I lost years’ worth of work due to a hard drive crash

I originally posted this blog post on giantbomb.com on 14/06/2017

Yes I know, I should’ve had backups. And I have no one to blame but myself. There isn’t any hope left of recovering any of the work, so this is kind of a eulogy (and a way to get myself to accept reality) before I start everything again from scratch.

A few days back I took my external hard disk drive to my sister’s place to watch a movie. Stupidly enough I plugged that in to the TV directly instead of transferring it onto a pen drive as I always do. In fact, when I had the thought of transferring it onto a pen drive, a voice in my mind said, for some reason – “nah, this time we’ll try and play it directly.” And so I did. Not just that, I also plugged it into her new sound bar to play it off that when the TV didn’t recognize it.

Of course, then I tried it on a laptop and it wouldn’t recognize the drive. The “usb plugged in sound” would play and it would show up in the Device Manager, but not in My Computer. Later at home, Disk Management saw the drive but labelled it “Unknown, not initialized”. I tried it on multiple laptops with different cables but it wouldn’t show. Partition and data recovery softwares wouldn’t detect it either. There were no spinning sounds.

There was years worth of random data on it, but the important stuff I lost was my freelance work – artwork (digital paintings), photography and an indie game I had just started working on. Fortunately I hadn’t built too many levels on it yet, and with a bit of time and patience I’ll be able to rebuild that. But what I miss most is the script. It is a story driven game, so the script was full of random bits of dialogues, characters’ personalities and research on psychology. If there was one file I could recover, it would be the script. I remember the plot, but there’s no way all the details are still in my head. And there were so many tiny things, so many bursts of inspirations that I had scribbled down! There’s no way to recollect those.

The worst bit is that only two weeks back, I left my job to focus completely on my art side business and on making this game. This doesn’t change everything, but it just messed up my smooth transition from job to self employment. Unnecessary stress and hard work.

I had given the disk to a professional to check, who said that the data can’t be recovered because the platters are damaged/ scratched, probably because of a sudden disconnection (or a power surge, my guess) I just came back from meeting him, getting my now useless HDD back with me. I guess professional services could still save the data, but I can’t afford their upwards of 500-1000$ fee.

While the disk was with that guy, I spent two full days doing absolutely nothing. Playing video games, skipping meals, watching videos and generally being depressed while waiting for news from him. That feels like shit. These were the days that I was to spend immersed in my indie game work, while doing art on the side.

So this is the point where I accept reality, and start creating again from scratch. Now that I’ve written all this down, it’s time to forget the past and work for the future. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise – that the script was getting bloated and was full of crappy stuff, and now I have a chance to forget that and create something brilliant! Or maybe not. Regardless, I don’t have a choice. It’s time to get back to work. And to backup that work.

Anyone have any similar hard disk heart break stories?

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