I recently lost a lot of data…computer files. About forty gigabytes worth to be precise, due to my stupidity. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

But I did manage to recover them with recovery software, or the vast majority of them…I think. I'd have to look through the thousands of files and folders carefully and even then, how would I know for certain that some hadn't been lost? The size in gigabytes of the recovered data is about what I know was lost, so the signs are good. PHEW! One is relieved, isn't one?

But what an absolute berk I am! I'm not the worst of berks. I don't go around blithely with only one instance of my main device's files (ie. the instance on said device). I know someone who does this {shudder}. Nor do I think that copies that are on another internal drive or partition, or on an external but plugged in drive can really count as proper backups. And I don't assume a single instance of data is OK as long as it's in a cupboard away from the computer. But here's how, despite being less of a berk than some people I know, and with the help of a small, momentary brain burp, I can end up with a backupfuckup.

I had these two flash drives. Each held the exact same data. I felt secure in having the data doubled-up. I know that proper sticklers would want more than two instances of any data but I thought it was OK to be going on with. But then…I came up with…

…a cunning plan!

Uh oh! What is it about cunning plans? They do so aft gang awry. The flash drives each were only about a third full, and the nature of the data made me think the amount wouldn't change much. So there was a lot of wasted empty space. That space was paid for and I wanted to use it. So my punning clan was to partition each drive down the middle and thus have extra partitions available for other uses. This efficiency technique clearly marked me out as a genius, no? So then I wondered if I ought to partition and format drive A, copy data from drive B onto it, partition and format drive B and finally copy the data back from drive A to drive B. It would mean having just one instance of the data for a few minutes. Not really a clever idea, but, well, my analysis of the situation was that of many idiots throughout history. I thought: it'll be alright.

I got myself into right tizzy with drive A. I kept changing my mind about what format to use. It went something like this: let's use FAT32 because it's 'normal', it's understood everywhere. Oh wait, it doesn't support files over 4Gb. Yes, I'll use NTFS instead. Err, on second thoughts, NTFS isn't universally supported and I don't currently have any files over 4Gbs, so I think I'll try ExFAT because it's what U.S.B. flash drives come with. I mean, you don't need a mac format to store a mac's files do you? Do they have special mac metadata in them? Possibly…so I'll go with HFS+. Err…wait a minute, the new all-singing all-dancing file format on macs is APFS. Apple reckons APFS is the dog's bollocks. It's probably really efficient and uses less space and is less likely to get corrupted and maybe even makes me a cup of tea in the morning. Yep, that's the one. Argh…no! I've just remembered, most systems, including many macs can't make sense of APFS. Terrible idea. So sod it, if ExFAT is what flash drives come out of the factory with, I'll just use that, end of story.

I didn't just think all that in my head. I literally kept formatting the drive over and over again as I rethunk things. And that may be why I screwed up; I faffed so much that I forgot the original plan. Well it's either that or incipient Alzheimers. Once I'd finally made my mind up and finished formatting drive A, I removed it and formatted drive B. Then it suddenly dawned on me. 'I haven't have I? Please let it not be so. I'm scared to look. Let's look. Oh God, I have {sinking feeling}. How could I do that? What's wrong with my bloody brain?'

Anyway, long story short. Reading up told me that R-Studio was the best file recovery software. It's the one professionals use. It was rated best or equal best for most of the various types of recovery tasks. It was just slightly beaten by DMDE at recovering lost or formatted partitions. Whilst I was reading about file recovery, and before I actually tried to recover anything, I read that plain text files are very difficult to recover once lost. This is apparently because…well, they are plain. There's little to no metadata with them. They don't leave clues lying around like other filetypes do. So it's hard for recovery programmes to know where to find the relevant bits and glue them together. This discovery put me in the doldrums a bit. I knew my drives had held some plain text files I didn't want to lose. Some were quite important or useful. Some contained text I was just downright fond of. So I went forward with slow, concerned trepidation. I knew that recovering stuff from an external, non-live device was more likely than from a live running system. But I'd never done this before and had some doubt, especially about plain text files.

DMDE failed to locate, let alone resurrect the old volume despite allegedly being good at that sort of thing and despite no data on the device being over-written. Well, I did format it to buggery didn't I? With a standard, deep scan it did find most of the files judging by the size of data found, but thousand of files were only found by signature scanning, meaning they had the wrong names and sometimes no extension and the tree structure of folders was gone. If partition undeleting wasn't possible, I decided I may as well try the extolled R-Studio. Well stone the crows! It found the old (ExFAT) volume! In fact, when including extra—apparently duplicate—files, it found an amount of data greater than the flash drive capacity. I've no idea how that works; perhaps it's something to do with my silly formatting mania. The whole nested folder hierarchy appeared complete as well. Like I said up top, I'm not 100% sure a few things haven't gone to that mysterious place files go to when they die. But working from memory, I honestly can't see any omissions. And it presented my plain text files too! With the correct names! In the correct locations!


So there you are. R-Studio, the sine qua non of file recovery software. Well, sine qua non means 'without which nothing' and other programmes will find something, so what's Latin for 'without which, less'? A quick look up tells me that R-Studio's motto should be:

Sine quae minus.