Fixing ChessBase and Fritz database errors – Part Three

We’ve considered some fairly minor mishaps involving ChessBase & Fritz databases in the past couple of blog posts. Today we’re going to look at the type of database error which no chess database user ever wants to see: the major catastrophe caused by a seriously damaged database file.

If a database suffers that kind of major disaster, you’ll know it. You’ll see blocks of “Data error” entries interspersed throughout the database’s game list instead of normal game header information (such as the player and tournament names); in severe cases you’ll see every entry in the entire database appear as “Data error”. You’ll try to perform searches or other large database operations and get error messages. Believe me, in most cases you’ll know it when you have a major database problem.

The good news is that ChessBase 11 can attempt a repair operation on a damaged or corrupted database. The software can at least attempt to fix the errors it finds. This is never a guaranteed fix; some databases are just so badly damaged that they can’t be repaired at all. Speaking from my own experience, it’s seldom possible for ChessBase 11 to recover 100% of a damaged database but it does a good job of salvaging the majority of damaged games in a corrupted database.

This is not an automatic operation; you’ll have to start the process manually. Launch ChessBase 11 and right-click on the damaged database’s icon to get a pop-up menu. Go to “Tools” and then select “Check integrity” from the sub-menu which opens off to the side:

The “check integrity” command causes the ChessBase 11 software to examine the database and identify any problems with damaged data. Before the process starts, you’ll be asked to confirm that you want the software to try to fix any errors it encounters:

After you click “Yes”, you will see the following prompt:

…and that is why we looked at the procedure for backing up your databases several posts ago. ChessBase 11 is potentially going to make major changes to your database; afterward, if you don’t like the changes, you can always restore your database from the backup.

“But the database is damaged anyway!” I hear you saying, and that’s true for this example. However, you can run “Check integrity” on any database at any time just to check for errors (to ease your mind if nothing else), and this is why the software asks you if you’ve made a backup of the database.

I’ve said this before and I’ll doubtless say it again: it’s always a good idea to make regular and frequent backups of your databases (for a whole lot of reasons, as we’re discovering over the course of these several blog posts).

Click the “Yes” button in the dialogue illustrated above and ChessBase 11 will begin the process of checking for data errors and correcting those that it can fix.

You’ll see a status bar showing you the progress of the repair process:

When the process is complete, you’ll see a dialogue which displays the results:

As you can see, I was lucky; the database wasn’t corrupted at all. Had there been errors, though, this dialogue would have displayed a scrolling list of the games which would indicate the extent of the damage and the total number of errors which were found:

That total number of errors will help you determine whether you want to keep the corrected database, scrap it, or replace it with a (hopefully) undamaged backup copy (assuming you’ve previously made one). The example above comes from an integrity check which was made on a database of 134,384 games. With that proportionately small number of sixty-three errors, I’d easily deem the database worth saving “as is”. However, if the original database had been a very small one of a hundred games or so, I’d just write it off as a loss and scrap it if I were to check the database’s game count to discover that most of those sixty-three games had been irreparably damaged and deleted. (In the case of this database I checked the game list and saw that the game count remained 134,384 games, so ChessBase 11 was able to salvage all sixty-three games in some form.)

Since the integrity check feature was first introduced to ChessBase software several versions ago it has steadily improved. Early versions really didn’t do much more than rip out the damaged games. The present version does a far better job of salvaging the damaged material. It may not be able to save every bit of information from a damaged game (some annotations may be lost, for example) but at least the game itself is preserved.

But the best defense against damaged data is to use the tools provided in ChessBase 11 to reduce the effects of the damage before the damage even occurs. We’ll look at a methodology for using these tools in our next blog post. Until then…

Have fun! – Steve Lopez

Chessplayers who have purchased their ChessBase brand software from USCFSales can receive free technical support and advice on their purchases straight from me; just shoot me an e-mail (steve@uscfsales.com), but please remember to include the USCFSales order number from your ChessBase software purchase. – Steve

Copyright 2011, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Chess software, ChessBase, Database software

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