Sunday, June 05, 2011

Status: Unrecoverable

What I thought was a virus got into my computer a couple weeks ago. I was frightened it would render my computer unusable, so I did what I used to do on my old computer on a regular basis: I got into System Restore and had the program roll my computer back to a point in time two weeks before that.

I restarted the computer and it was just fine after the System Restore. Whew. Or so I thought. Yesterday I was about to upload some new photos into the computer when I realized I couldn't find any of my old photos: Trip to Chicago, gone. Easter holiday, gone. Trip to NYC, gone. My cousin's wedding, gone. I did a search for "img" and only one photo came up.

A horrifying feeling came over me. I checked the Documents folder. Also empty. My thesis, gone. A journal article I had worked on for months, gone. School papers I had saved for sentimental value were no longer there.

Google had a few answers. Users in a forum suggested some recovery software to try. $50 later I had about 120 pictures back: my cousin's wedding and some photos from London, mostly. Another software program yielded about 14 more recovered files, my trip to Colorado and a few from LA. Tantalizingly the software program would show you thumbnail previews of the old filenames, but when you would mouse over them, almost all of them would say "Status: Unrecoverable." Damn it. Like my life flashing before me, unrecoverable.

I tried not to panic. Facebook has many of these same photos. I've printed out a lot of the sets that are most important to me. Also in my favor, I've had this computer for less than a year, and a lot of photos (actually, most of them) are still on the hard drive of my old computer in the garage. Same with the documents -- a lot of these are stored on my old computer, or I can get a copy somewhere else. All is not lost, not by any means. Still, there *are* photos and documents that are literally gone forever, and for the ones that still exist somewhere out there it's going to be a hassle to recover them.

If I'm so upset about this, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for people who really have lost everything, in a fire or tornado or flood. I suppose losing records of memories isn't the worst thing that could happen; losing your health or life or family members would be, of course. Still, with something like this it feels like a piece of yourself has gone away, the "virtual memory" you have in addition to the one in your brain.

Right now I'm trying to accept that these really are gone, that no software is going to magically recover them tomorrow. The lessons for the future: 1) Keep the anti-virus software up-to-date. 2) It really is important to back up files on an external hard drive or online. I've never done this and it finally caught up to me. 3) System Restore can mean different things on different computers. 5) Losing things isn't the end of the world. It hurts but it's going to be OK.

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