Apple Watch And Acronis True Image Winners Announced!

At the beginning of the month, we invited you to share your top data loss horror stories in a bid to win an Apple Watch Sport and Acronis' True Image backup software. After poring through scores of grim anecdotes, we've now chosen the winner! Nine runners-up also scored a copy of Acronis True Image. Read on to see if you won!

When we asked you to share your data horror stories, we didn't expect it to be quite this depressing. Irrevocably lost family photos, thousands of dollars in destroyed equipment, months of borked research data: you guys have been hit hard.

Many of you had similar tales of woe, so we tended to go with the most detailed and entertainingly written submission. Without further ado, here is our First Prize winner!

troysimp: I was part of a team of 6 people responsible for writing an 800,000-word encyclopedia. My expertise is in researching, writing, and editing — NOT in information technology or computers.   Anyway, the team pooled our work on to a "shared drive". I guess I never fully appreciated the concept of *shared* drive.   One day, I uploaded all my own work to the shared drive. Months of work. But, in doing so, I accidentally deleted everyone else's work that was saved on the shared drive. That work included the writings of 3 professors and 2 other researchers.   As I saw the contents of the shared drive being replaced with only my own files and folders, I did wonder for a minute if I was doing the right thing; but I secured myself in thinking, "Well, the IT team will have a backup anyway". So, I proceeded.   The outcome? I had overwritten (ie effectively deleted and lost forever) months of hard work from all my colleagues.   Due to some exquisite accidental timing, the only files that were backed-up were my own. Every other team member's work had been lost. Permanently.   I wasn't very popular from that moment on.

And here are our nine Runners-Up, each of whom will be receiving a copy of Acronis' True Image backup software:

riskgambits: I previously worked as a assistant network administrator for an accountant business, from time to time the IT Manager would get work experience kids in and dump them on me. I usually get them to do busy work, clean out the server room, audit computers, etc.   One of the jobs I usually get them to do is image new windows machines for deployment. I would run them through the process of prepping a machine, running through a check list of the software need to be install, how to create images for the different departments and then mass deploy machines using a previously build company image. The company was small and didn't invest in a proper deployment software, so we were using a simple backup and restore process to deploy the machines from an external HDD.   Anyway, I showed the work experience kid how to image the machine, I supervised the second one and left him to do the rest, being near by if he needed me. After I left he came to grab me saying it wasn't working anymore. He managed to deploy the image onto the external HDD, erasing all the current copies of the companies images. I spent the next few days re-creating new images for every department.

schwolop: I run a small business that uses a cluster of twelve Raspberry PIs to drive all the hardware within an interactive entertainment venue. I have a series of scripts that let them pull down the latest software builds, switch to a development version, and the like. I then use a utility called "distributed shell" to broadcast commands to the entire cluster that prompt them to all simultaneously run one of these scripts.   This set has a lot of upsides, but there's a pretty clear risk here so I always test things out first on a machine that's outside this cluster. Sometimes these scripts need to run in user-space, and sometimes they run at boot as a root user to change machine-wide configuration variables and the like. To help with this, I had one script that would repair file permissions and ownership on any files checked out of a repository by the wrong user. I'd made a few changes to the scripts that pulled down files to allow them to switch between versions more easily, and I'd checked the changes on my testing machine and it all worked.   Confident in the changes, I put the new script onto each machine in the cluster, then broadcast the new command to them all. Unfortunately I'd neglected one vital thing: to first set an environment variable holding the existing version in use. My fancy new script quite happily changed directory to "${EXISTING_VERSION_DIR}/" and proceeded to "sudo chown -R user:user *" to ensure the file ownership was correct. The Linux sysadmins in the root will already be grimacing, but for the benefit of everyone else: when you add a "/" to the end of a non-existent environment variable, you just get plain old "/". And in Linux, that's the root directory of the entire hard drive.   Not only had I managed to change the ownership of every single file on the entire computer to a user that wasn't logged in, (and now couldn't because the commands to login and change user weren't accessible to it), I'd also managed to ensure every single machine in my entire cluster had just executed the same fatal mistake. And then of course, like any good engineer I wanted to know how I'd made such a mistake, so I retraced my steps carefully, and wiped out my testing machine too...   The only silver linings to this horrible tale are that I *did* have a recent image saved, so restoring all thirteen machines was at least possible. I've also learnt my lesson and there are now a lot more checks and balances to prevent anyone doing this again!

