Sunday, May 10, 2009

Disaster Avoided -- A Corrupted Microsoft Access Database File

I had a near miss today, almost losing my main address list, which I keep in Microsoft Access. I haven't used it in quite a while, as I have another list of recent address changes, but it's still my most comprehensive list of mailing addresses. When I tried to open it today, I got a message that it was in an "inconsistent state" and Access would try to repair it. Next, an error message that it "can't be repaired" or "isn't a Microsoft Office Access Database File."

I tried using my backup copies, but they had the same problem. It has been very long--4 years!--since I've put backups onto CDs or DVDs, simply because it takes so many of them, and have been relying mainly on one or two levels of medium term backups on an external hard drive.

Of course, this is far better than nothing, but the risk is just what I encountered today: having a file lost or corrupted and not knowing about it until the last "good" backup is gone. The same can happen with a virus. If you are keeping system backups but a virus has silently infected your machine, it could happen that all your backups are infected by the time you discover the problem.

I tried the solutions I found on the Microsoft site and by Googling, but they didn't work. The main thing I learned was that when your Access database is corrupted, there is a good chance that it's not something you can repair on your own. There are professionals who will do it, and some commercial programs. I tried one program, Advanced Access Repair, which quickly showed me that my data was recoverable. I was all ready to pay the $29.99 price of the program to actually recover the data, then noticed that the price is really $299.99. Oops.

Happily for me, the next program I tried was MDB Repair Tool, by Skysof, and it promptly repaired the database without my having to answer any questions or try different options. It just worked. To my surprise, this "trial" version actually recovered all the data for me for free, and I still have 58 more uses before I have to register. What a deal!

Lessons learned:

  • If you can't or don't want to save full backups to long-term media (DVD, CD, tape, or online), then you should at least save your most important data that way once in a while. This method is risky because you might miss data you should have backed up, but at least you will have most of what you need. (Be sure to include your email in your backup; it may not be included if you're not careful).
  • My address list doesn't need to be kept only in an Access database. I could periodically backup the actual address information so a simple text file. Then, if I lost the Access file, at least I would have the essential data.
  • Hopefully I won't ever have to repair another Access database, but if I do, MDB Repair Tool will be the first thing I try.

1 comment:

  1. You can use Repair MDB for solving out this issue. It has clear and easy to use interface for any experienced user. The tool works under all major versions of Windows OS, uses high end methods of recovering access data.