology for returning to the topic of backups.

But it wasn’t a customer that made me change my mind about the subject of this article. It was me. I deleted all my documents. By accident. I had found a duplicate folder on my PC, an old copy of my eBooks I didn’t need. But I had two windows open and when I pressed the delete key, it was the wrong folder that went. I didn’t even realise because I was working on something else. It just seemed to take a long time. Then I looked, and my entire Documents folder was empty. All my business files, all the articles I have ever written, all my correspondence, even my poems – gone. Not all bad, I suppose. A techie writing poetry is every bit as bad as you might imagine.

Now, I would like to be able to tell you that I was so confident in my backup routine that I just smiled, clicked a button, restored them all and carried on. But no, I panicked. First, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I checked and checked again. I looked in the Recycle Bin, but I had deleted them permanently. Then I plugged in my backup drive and realised that my last backup had been a week ago. That meant I could restore most of my files, but there were a bunch of invoices missing, and some hobby stuff I’d spent hours on at the weekend… you get the picture. At least my photo collection was unaffected – it’s always so sad seeing customers in fear of losing their precious memories.

Long story short, I got back nearly everything in the end, mostly from my cloud backup, which I didn’t even remember until the next day (they advertised it as ‘click and forget’ and I clearly took that way too literally). It took a week and a lot of time, though. But lessons were learned:

  • I turned on Windows File History. It makes a copy of every personal file and keeps it for ever (unless configured otherwise). Do thou likewise: Windows 10 or Windows 11.
  • I will probably change cloud backup provider. Zoolz, though cheap (or because it is cheap), was way too unfriendly and slow.
  • I changed the Accent colour to bright red so that the current window is more obvious. (Make sure you tick ‘Title bars and window borders’ in the Colours section)
    UPDATE: Microsoft has seen fit to disable this in Windows 11, i.e. File Explorer does not respect your option in Settings (though most other programs will). In my view, this is a disaster. The reason for it is that they have added tabs, so it is the current tab that would need to be coloured rather than the title bar. But they aren’t. All I can say is, be careful!

But let me remind you: any file you have only one copy of, you will lose. Make sure you have a plug-in drive and set up both system backups for disaster recovery (broken hard drive etc.) and file backups (in case of an idiot like me) – get help if you need it. Check your cloud backup (e.g. OneDrive) is working and has enough storage for your needs. One day you’ll thank me.

For more advice see my previous blog Backups.

© Andrew Rowland 2021-2024

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