djorkboy: It was my first month working in IT. I had to reinstall Windows for one of the girls in the finance dept. I backed up all the data, being super careful to check for archaic financial software that loads onto the root of the C drive. Had the user check as well. After the install I went back to my desk and almost immediately the phone rang.   "How do I get back into my DOS partition?" I answered this question with a question of my own, "What DOS partition?"   Turns out the finance dept had some really old custom DOS software they used and the only copy happened to be on a dedicated partition on that computer. I had never even considered checking for something like that. I went back and tried to restore the data but it had been cleanly overwritten by the new Windows install. As I walked away from the cubicle after telling her the data was unrecoverable I heard the girl start to cry.   She was demoted, nearly fired and left a few months later. Part of her written job description was to back up the DOS software daily and store a copy in the safe. She hadn't done so for more than a year.   I was never reprimanded, criticised or even questioned about it and I still feel bad today, almost 15 years later.


It was 1991, I had no idea about computers but looked like the kind of person who did.   My first date with this girl was going well, so well we went back to her place. She wanted to show me an assignment she had just completed. Her first assignment, first year of her law degree. She was very proud of her work. It was due the next day.   I read the assignment while she went upstairs to "slip into something more comfortable". She asked me to shut down the computer when I was done reading.   I knew nothing about Winchester hard drives or about "parking" the hard drive to move the heads away from the surface before powering down to stop them colliding with the disk platter and destroying data.   About 10 minutes later when my date came downstairs and tried to fire up the computer to show me a draft of her next assignment I learned about parking hard drives.   The date progressed no further. She never spoke to me again.

hakt0r: My horror story is that of a saga with Segate's notorious 3TB drives (desktop backup SotragePlus drives). Last year when I lost 9TB of my precious data comprising of:   1. my wedding pics, pics from my first born, starting from year 2000 onwards 2. I started a new business and all my client'd data and many of my client's server VM's or VM images, vital to their business and mine. 3. my iTunes purchases and all my music, home movies and DVD (ripped and purchased over iTunes). 4. emails and documents, especially financial information.   The most stressful time of my life. The best part of that story is that I was running redundant backups and the 5TB drive used for Time Machine backup also failed (Seagate once again).   All the drives featured a death-click-click sound when the drives were plugged into the computers. I went and purchased some expensive software to salvage information and I was able to recover some but I am missing about 4 years of our life's worth of pictures (and a lost wedding) and home movies.   All my client and business information was lost never to be recovered. It took me 2 months to get back online, slowly installing and recovering information, piecing it by calling up clients and begging for extensions or redoing their lost work at my cost.   Seagate offered a peace offering and replaced all my drives for free and their support was excellent, but too little too late.   I still run backups, Time machine and manual (using scripts) to different drives (from different manufacturers) but its all manual and I cant seem to find a software that works and obviously Acronis is something I looked at but its expensive, especially when I am the business.   I still have nightmares and I think I have managed to get a handle on the backup scene but I wish it was easier. :-(

rickadlee: I worked at a small family business who developed Point of Sale software and was a technician.   My boss came over to me with his personal computer from home and asked me to plug in one of his other hard drives into it and set it all up. He was standing over my shoulder as I was doing it and I rested the hard drive on the metal chassis, right side up. It must have awkwardly landed on the metal chassis as part of the PCB touched and shorted, there was a quite loud "POP". Anyway the hard drive was not reading and I must have fried the PCB.   My boss, who I could tell was seething (while trying not to show it) mentioned the majority of his sons Uni assignments were on the drive. He spent close to $1000 trying various recovery specialists to get the data back, I'm not sure he ever got the data back.   I felt horrible but he didn't lay the blame all on me as he believed he was partly at fault for not backing it up. This was a big lesson for me, to not place hard drives or any electronic equipment in unsafe places (should've placed on an anti-static bag or something) and to always back up important data (or use cloud storage).

