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WinXP Pro 64-bit crash badly hosed my folders

Last post 03-24-2009, 21:21 by tjunker. 3 replies.
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  •  03-23-2009, 7:30

    • tjunker is not online. Last active: 04-20-2009, 2:51 tjunker
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    WinXP Pro 64-bit crash badly hosed my folders

    I have been using Pmail since before 1997 and have maintained a continuous email history in Pmail since 1997, with several hundred thousand messages in my system.  During the years my PC has lost power and otherwise crashed many, many times.  Never did I experience any serious loss of email history or corruption.  I have had a number of smaller issues with Pmail but nothing that endangered the body of email that constitutes the history of my business and serves as a de facto database of all the technical and business issues with which I have dealt in the last 12 years.  Until this point I have been pleased that Pmail has been able to handle so many messages and has served as a solid tool around which my entire business revolves.  With no confidence that any other email client can do this, I have been reluctant to change to any other client.  Until now.

    Some months ago I upgraded from WinXP Pro 32-bit to WinXP Pro 64-bit. Overall I have found the 64-bit WinXP Pro to be better and cleaner than the 32-bit, and it handles the larger memory that was the driving reason for moving to a 64-bit OS.  My Pmail lives in C:\PMAIL and I have installed new versions of Pmail over the old ones, never with any serious problems.

    A few weeks ago my PC suffered a BSoD (Blue Screen of Death), the first such I have seen since moving up to the 64-bit OS.  I had experienced a number of those while using the 32-bit OS, but never with any serious consequences for Pmail.

    After the crash it seemed like Pmail lost its basic configuration information.  I had to enter all the Internet settings, most of what is in Options, all over again.

    The real problem, though, is that my folders and trays got badly scrambled.  Trays disappeared, seemingly at random, and some folders that had been in trays popped up to the root mailbox level while others remained in their trays.  Many messages seem to have disappeared entirely while others have not.  Some folders that had contained a number of individual correspondents now contain only one.  Many others are no longer present.

    Most troubling is that a series of geographic trays containing all the new business I have done since 2004 have disappeared.  Some of the folders that were in those trays have popped up to the root mailbox level but others are nowhere to be found in Pmail.  I searched for one correspondent recently and the search folder found messages but could not be opened.  I have examined the HIERARCH.PM file and found no obvious problems other than things simply missing.  For example, the tray and folder hierarchy containing all the new business does not seem to be present in that file.

    I have a backup of my PMAIL directory, some months old.  If I simply restore to that point I will have lost all correspondence since that time, and I cannot figure out how to find and save the messages that seem to have disappeared.

    I have the impression that this problem resulted from some difference in the way 64-bit WinXP Pro handles recovery of its file system from unexpected shutdown.  Nothing like this ever happened in many, many power failures and OS crashes using 32-bit WInXP Pro.  Still, it is difficult to imagine how any OS recovery could have resulted in the very complex and weird scrambling of my Pmail data.

    Is there any way to rebuild the hierarchy in any meaningful way?  I cannot afford to use an email system that can suffer such a catastrophic failure as seems to have happened.  If I have to lose months of recent correspondence and find no way of finding/rebuilding the scrambled tray and folder hierarchy I will have to reluctantly move to a different email client.

    I am currently using Pegasus Mail Version 4.31 (Win32) Dec 14 2005.  I have no other apps working with Pmail -- no optional helpers or add-ons.

    David Harris once told me that he had over a million messages in his Pegasus Mail.  If so, his exposure to the type of problem I am having would be 5-10 times greater than mine, and his difficulty of taking manual actions to unscramble it would be similarly greater.

  •  03-24-2009, 1:21

    Re: WinXP Pro 64-bit crash badly hosed my folders

    I would say to take a backup of the current C:\PMAIL folder, then copy the HIERARCH.PM & PMAIL.INI from your previous backup.

    This should restore the folder structure & options to the state at the time of the backup.

    Any new folders added since then should show up in the root level of the mailbox.

    As for the messages missing from particular folders, try re-indexing the affected folders.

    If this does not work, try opening the folder's .PMM file in a text editor and see if the lost mails are present.

    FWIW any other mail client would also be catastrophically affected by having it's data files corrupted (esp. Outlook .pst files in which case you loose all you contacts & appointments as well!). At least with Pegasus, the data is stored as plain text in the PMM files and if all else fails, is able to be extracted with standard text parsing tools.

    If the PMM files are truncated or corrupted then I suspect the NTFS 'Chkdsk' utility has "fixed" them for you and you are probably out of luck.

    Without wanting to sound harsh, backing up your mission critical data a bit more frequently may be in order. Regardless of the mail client or OS or hardware you use, failures happen, hard drives die, and can take your data with them in an irreversible fashion. A recent backup on separate media is the only solution to something like that.

    EDIT: This page http://www.vandenbogaerde.net/han_lkfr.htm may be useful in identifying the functions of the various files in your PMAIL folder.

  •  03-24-2009, 2:00

    Re: WinXP Pro 64-bit crash badly hosed my folders

    you can also try to recover your files as if your hard disk had crashed.

     

    I use NTFS datarecevovery software.

  •  03-24-2009, 21:21

    • tjunker is not online. Last active: 04-20-2009, 2:51 tjunker
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    Re: WinXP Pro 64-bit crash badly hosed my folders

    > I would say to take a backup of the current C:\PMAIL folder, then copy the HIERARCH.PM & PMAIL.INI from your previous backup.

    > This should restore the folder structure & options to the state at the time of the backup.

    > Any new folders added since then should show up in the root level of the mailbox.

     

    There we go.  That's the solution I was looking for.

     > Without wanting to sound harsh, backing up your mission critical data a bit more frequently may be in order.

    Yeah, yeah, we all know that. I've been developing software and operating production sites for more than 45 years.  It's just a repetitive phenomenon that I'm often shocked at how much time has slipped by since I intended to do something important.  It's easier at commercial production sites where operator procedures can be set up and run like clockwork.  Here in my home office it's the shoemaker's son thing.

    Thank you.

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