In the last few posts we’ve looked at ways to try to correct database errors caused by corrupted data in both ChessBase 11 and Fritz 12. None of these corrective measures are guaranteed to be effective in 100% of cases, though; sometimes a database is so badly damaged that it just can’t be fixed.
Consequently the most effective measure in combating data corruption and damage is to be proactive rather than reactive: you should make regular backups of your databases before you encounter problems with them.
We’ve already discussed the procedure for backing up your databases. In this post we’ll offer some additional tips regarding database backups.
If you’re just using “stock” databases straight from a ChessBase DVD (such as Mega Database or the ChessBase Opening Encyclopedia) and you never modify them or add any information to them (such as additional games or your own annotations), you really don’t need to back them up – you already have an existing backup in the form of the original product DVD. But if you’re in the habit of making changes to the database, such as adding book annotations or your own notes, or perhaps adding games from other sources – in short, any database changes which would be difficult or impossible to replace in case of a mishap – you really should be in the habit of making backups.
How often should you back up your databases? That depends entirely on how often you make changes to the database. If you add notes once in a blue moon, you won’t need to make backups very often (really just whenever you add new material to the database). If you make weekly changes to the database, you should get into the habit of making weekly backups. If you’re making changes every day (for example, if you’re an author writing an electronic book or even a paper book and using ChessBase to organize your work and aid in the writing process), you should absolutely make a backup every single day.
While it’s feasible to store your backups on your computer’s hard disk, I strongly recommend also creating a separate backup on an external device (in case of a hard drive crash). The form of that external storage will be dictated by the size(s) of the database(s) to be archived. If you’re working on a chess book (in which case the archived .cbv file will be relatively small), you can easily use an inexpensive USB flash drive; you can purchase a 4 GB drive for about $10-$12 (when last I checked). However if you’re working with really huge databases of millions of games, you’ll want to use an external hard drive. These, too, are fairly inexpensive – a half-terabyte (approx. 500 GB) external hard drive with a USB connection can be purchased for under $100.
Assuming you need to make regular backups of a database you alter regularly, I’ll recommend a procedure based on the one I use as an e-book author.
First, create a folder on the external device in which to house your archived (.cbv format) databases. Name it something you can remember or give it a name which makes it easily identifiable (such as “Archives” or “CBV Archives”).
The first time you archive a particular database, make a sub-folder (within your main archive folder) with a name reflecting that of the database you’re going to archive; for example, if I was writing a chess book on the Pirc Austrian Attack I would likely name this folder “Austrian Attack Book”.
Now create a new sub-folder with that last folder, with the new folder’s name based on the date you made the backup. Following this example, I would end up with a folder called “Archives”. Within it would be another folder called “Austrian Attack Book”, and within that folder would be another folder called “2011_0315”. (Assuming my computer assigns the external flash drive or hard drive the letter H:, the path to this folder would be H:\Archives\Austrian Attack Book\2011_0315)
Next I would follow the procedure for archiving my database; when I get to the step in which I would choose a folder in which to create the archive, I’d select the folder H:\Archives\Austrian Attack Book\2011_0315.
Then I would immediately do an integrity check on my Austrian Attack database. If the database passes the integrity check with no errors, I’ll know that my March 15th backup is good.
Let’s assume now that I sit down on Wednesday and add a few annotations to games to my Austrian Attack database. Here’s the procedure I’d follow for making a new backup:
- I’d begin by making a new folder with that day’s date: H:\Archives\Austrian Attack Book\2011_0316.
- Next I would archive the Austrian Attack database, making sure that I create the .cbv file in the folder I created in Step 1.
- I’d follow this step by performing an integrity check on my Austrian Attack database. If it passes that integrity check, I know that my March 16th backup is good. If it fails an integrity check, I would first look at the affected games to assess the damage and see if I can salvage the work I did today. If I can’t salvage the database, I can always use the March 15th backup to replace my database; while it’s true that the work I did on March 16th is gone, at least the database itself isn’t a complete loss.
That’s the procedure I follow as a chess writer when I’m working on a chess book. At the end of each day’s work I make a backup .cbv file of the database, then I check the database’s integrity to make sure it’s not damaged (that way I can verify the integrity of the most recent archive file, as well as try to catch any problems with the database). And, if there is a problem, I can use the most recent previous backup (which I know is good) to replace the database. In this manner I can assure that I lose only a day’s work, instead of the labor of weeks or months, in the event of a database problem.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), but please remember to include the USCF Sales order number from your ChessBase software purchase. – Steve
Copyright 2011, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.