A disaster (almost)…

Like a lot of people converting to Mac from windows, I use Quicken. The Mac version has typically been behind on the featureset, and knowing that I just never bothered to look further into it. If the featureset was better and the conversion could be done without loss of data I would do it. Maybe later. However, since there are a couple of windows programs I use because of reasons like this, I use Virtual PC v6.1 (VPC) to run xp on my Mac. For the couple of programs I use it works just fine, even though it is a little slower, because I need only one machine to handle ALL of my computer tasks both work and personal.

Since I work in IT for a living, I understand the need for backups. I have set up elaborate backup systems for my company’s server farm, and I also back up my Mac weekly to a external Firewire hard drive. I do this backup on Sunday mornings (usually) so my backup is never more than a week behind. I had installed an update from Apple on Friday, and everything was fine the remainder of Friday and the couple of times I checked email and recorded some bills in Quicken on Saturday.

Sunday morning, however, things weren’t so good. The Mac didn’t wake up from sleep, so I powered it off (definitely not my first choice but in this case I didn’t see any other options). It came back up fine, but when I started VPC and selected the machine I wanted to start I got this error message:

“one of the virtual drive images could not be opened”

and Googling basically told me the machine was corrupted and that I should reinstall a new machine. Crap. I had a week’s worth of financial transactions to reconstruct and lot of them were expenditures from pocket cash that I would not remember. Resigning myself to the inevitable, I decided to avoid the pain and go work on a motorcycle. It’s not just a river in Egypt, after all.

On my Mac, the VPC machines are stored in the “Documents/Virtual PC List” directory. There were two machines there, and I renamed the corrupted one so that I could restore it from my previous week’s backup. I restored it, started it, and opened Quicken and all was there – up to a week ago, but obviously nothing from the past week. I tried shutting down the working machine, copying files from the corrupted machine into the working machine and trying it again. After all, I could restore this machine from the backup at any time so it seemed reasonable to try and recover the corrupted machine. If you open Terminal and change into Documents/Virtual PC List and then change into the corrupted machine’s directory, you will see several files and directories but the one we care about has the “vhdp” extension. Change into this directory and you will see two files – the one we care about is named (in my case, anyway) “BaseDrive.vhd”. I copied this very large file into the working machine’s directory structure, started VPC, and selected the working machine. IT CAME UP! I logged in and started Quicken. All the past week’s data was there except for the bills I recorded on Saturday. Well, even my feeble memory could figure those out, so I was back in business. Just one day’s bills to re-enter, not an entire week’s worth of data.

To double check everything before I backed up the Mac, I shut VPC down and restarted it. All was fine. I rebooted the Mac and started VPC again. All was fine. So I ran my backup and then deleted the corrupted machine from the Documents/Virtual PC List directory.

Whew! That was close, but having good backups and a little investigating saved a huge amount of time and effort.

BACK UP YOUR FILES! It’s a matter of when, not if you will need them.

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