I made what could have been an extremely expensive blunder.
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This is Leo Notenboom for askleo.net.
Like many of you, I maintain computers for other folks. In particular, I’m
the IT guy behind my wife’s business and of course her personal computer, a Dell
laptop not unlike my own.
She uses Outlook, and in the process of performing some maintenance on her
computer the other morning I accidentally deleted her PST file which contains
all her email.
All 800 megabytes of it.
And no, it wasn’t in the recycle bin, this was a “permanent” delete from
within a Windows command shell.
“No problem” I thought, a little nervously. “I’ll just restore from last
As I’ve mentioned here before, I have a fairly extensive backup system at
home where in the wee hours of the morning important files are copied from
machine to machine to machine, and some even off-site, ensuring that there’s a
fair amount of redundancy. One “central” machine, my primary desktop, then also
does a true full backup using Acronis True Image Home.
I’ve often said that it would take something like four machines failing
simultaneously in two different locations for us to actually lose our previous day’s
By now you can see where this is headed.
I looked at the backup of my wife’s email.
It was three months old.
For reasons I’d figure out later were related to the wireless network card
utilities, my wife’s laptop hadn’t been getting backed up for the prior three
As you can imagine, this is where panic starts to set in.
My only hope of recovery was an undelete utility.
I happened to have a copy of a fairly simply undelete utility called
Restoration, so I turned it lose.
Much to my relief it did, indeed, find and recover the entire 800 megabyte file.
Only then did I tell my wife what was happening.
Needless to say, once the restoration was complete I then immediately backed
up, for real, and corrected the problems that were preventing the nightly
I tell you my embarrassing story simply to remind you:
- that you need to back up; but you already know this, right?
- that you need to, every so often, check your back ups to make sure they are
what you think they are.
- that no one is immune. If you don’t think you don’t need to check … you need to
If it sounds like my backup approach is somewhat complex, well that’s because it
is. And the more complex it is, the more frequently it needs checking. If
you’re using a simple backup solution such as an automated tool, then perhaps
you won’t need to check as often, but I strongly recommend that you check.
A backup that isn’t working is almost worse than having no backup at
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Till next time, I’m Leo Notenboom, for askleo.net.