How I lost my dissertation files despite 7 different backup plans This was originally posted on my blog, Notes from a Linguistic Mystic in See all posts So, remember the dissertation I was working on?
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The crowning achievement of 12 years of higher education? Well, a big chunk of the work I did is gone, because I made some bad decisions, and had some very bad luck. When I brought it to the Genius bar, the diagnostic failed, and Apple replaced everything, as it was barely still under warranty.
It came back to me with a new SSD and logic board. I restored my data to the newly wiped computer from a two-day old backup, and I also took this is an opportunity to clean up a bit.
But I never opened the dissertation folder. Two weeks ago, a colleague asked me for a script I used to create some of the stimuli for my dissertation. I opened the folder, knowing just where it would be, but it contained nothing but a corrupted PDF with comments from my committee.
Whether it was lost to the data corruption, lost in a bad restore, or just lost, it was gone. Everything else was gone.
Theoretically speaking, in order to lose all of my data, I would have to experience 6 hard drive failures and lose access to the cloud. Over the next few hours, I went through every one of the backups above, and found that amazingly, each one had failed because of two really poor choices, and one bad stroke of luck.
My computer was clean, decluttered, and running great, and everything looked fine. This meant that my oldest backup on any of these drives was June 16th. This choice alone brought my data down from 7 backups, to just two. For that matter, my entire year of deleted file and revision history was gone too.
When I set Crashplan up again on the newly wiped machine, I selected my new home folder. Just like that, at the whim of a bot doing its job properly, my deleted file history disappeared, leaving only the same corrupted folder that I had everywhere else. Unless I was really unlucky. Stroke of bad luck 1: One was none. Learn from me, damnit Even though I did a lot of things right by having many backups in a few different formsI made a few bad choices, and it burned me.
Dissertation taking over my life: what’s it like to be ‘finished’?
In the name of helping my readers avoid these errors, I have a few suggestions, many of which are obvious, but still escaped me: 1 Phase out old backups over time, not all at once This whole issue would have been avoided had I just kept more old backups. What I should have done, if I wanted a clean slate, was to wipe one drive at a time, every six months or so.
I removed a folder from the scope of the backup, and it removed all old versions of that folder.
This is the right behavior for privacy, for organization, and for minimizing space used. Sure, the data will be a bit out of date, but I would pay good money for a copy of my dissertation files circa November. That way nothing could have wiped it out short of a house-fire. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
A few other folders were affected, but no others of them were as important.