Carbonite: Surveying The Damage From Windows Live Photo Gallery

by JL Beeken on 11-08-2010

CarboniteYou’ve now heard about how Windows Live Photo Gallery applied false GPS co-ordinates to 10,000 of my photographs. Then you heard about how WLPG also damaged the EXIF on those photos.

Now for some better news. Carbonite has been my online backup for the past 18 months. I’ve never had to restore files before so I hadn’t really thought about how that works. Actually, I had been thinking lately maybe I’d stop paying for it since I have two backup drives and what do I need it for? That’s insurance for you. You could pay for years and just make the insurance companies rich.

Sometime yesterday, at my lowest point of thinking and 16 days into this mess, it occurred to me that the un-damaged photos might be on the Carbonite backup server.

Because my computer crashed in August, I didn’t get a new one until mid-October and there were files pending backup I assumed I was in deep doo-doo here.

Part of the confusion was due to the fact that Carbonite shows two backup drives. One from the old computer; one from the new one. I realized I could restore photos from the old backup drive, but there weren’t that many of them. It looked like I’d still be missing several thousand.

I assumed there were no files on the backup drive for the new computer because there hadn’t been time to back anything up yet except for some of the damaged files. It told me there was still 68GB pending backup. Certainly that included the damaged files.

Yesterday I went to have a look at the newer backup drive and all the photo folders said “Pending Backup” on them. But, if I clicked on an individual file, it gave me choices!

Carbonite Restore

Carbonite Restore

Previous versions?

Inside that box is a date or two dates of previous backups. So that’s where the un-damaged files were!

Previous Versions, Carbonite

Previous Versions, Carbonite

Even though most of the backup dates precede the crash of the old computer, the files had been moved to the new backup drive and Carbonite hadn’t overwritten them yet. Because, after your backed-up files exceed 200 GB it’s really slow. Thank God.

The most recent backup date I saw on any of the photos was October 21st. The Windows Live Photo Gallery damage was done starting October 26th, I think. Or I thought. But it was on my computer starting October 15th, with the DESCENDANTS folder (6,653 photos) automatically included under My Pictures in the WLPG index. Some of those may have been overwritten with the damage.

I think the way this works is that the backup starts at the most recent files changed and pushes the older ones to the bottom of the Pending list, rather than starting at the bottom of the heap. That is not particularly good news.

Right now Carbonite is telling me there’s still 40 hours left on the Restore, so it’s early to tell how this will work out. Clearly, many of my photos were last backed up previous to Windows 7 and that’s really good news.

24 hours later

As the photos come back from Carbonite it’s clear that anything touched by Windows Live Photo Gallery after I cracked Windows 7 open on October 15th, and backed up to Carbonite, also has damaged backups. As soon as WLPG started making changes to my pictures, Carbonite started backing them up.

In the DESCENDANTS folder are 1,700 photos that have no other recourse. There are no other backups for photos after 1976 or for 50 or so others between 1970 and 1975.

In the ANCESTORS folder I’ve found 2,200 photos modified between October 15th and October 28th when I first started discovering the damage. At that point I uninstalled WLPG as well as the rest of Windows Live Essentials.

Anything from ANCESTORS backed up to Carbonite after October 15th is lost except for what can be sent back to me from old backup discs. This does not account for any photos gathered, scanned and restored since the backup disc was made at least two years ago. Or any modifications made to the IPTC which is considerable.

The only upside is that I won’t know the exact tally until I see all the backups from both drives and all the backup discs and, whatever the result, it can only be the same or better, not any worse.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara Schenck 11-08-2010 at 11:01 PM

Too bad!

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JL 11-09-2010 at 1:30 AM

A backup is a backup. As long as there is one it really doesn’t matter where it comes from. Bringing files back from Dropbox instead of Carbonite wouldn’t make any difference.

Restoring my photos to their former state is something else. It’s a seven-step process on each one of 12,000. And the first three steps will involve 24,000-36,000 photos. There’s up to 18 months of work on files that are now damaged and files without that work that are not damaged. It’s a question of merging it all back together, not simply bringing files back onto my computer. This is only the first step in many to come.

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Barbara Schenck 11-08-2010 at 10:37 PM

Do you use Dropbox? There are usually several old versions of files on Dropbox. It’s saved my neck a time or two.

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JL 11-08-2010 at 10:56 PM

I do use Dropbox and find it immensely useful. But I don’t keep my photographs there. There are 12,000 of them totaling about 30GB. They wouldn’t fit.

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Barbara Schenck 11-09-2010 at 6:51 AM

Sounds like a daunting process. Best of luck. At least you are aware of the problem and know the means (though tedious) to fix it. Most of us wouldn’t have a clue.

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JL 11-09-2010 at 12:21 PM

If I can repair 100 photos a day that would take 4 months. But 100 sounds like too much considering what’s involved, so maybe 50. That’s now 8 months. But, I need the odd day here and there for grocery-shopping and cleaning my house, so maybe I’ll be through it by Christmas 2011.

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