Yes, I got her files back. And don't call me Shirley.

There's more than meets the eye in today's Surviving a home data disaster: How Shirley got her files back. The story follows my foibles as I attempted to recover more than 700 accidentally deleted digital photographs on a Windows PC and offers a behind the scenes peek at how a professional finally recovered most of them.

What I didn't mention, however, is that Shirley is my mother in law. So I guess you could say that I was feeling the pressure. Telling Shirley that she had lost three years of photographs was simply not an option. Fortunately, I got lucky. And I had help. If you ever get into a situation like this, don't be afraid to ask for it. If, like me, you only think you know what you're doing you can end up making matters worse.

Shirley did not have backups to fall back on when disaster struck. The fact that she didn’t wasn’t a conscious decision as much as her simply not knowing what needed to be done. That ignorance, combined with inattention by those who set up the computer in the first place (mea culpa), lead to disaster.

The digital divide doesn’t just separate those who have access to computers and the Internet from the have nots. It also separates the people who have a good understanding of the esoterica of how a computer works and those that don’t know the difference between a document loaded into memory and one stored on the hard disk. The fact that cameras, music players and other appliances are merging into personal computers only raises the stakes.

So read this story and weep. Then go make sure you have validated backups for your home computer - and your in-laws’ as well.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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