20 Jul 2009

Always take a backup

Realized last weekend that technology, however superior cannot accommodate for human laziness and this realization came in a pretty harsh way. Kaboom! went away two partitions on my notebook drive. The partitions I'd meticulously set aside for data, one for personal data and the second one for media stuff (photography archives and the like). Surprisingly, the OS partition remained untouched, the experimental Linux partition remained untouched & only the data partitions were chosen for the wreckage.

After seeing my initial exclamation on loss of data, my colleague blurted out - "Serves you well for all those late night experimentation". Probably he is right but then I know well that experimentation is not the thing to be blamed for. Its the failure to take an adequate backup before I went ahead with the experimentation - that's the culprit here. More so considering that I had a nice 120 GB USB external harddisk gifted by a friend. Thankfully I had some backup snapshot taken about 3 months back - so all is not gone.

For the technically minded who'd like to know how the crash occured, this is my most plausible explanation. This was the partition structure on my disk before.
I was trying to update Mandriva 2009 RC1 to the latest & it seems to have exceeded partition space without any boundary checking. The grub boot-loader got corrupted too not recognizing the XP partition. With a rescue CD, I could still boot into windows and see both my data drives (D & E) but with the dreaded message "Drive not formatted. Format (Y/N)". The MBR seemed to be corrupted.

Next I tried my favorite recovery tools. Started with TestDisk but it didnot list any recoverable files on the data partitions. Then tried some other recovery tools and I have an admission to make here. I ensured that the partitions were untouched while trying out various recovery tools. Some of the recovery tools did succeed in picking up some folders and data but that was more superficial. After checking the recovered files, I found many of the images were garbled and docs were corrupted. About 15% files were properly recovered and the rest had binary corruption. Don't know how these tools keep advertising record recovery figures ;-).

Well I've finally gone ahead, re-partitioned the disk and now trying out Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) . So far the 64-bit edition has installed smoothly on the Acer 4530. Bluetooth and even the Tata Indicom USB works nicely out of the box. Though wireless works, the wifi keyboard switch doesn't seem to work. Well I believe its more a matter of tweaking around.

This incident reinforces the old golden adage "Always take a backup!". Another small learning, a little philosophical one is - "You really don't need all that data". So very true. In fact sometimes I realise that all the data I really need can fit into a 2GB USB drive. So all I need to do for backup is use something simple like synctoy(windows only) and ensure that atleast every weekend the sync is run.

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