How to make 6 months of your life vanish

I own a mobile 500GB USB disk manufactured by Lacie and use it to put all my photos, so that I can both save disk space on my laptop and can easily share photos with someone else. A few months ago, my girlfriend bought a new laptop with Microsoft Vista included and yesterday, while I was busy with mine, she asked me if she could have a look at our photos.

Of course I said yes.

Lacie 500G mobile disks are pre-formated as FAT32. A nice filesystem as any OS can use it read/write, and it’s rather fast if you don’t need to manage access rights. But the vendor has decided to ship its drive with an auto-launch first-time wizard reformatting your disk as NTFS in order to, in their own words, optimize the drive. Linux don’t care about auto-launch things but Vista just does.

Of course, my girlfriend knows nothing about FAT32, NTFS and what’s behind the words “drive optimization”.

Hit next… hit next… hit next…


The good thing is that I’ve made two backup DVDs of the photos I’ve made during the first 2 years of my son. But I’ve lost all the photos since then (he’s now 2 years and a half). I’ve also tried to recover photos from the disk (thanks to photorec), but only recovered a very minor part of all my photos.

In essence, I’ve lost 6 months of photos, including birth photos of my little girl (now 3 months old).

I’m happy I’ve made some backups, but should make them more often and especially after exceptional situations like… your child birth. A good rule of thumb for managing personal photos is “have two copies of your photos anytime”.

Posted in Life. 13 Comments »

13 Responses to “How to make 6 months of your life vanish”

  1. packthead Says:

    maybe you should have tried many recovery programs like testdisk or photrescue or ddrescue or magicrescue under linux.
    for windows, there are many other tools that works fine too

    • yoho Says:

      I’ve tried testdisk, but it didn’t find any lost partition (I haven’t tried the “deeper inspection” though). I’ve mentioned in my blog post I’ve already tried photorescue but actually, it was less successful than a windows tool : diskinternals ntfs recovery. This tool is paying (you can just preview what you can recover without paying), price being around 100€.

      But I’ve contacted a specialized society which offers to analyse my disk and pick it up at home for roughly 100€ as well : they’ve come and picked it up this afternoon. Within 2 days, I should receive previews and statistics about what they’re able to recover.

      The problem is actually the bloody Lacie wizard has not only reformatted the disk, but has also WRITTEN on it : he has put some PDFs, some useless programs, links to the website, readmes, etc…

  2. Alojz Stanich Says:

    “Several recovery programs” in emergency, yes – there are some service workshops as well, specialized for data recoveries on disks and external disks. But this is not the main resolution.

    I think the fundamental problem is this:
    The computing proffessionals, including comp. students, take the computing sphere as their life objective, the general users take computing things as tools to enhance their proffessional objectives and personal interests. So general users do need external disks a lot to save and colect their data, but computing proffessionals mainly do not need to use it. So the Linux developers and others do not work on external disks (except industry) and there are constant unresolved problems with data on external disks. You have never read about groups of developers, or a single group, working on this subject. I wrote on forums in troubles – I got partial help, as much as they could, but managing data on external disks continues to remain a big problem.

    • yoho Says:

      Well, I disagree. My disk was completely supported, out of the box, already formatted as FAT32, everything was working as expected. If you read my blog post again you’ll see it’s VISTA which executed the bloody #@!|& Lacie wizard.

      I was (and still do) using digikam to manage my photographs and must say I’m quite happy, especially with the latest version (only available in cooker for the moment) : it manages photos on removable device quite well, if you create a new “removable collection”, from the settings menu. I’ve also read digikam handbook which is quite instructive not only about the program itself, but also about the way you should manage your photos end-to-end. This is a must read for all those reading this message !

  3. Skiper Says:

    Yes, that’s really sad and frustrating. I’m sorry about that.

    You can try this tool to see if he does not find more photos :
    By the makers of CCleaner, one world wide known tool, I’ve had to use it several times and is effective and has very high chances of successfully restoring files, especially documents and photos.

    • yoho Says:

      Thanks for the link. However, I’ve already sent my drive to a specialized firm based in Paris which should recover what it can from my drive for approximately 100€. I believe professionals have better tools than we have, but I may be wrong. I will try your tool as soon as I get my drive back to compare with the specialized company. Thanks.

  4. monogoat Says:

    Easeus (spelling?) data recovery has saved me from similar situations by scanning the raw disk and not worring about the filesystem, partitions, or lack thereof.

    • yoho Says:

      Yes, photorec does the same. But I don’t know why it was less successful than another windows-based program (diskinternals ntfs recovery). But I’ve called a specialized data recovery firm which will handle the job now.

  5. wobo Says:

    This is one sad story, being in the age of looking back more often than forward I can tell you, such losses hurt badly.

    Whatever the reason, you wrote one important sentence there: “I’m happy I’ve made some backups, but should make them more often”. After I experienced a similar situation I have 1 backup set of my photos for each year, renewing the current set every time I add new photos to my albums.

  6. Colin Says:

    Annoying, huh? That happened to me too (due to a water flooding).

    You had backups, but you had bad backups. Good backups are done *automatically* at a fixed and short interval of time (1 day, 1 week), …

    Now when we’re on holidays, we don’t even empty the camera’s SD card onto the laptop drive, we copy (not move) the photos, just in case one of the medium fails.

    Your data will always disappear at the worst moment, it must be taken into account.

    • yoho Says:

      I wouldn’t say they are bad, but they probably aren’t enough. As said above, I’ll try to keep at least one copy of each photo I own, anytime. I also want to externalize backups so that I won’t loose everything in case of disaster (water flooding).

      It implies I’m going to subscribe to one of the online backup services out there. I’m currently evaluating different solutions (from google, flickr, mandriva, even nikon…). Mandriva seems one of the most interesting but one statement in the FAQ says you have to pay your subscription regularly (every month) or your data will be removed after 2 months… which is quite scary : what if I loose my job and am not able to pay anymore ? what if I just forget to pay ? etc… Flickr seems to have a more relaxed restriction in this domain : your data is kept for a complete year, even if you don’t pay.

      So in the end, it’s not easy to have good backups, even if you’re ready to pay for it…

  7. salim Says:

    you can recover your lost photos by getting “getdataback” a windows based software there is for NTFS and FAT32 I use it many times and it is great.

    once I made a mistake, I formated the whole HDD of my friend laptop without making a back-up but I ecovered all the lost files by using “getdataback” you can find it here :

  8. Wilmer J. Rowe Says:

    We found a USB key in the National Park of Big Sur in California in a Campground which name was: Pfeiffer Camp. It was on July 29th, it is black and we can read “Lexar” on it. Inside are some BBC videos and some photos from Las Vegas or San Diego. We found it on the floor during a hike. I do not speak very well english I’m sorry and that’s all I can say.

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