ramrunner: Look, admittedly this was a very long time ago (a decade or so now!), but this is only because I've learned my lesson and spent (at the time) big money on a RAID 5 Thecus NAS that is backed up to an ESATA attached external drive EVERY NIGHT and reports checked daily for successful backup.   I'd managed to ignore my business partner and keep our main MYOB Premier file (among my personal photos etc, documents etc), on my unprotected single hard disk desktop. One day when firing up the computer, all I got was the lovely click of death which is what my face would have looked like at the time. The business had been running 9 years. ALL...DIGITAL...ACCOUNTING...GONE.   I spent almost 6 months working an extra hour or two unpaid every day re-constructing the data for at least the last 5-7 years and hoping in the mean time our tax returns were done correctly as there was no hope the ATO or anyone else who needed our financials could ever get anything out of us accurately around that time. I worried for 7 years, because I had no confidence the accounts were 100% accurate if ever audited, and that's how long we were supposed to keep records. It would have cost us tens of thousands of dollars all because I was a cocky idiot.   Never again.

egirl76: To this day, I have idea how I managed it, but in trying to transfer data from my smartphone's original Micro SD card to a new one with more storage space, I lost text messages from two close friends who had (then) recently passed away. I tried everything I could to get the texts back, to no avail.   I now have back-ups for apps such as Handcent SMS, but unfortunately, in this case, it was too little, too late. I've lost a lot of data over the years (floppy disc, HDDs, etc) and was gutted, but this was intensely personal and devastating. :'(

proflucas: 10 years ago, when my wife and I first got married, we moved to the UK and then went on a honeymoon to Venice and Rome. When we got back to the UK, we transferred all our photos to my old clunky iMac and being tech novices at the time, we didn't even think we needed to back them up. As if fate had seen an opportunity, the very next day I switched on the computer and got a grey screen with a question mark flashing. We eventually got it working again but the photos were gone.   The saddest part was my picture of Shaquille O'neal touring the Vatican was gone! One in a million moment!

jimiw: In 2004 my Grandfather died, and Dad was putting together the order of service sheets for his funeral. He was pretty much finished, and asked me to look over some of it before he left to take the file to the printers. For reasons I don't remember, I helped him organise and move some files around. At the time, I had a terrible habit of getting annoyed at files sitting in the Recycle Bin, so I would usually do a shift-delete to bypass it. I grabbed a bunch of files and did a shift-delete.   I could feel a change in the air as soon as I did it. He knew, and I knew, exactly what was in the mix of those files. That critical document was gone, and he had minutes to get out the door to make it to the printers in time. I threw a few random clicks around the screen, knowing exactly what I'd done, and that there was pretty much nothing I could do to recover it. In the hour-long 30 seconds that followed, I wondered what living on the street might be like. After some very choice words, Dad picked up an early draft off the printer that he had used mocked up to check his layouts. It took him a long time to get that far, he told me, and there would be no choice but for them to make copies of the incomplete inkjet-sourced booklet.   It took a while to convince him I could type it back out quickly enough to save the situation. If I ever needed proof him bringing home a computer from work when I was only 4 years old was a good idea, this was it.   I honestly think pretty much the only thing that saved me from joining Pop in the crematorium were those quick typing skills, and that lucky early draft.


Congratulations to the winners and thanks to everyone who entered. Hopefully you've all learned a valuable lesson in the importance of scheduled backups!


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