Nov
21
2008

HowTo Recover Lost Website Content

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Ever loose all your site content? If you’ve maintained a website for any number of years you know that “things happen”. Servers crash, hard drives go bad, and security holes are exploited. Before you realize it, your once simple startup might have overlook backups in its growth and all your hard work is lost. More importantly, all your unique content is lost that you’ve put hours into. It doesn’t have to be that way if you act fast however!

Search Engine Cached Data

The top search engines cache the text on each page of your site so that they can search on it from queries. They also provide this to be viewed by anyone VIA a “cache” link. Google, Yahoo, and MSN have these features. If you act quickly you may be able to obtain all your site data by using the queries below. Make sure you substitute my site with your domain.

Google

Syntax: keywords site:robmalon.com
Example: Search For WordPress on RobMalon.Com

MSN

Syntax: search term (site:robmalon.com)
Example: Search For WordPress on RobMalon.Com

Yahoo

Syntax: keyword (Then use “Preferences” to add a site restriction on searches”)

Revision Systems Recover Accidental Mishaps.

  • Search Engine Cache (again) – The process mentioned above can also be useful if you accidently reverted content to an old version and somehow lost a large chunk of content on a page in the process. Simply enter the current URL into google and click on the “cache” link it provides you for that link.
  • WordPress Revisions – WordPress also has a revision system complete with auto save. Check out the Revision Control plugin which gives you some extra control over it.
  • Drupal Revisions - Another great CMS, Drupal, also has a built in revision system. Just make sure you’re using it. It doesn’t auto save by itself. You have to consciously put a tick mark in the revision box when saving a page.

Archives

Archive.Org is another resource you could try using. The only problem with this one is it typically wont index as much content. In fact, you’ll only see the front page of your site in most cases, but you will be able to see how its changed over time. Useful in rare cases, but more for fun to see how far you’ve come.

Embarrassment for your enjoyment…

Way back when I ran my current game sites on free servers. One of the first places I had them hosted at was at a url that looks like this:

  • members.spree.com/funNgames/matrix223

That hosting service isn’t around anymore (as you can see from the cache, I didn’t like them very much and was happy about my new domain/servers). However you can see pieces of my early web years from viewing it on archive.org. I had just learned tables and didn’t know PHP at all yet. Thank god it didn’t cache the site in 1997. The 2002 version, sadly, was a redesign and had all the hallmarks of a 90′s website (too much color, gifs etc. everywhere).

Were you able to find your long lost site on there? Let us know the story in the comments below.

Respond: Leave A Comment | Trackback URL

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11 Responses to HowTo Recover Lost Website Content

  1. Hi-

    I just wrote a really long, nice post, but I answered the security question incorrectly. I pressed back and my comment was gone…

    So, sorry, this will be shorter and not nearly as well thought.

    So… speaking of lost data…

    I lost my data once, so I think in addition to damage control, you need to backup your data.

    1) WordPress backup plugin
    2) FTP sync program like Transmit for Mac
    3) Backup service like Mozy.

    All three combined can give you a bit more confidence with your data.

  2. Backup services from your own host are ideal, but not always thought of in advance. I tried to write this based on the perspective that those weren’t available.

    For WordPress, both of these backup tools are great:
    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-dbmanager/
    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-db-backup/

    Yes, the captcha needs some work. Need to drop the comment in a session temporarily. Working on other projects though ;) .

  3. I use the word press back up plugin which saves my content weekly, it does this automatically which is good to know. Gmail have just bought out a program which can back up your emails, you can’t back up enough.

    Jason

  4. I agree with Augie, “three combined can give you a bit more confidence with your data”.

    kimberly ventura

  5. Why not just backup your databases and site weekly? If you Google, you can find that this is a fairly easy process that can be automated. Your host may even offer free backups or at least charge for them.

  6. That would be the obvious thing to do yes. This is more so for people who never set that up… And then to encourage them to do so.

    The method above is far from ideal, but is a semi-dependable last resort.

  7. This actually reminds me… I should back up my site, I haven’t done it in a while.

    This is a great post though. While people say you should just backup your site, sometimes you forget to. This sounds like a great way to secure some of your losses and to remove some of the stress of the situation. Thanks!

  8. Yeah your wrote a very good post , archive.org is not of that much use but google cache could be really helpful if you don’t have any backup of your data .But it would be wise to keep the backup of updated data

  9. There’s a program called Warrick that runs on ActivePerl for Windows that will automatically retrieve the cached pages from Google, Yahoo, Internet Archive and more. Super useful program, if you can get it to work (which I unfortunately could not). Check it out.

    http://warrick.cs.odu.edu/

  10. @Doug – That looks like a Perl script. You would have to setup an environment for it on your machine first. A bit of technical know how, but a lot of tutorials out there I’m sure. A great find!

    Time is against you with it though. As soon as your site is missing (and search engines see this) they will get rid of their cache and/or update it. Get it setup up now for use later if its going to take a few days to figure out.

  11. Yes you are absolutely right, things do happen and yes all of our hard work is lost. It can be very frustrating especially if you are lost as to what to do in the matter. Using the search engines and archives.org are all very important things to try as you recover your lost material

    -Randy

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