Why Carbonite couldn’t come to my rescue after a hard drive crash

I’ve preached it over and over on my blog and to my clients. It’s not a matter of if your hard drive will fail, it’s a matter of when. Well, guess what? Last week those words ran over me like a steam roller.

hard drive crash

It all started when I got back into town after a recent trip to Minnesota. My HP diagnostic software that periodically runs checks on all of my system components popped up on my computer screen with a reported failure. Something about the hard drive failing a “short test”.

I didn’t like the sound of this at all but, at the same time, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do to fix the problem. So I acknowledged the reported problem and went about my business. Besides, in the back of my head I knew I ran Carbonite on my computer meaning all my files were safely backed up to the Internet.

Or so I thought.

A short 3 days later, it happened. My computer froze up right in the middle of using it. No big deal, I thought. I’ll just reboot. But after watching the Windows logo for 10 minutes and realizing I couldn’t hear the familiar crackling noise of my hard drive, I knew I was in big trouble.

Sure enough, my hard drive had crashed. And crashed badly.

First response

My first response was to call Geek in Pink, a local computer repair shop. They told me to run the computer over to them, which I did. A day later they confirmed the death of my hard drive.

So I had them install a brand new hard drive and started preparations to re-install my software and restore my documents from my Carbonite backup.


Only one problem. All of my documents weren’t backed up with Carbonite.

My fault, not Carbonite’s fault

Now before any of you think this is another bashing session on a technology company, it’s not. In fact, I take complete responsibility for the missing data in my backup.

It really boils down to how Carbonite works. Carbonite is designed to back up your documents and digital photos. It is not designed to back up your videos (in fact by default, it won’t). This doesn’t mean it can’t back up your videos. Heck, Carbonite will back up any file you tell it to!

That’s the problem. One day, many moons ago, I decided I wanted my entire personal video collection backed up to Carbonite. I’m talking about 20-30 GB of data.

Up isn’t nearly as fast as down

Well, guess what? The way Comcast meters my Internet connection for faster downloads, uploading 20-30 GB of video is not a simple task. And when your computer can only upload the video when you are not actively using it, it means it’s going to take a long time to complete the task.

And that’s where I went wrong. While all my videos were queued up for uploading to Carbonite’s backup servers, my onesie twosie Word, Excel and other documents were stuck behind them.

So when the rubber met the road and I needed my onesie twosie documents from my Carbonite backup, they weren’t there.

Lessons learned

The immediate lesson I learned from this is to not let Carbonite back up your videos. Although I have to admit, I’m a bit torn by this. I mean I did pay for unlimited storage with Carbonite. Why shouldn’t that include my family video collection?

In a perfect world, Carbonite would automatically include my videos but set them as a low priority. In other words, my onesie twosie documents would also get backed up first. And only when those are complete, would it revert to backing up my videos.

But for now, I’ll back up my videos by hand and let Carbonite do the rest.

I still managed to get all of my data back

If you’ve made it this far, you might now be wondering if I ever ended up getting my data back. The answer is yes. 100% in fact.

How did I do it? Well, that’s a topic for a follow-up blog post next week.