External HDD: worst backup plan evar

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by Claff, Oct 8, 2008.

  1. Claff

    Claff TPF Noob!

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    Thought I was doing the right thing keeping my photos on a 500 GB Western Digital external drive. Seemed to work well till yesterday when the drive wouldn't show up in Windows Explorer when plugged in. Thought if I got the drive to show up, it'd be OK.

    So today the drive shows up but when I try to look at a folder it comes back and says "the drive is not formatted. Format now?". Can't see any pics, kinda assuming I'm never going to again... five years' worth.

    Data recovery starts (starts!) at $500. I make a couple bucks doing photography but certainly not enough to justify this.

    Just thinking about what I won't be able to see again makes me sick.
     
  2. Sim

    Sim TPF Noob!

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    Ouch, sorry to hear that. :( I take it you didn't have the data anywhere else?

    I just had an external HDD fail on me in the last couple of weeks too. I still think external HDDs are an excellent choice for backups though, as long as you make sure they're indeed that: backups. As long as your data is always in two places, you're a lot less likely to have such a bad experience.
     
  3. sabbath999

    sabbath999 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    DO NOT FORMAT THAT DRIVE!

    It may well be either your computer OS having trouble interfacing with the drive, or the drive controller in the external unit. Find a geek.

    I am sorry you are having these problems, but I feel I must mention the following...

    Storing all you photos on one drive, even if it is external, is not "backing them up". Backing them up means to store the files on MULTIPLE drives so that you have redundancy... if one fails, then you can use the photos on the other.

    Using an external drive as a main storage space for your photos is fine, as long as you also have them on your internal drive, on another external drive, or backed up online.

    Personally, I have my "keepers" (about 20K photos) stored on three different external drives, at least one of which is kept at my office (protected from fire) and also I store my best shots (about 15 gigs worth) online.
     
  4. S2K1

    S2K1 TPF Noob!

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    I have two external hard drives, my computer, and DVD's with copies of my pictures. The DVD's are kept in a separate location 20 minutes away from my house where these the hard drives are. You always need a backup plan to your backup. Hard Drives fail, it's a fact of life. However, you might try another computer with your drive. I had a memory card that my computer wanted me to format, I took it to another computer, worked fine. Took the images off, formatted the card, and it worked again.
     
  5. mark h

    mark h TPF Noob!

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    Firstly, you only have yourself to blame. You say that an external HDD is the "worst backup plan" but you are NOT backing up. You are simply storing your images on the HDD.

    If you were backing up, you would be creating a 2nd (or 3rd, 4th etc) copy of your images on an external HDD as part of your backup plan.

    These days, there really is no excuse for this kind of poor planning.

    As sabbath mentions, don't format the drive. Look for help (either from a friend, or by researching) and you should be able to recover your images as the drive is not physically damaged.
     
  6. TCimages

    TCimages TPF Noob!

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    Sometimes the interface on the external enclosure will go bad. Try the drive in a new enclosure or even install it internally on your computer.
     
  7. Bifurcator

    Bifurcator TPF Noob!

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    Yup!

    And there's lots of software that will salvage files that the BAM, FAT, or other kind of file system vector table no longer links to. If the drive will spin you can get all or most of your files back. But hurry up because usually when something like this happens it only gets worse with time.
     
  8. dEARlEADER

    dEARlEADER TPF Noob!

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    you should also get in the habbit of keeping a log of the time,date,place, and subject of every photo you shoot..... that way if you lose your data (like now) you could simply refer to your log and reshoot the previous five years worth...
     
  9. Another tip: if you're using an external HDD, just connect it and back it up once a month or once a quarter. If the thing is permanently on and connected you run greater risks of misconections.
     
  10. Imaginara

    Imaginara TPF Noob!

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    I'm very sorry for the loss and as people have stated already dont format the drive and try to recover the data with any of the type of tools mentioned here. And data recovery does come in many variants of prices aswell depending on how much work is needed. If its just a messed upp FAT table for example it may be solved in minutes.

