Last Friday, in a fit of temper (and stupidity,) I damaged my computer's hard drive.
I don't even recall the specifics. I was angry about something. Being interrupted, perhaps. In response, I slammed down the lid of my laptop. It wasn't obscenely hard, not hard enough to shatter the screen, but there was clearly enough power behind it to kill my hard drive -- the hard drive where I keep all my writing files.
At first I wasn't panicking. In theory, I have everything backed up not once, but twice. Automatically. Every day.
I discovered the first gap between theory and reality when I checked my Dropbox account. When I set the account up about a year ago (as my second level of protection) I thought I'd configured it to automatically update every time there was a change in my "writing" folder or any of it's sub-folders. Apparently, I set up my photos to do this, but not the much more valuable writing materials.
Okay, no problem. I still had another backup, a 1 Terabyte Western Digital drive that backs up every computer in the house, and it was working. I knew this because I was seeing daily pop-up messages about how many files had been backed up and how many were still pending.
Operating the WD drive is a bit arcane, the reason I didn't go here first. I had to reinstall the software on an seldom used computer and then try to recall login information. When I finally went this direction, the drive stubbornly refused to respond to any commands. I scheduled a support call with WD, and the tech remotely operated the computer, while attempting (for two long hours) to get the drive to communicate.
His final conclusion -- a bad controller.
Soon afterward, I spotted a pop-up WD message on this computer (my old laptop) and noticed that there were literally thousands of files pending backup. I'd always ignored this info in the past, assuming it was simply "doing its thing." Clearly, the drive hadn't been working for some time.
Now panicking, I searched for old copies of the directory on memory sticks and other computers. I found one from June of 2013, which turned out to be the most recent record. This folder included completed versions of my first four books and partially completed versions of two more.
One more recently written novel had been emailed to my proofreader within the last couple of months, and I was able to retrieve it from my outbox. By working with CreateSpace, Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords, I was able to recover published (but unformatted) versions of several more works.
That left me with three big, gaping holes.
Right sized -- an 80,000 word novel I'd completed in January (first draft). I'd never sent it to CreateSpace to print a paper copy, so there was nothing there to recover. I have no copy of this work -- it appears to be a complete loss!
Change Agent -- the first 25,000 words, a project I was currently working. Even if the backup systems had worked, I still might have lost a portion of this.
Anergy -- the design of this novel was completed, which represents a week or so of work. While not catastrophic, it still a substantial loss of creative effort.
All hope is not lost. I've sent the damaged hard drive off to attempt data recovery. This is expensive ($300 - $1500) and far from a sure thing. And it takes time -- a month, minimum. If I can recover the hundreds of hours of work I put into the three projects above (not to mention the formatting on all the other books), I'll consider the expense to be well be worth it.
Keeping my fingers crossed.