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There is nothing quite like eating your own cooking

It’s said the best chefs are always tasting the food – so for backup software there is no reason those who produce it should not use it.

I use QuickShadow Backup on my family PC’s, laptop, and my software development machine.

Just to make things more complicated, my software development machine is actually a Windows Virtual Machine (VM), inside a product called VMWare Workstation. I can make a backup of the VM quite easily – just shut it down and then copy about 25 GB of stuff somewhere else. That gives me a complete snapshot.

Because snapshots are big, and very slow to copy, I do them infrequently.

Here are just a few of the run of the mill troubles that have struck over the years.

Disaster! (The first)

First Hard Drive Failure

On Sunday 30 May 2010, disaster struck. The hard drive holding all my development systems, VM’s, test environments and so on failed. I’d been struck with the Seagate “SD15” bug that every now and again turns hard drives into house bricks.

Of course, at the time I had no idea if the PC was at fault, or the drive. I promptly made even more backups of everything I could – just in case. This took a couple of hours.

Then some checking to see if the dead drive would come back to life. It wouldn’t.

Then some googling to see if this was well known. It was. Had I known, a firmware update in the hard drive would have prevent this pain and suffering.

I had a spare 500 GB hard drive lying around, so I upgraded the firmware in it and then formatted it (another couple of hours gone).


Next step – copy from my backup the last known snapshot of my development VM – taken about 6 weeks ago. SIX WEEKS!! I’d made a lot of changes to QuickShadow Backup since then – I had a new release only a week away, and many changes in the source code were to go into that release. I’d also migrated between source code management systems after that snapshot, and installed some new development utilities.

Once I had the VM restored to the new hard drive – I started the work. Removed from it the various programs I did not need, installed the new stuff that had been in the old one.

Then, from the backup, I copied back all of the source code, data, management database, and work-in progress source code that I’d been working on before the disaster.

A quick reboot – and! It’s all back.

About 6 hours after finding what looked like a tragedy, I had everything back where it was before the problem.

QuickShadow backup had been running in the development machine before the disaster, and it backed up everything to my NAS drive. All of the QuickShadow Backup source code, stuff in development, EVERYTHING is recovered.

My backup was literally no more then about 1 minute behind what I was working on at all times, and it’s rescued me from a total disaster.

QuickShadow Backup had saved QuickShadow Backup from a wipe-out.


Disaster! (The second)

Another complete failure.

During July 2012, my second hard drive disaster struck. I was using a 2-drive mirror for the virtual machine that is the QuickShadow Backup development environment. This also had on it about 30,000 family photos.

One evening the drives began making a rather unpleasant clunking noise, and half an hour later I had a dead, unresponsive PC.

Of course, my last FULL PC backup was several weeks old.

This time around, I purchased quite a lot of solid state drive capacity, and rebuilt the PC using that. My spinning hard drives are gone forever.

Of course, the usual issue applied: getting everything back. In this case, I had a complete PC rebuild to do, so installing all the 150-odd programs took about a day.

Getting back all the family photos, the development virtual machines, and the contents of those virtual machines took an hour or two, but again, everything was restored.


Solid State Drives die too

Solid State Drives don’t last forever.

During 2015, a nice shiny (and quite expensive) solid state drive developed a very strange failure – everything worked OK apart from the file storing the Microsoft Outlook mailbox. Every time Outlook tried to open / update that file, it would stop working.

A disk check revealed an excessive number of bad segments of the SSD – which meant 2 bad things:

1. The SSD was on the way to a more significant failure (reformat to try and ignore that region might be OK for the short term but long term it’s asking for trouble).

2. About 5GB of emails going back 15 years was no inaccessible.

The only solution was to purchase a new SSD in a hurry, and copy everything from the old to the new EXCEPT the outlook mailbox (which would not copy due to the bad media). This copy process just used Windows Explorer – very laboriously.

But then… the emails?

QuickShadow Backup had been taking backup copies of the Outlook Mailbox in the days leading up to the media failure. By using the VSS option, and also saving 2 or 3 old versions on the backup media, it was possible to recover a copy of the Outlook Mailbox that was about 2 days old. Outlook needed to do a repair because the file had been copied while it was open.

But the emails were recovered with only about a days new incoming email lost [And had I set my ISP settings properly, to ensure 14 or more days emails are left on their systems at any time, the loss would have been zero – so my won fault there.]


QuickShadow Backup was developed to save my systems from disasters. It has done so on many occasions!