    But regardless i would like to mention my own backupsystem that i use and the philosophy behind it. Yes, it's based on harddrive backup as this is the cheapest form of high-volume backup today. No, i do not trust harddrives one bit. I've had too many fail on me to do that :D So whats the trick then? Redundancy. And a lot of it.

    I run one main hard-drive which is my work-drive and separated from the OS drive btw. This drive is then mirrored to two separate drives, both external. This is done every evening and it only mirrors the changes. In additional to this, every week i make a 3.rd mirror to another external drive (or more often if ive had a major job that week) which is brought OFF site. This is the last resort backup in case i get burglared or the studio burns down.

    Now thats the technical setup, with quadrupel redundancy in worst case, and quintuple in best case. If you are doing the math and wondering where i got the magic 5.th backup from or the 4.th if i cant use the weekly backup, this is the memory card. I said i back up at the end of the day right? This also means i am NOT clearing the memory cards until the backup has been done. Memory cards are cheap and a good way to have extra backup.

    In addition to this, i also quite often shoot tethered to a laptop which brings in another level of backup as i always shoot and save both to card and computer. This has actually saved me once when the card failed before it could be transfered to my editing computer, and the pictures from the shoot were still on the laptop.

    Now, i started off by saying i dont trust harddrives right? Well here is where the lack of that trust comes in. A normal harddrive has a lifespan of 3 to 5 years. Manifacturers sometimes state higher years but that is usually not with full usage and writing to it all the time so i err on the cautious side. So here are a few rules iv'e set for this backup solution:

    1) If one harddrive fails, i change ALL harddrives. This may sound extravagant but in reality the cost isn't much at all considering it's extremely unusual for it to fail before 3 years. And especially if you got harddrives from the same batch it may be an error in that batch so if one fails, the others will follow soon most likely.

    2) after 3 years, i change all harddrives again. Or if i need to upgrade to larger volumes, i also change them all. All this changing is due to the old rule that the backup/security system is never stronger than the weakest part of it.

    3) never remove anything until it's been copied to the daily backup system.

    This is what i would describe as a dynamic backupsystem where you keep the copies alive and changing all the time, as opposed to a static backupsystem which means you make one backup and then put it away thinking it is safe. There are pretty much no static backup systems that have any lifespan that is worth mentioning so a dynamic system is usually much better.

    This is how i've solved it and it's a pretty cheap system in comparison to high-volume tape backups or other solutions. You do not HAVE to go with the most expensive (or fastest) harddrives, the only thing might be that you need to cycle your disks a bit earlier but thats about it.

    And at all points you have a minimum of 4 copies of your files. Chances are very slim that all 4 copies gets destroyed at the same time, barring possibly a bombstrike :|

    There is an additional solution which right now is a bit too expensive for the volumes needed by most photographers and that is online storage. It's a perfect way to store your business data however, but remember one backup is no backup. You do need multiple backups to cover all angles.

    Sorry for the long post but hope it will at least give some ideas that MIGHT save your data in the future ;)
     
  11. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    free online (and also fast) geeks:
    http://www.computerhope.com/forum/

    after that consider another external - as others have said problems like this only get worse after the first one.

    And DO NOT FORMAT THAT DRIVE!
    although data retriveal is possible after a format (provided no new data is written over) it is very costly and not simple/quick/easy. Chances are that the data can be retrived off the disk - its still there its just your computer does not want to talk to it
     
  12. Dao

    Dao No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Yes, there are a lot of tools out there for data recovery. Some programs are free to try. It let you try the software and see if the software is capable of restoring the files. If yes, you can pay the money and activate the software and restore your files. If not, just try another one.

    You may need to have another drive around to restore the data to. Most, or say, the good data recovery software will never write or modify anything in the problem drive, it only try to read data off and put the data on a good drive.
     

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