Recovering backup files

By default, Aeon Timeline maintains its own automatic backups of files to help protect your data against unexpected data loss. 

This article describes how backup files are created and maintained, and how you can recover a backup file should the need arise.

You should still maintain off-site backups

The following is important enough that we will write it in bold and red.

Aeon Timeline's automatic backup process is not a substitute for maintaining your own appropriate data backups.

For one thing, our automatic backups are stored on the same computer, and likely the same hard disk, as your original file. If your computer is lost, stolen or damaged, both your original file and your backup files will go with it.

A separate independent, automatic backup process that saves your files to a separate device or cloud storage is the safest way to guard against catastrophic data loss.

Aeon Timeline's automatic backups are just an added layer in this protection. It is designed to guard against data loss caused by software bugs or user error (e.g. deleting something you shouldn't), but it is not designed to guard against hardware loss.

How do automatic backups work

Key points to understand regarding our automatic backup approach are as follows:

  • Aeon Timeline saves a new automatic backup file every minute, provided changes have been saved since the previous backup
  • Unsaved changes are not automatically backed up: as the user may wish to discard those changes, we don't want them to suddenly appear in the backup file
    • This mostly affects Windows users, since by default MacOS enables autosaving system-wide
  • To save disk space, each backup records only changes made from the previous backup (that is, unchanged attachments and images will not be backed up again)
  • To limit the total number of backups kept for each file, Aeon Timeline trims these backups periodically. 

Windows Users

For Windows users, there is a separate auto-save system in place as well as the automatic backups, to protect against data loss caused by power failure, operating system crashes and application crashes.

This operates separately to the automatic backup, and is used to save changes you have not yet saved. If a file is not closed properly for any reason, the Windows app will offer to recover these auto-saved files the next time you run the application.

How many backups are kept

Aeon Timeline keeps the following backups:

  • the latest backup of a file is always kept
  • all backups (up to one per minute) for the last two hours; plus
  • maximum one backup per hour for the last two days (the latest backup at the end of each hour is kept); plus
  • maximum one backup per day for the last two weeks (the latest backup at the end of the day is kept);
  • Maximum one backup per week for the last 60 days (the latest backup at the end of each week is kept)
  • Backups older than 60 days are deleted (except if it is the latest version of a file)

If you do encounter an issue with a corrupted file or lost data (e.g. if you accidentally delete something and want to recover it), it is advisable to recover the backups as early as possible, while the largest number of incremental backups are still available.

How to view and recover an automatic backup file

To view your available backup files, select Manage Backups... from the File menu. You can do this from any timeline window, including the Welcome Screen.

This will open the Manage Backups modal window, which lists available backups for every file:

As can be seen, for each file that has been backed up, the modal dialog provides the following information:

  • The file name and original path for the backup file
  • The number of backup copies that are kept
  • The total file size for all backups
  • The date of the last backup (which corresponds to the last time the file was edited on this computer)

Recover older version

To recover an older version of a file, click on the Recover button alongside the file you wish to backup. A dropdown menu will show you the dates for the available backups:

Click on any of the dates listed, and a Save Dialog will open to allow you to save a copy of that backup file to a new location. You can repeat this process for several available backups if you are unsure which file you wish to use.

In general, we don't recommend overwriting the original file when recovering a backup until you have had a chance to look at the recovered file's contents to ensure it is what you are looking for. You can then choose to manually save the file in place of the original once you are confident in that decision.

Deleting backups

As Aeon Timeline keeps backups of everything, there may be times where it has backed up a file that you no longer wish to keep.

To delete backup files, click on the Delete button alongside the backup you wish to delete. You will be presented with a dropdown offering two options:

  • Delete all: This will remove all backup copies of that file
  • Delete all but latest: This will remove all backup copies of the file, except for the latest file, which will be retained. 

A confirmation dialog will ask you to confirm this action before the backup files are permanently deleted.

Note that due to the incremental approach to backups, you may find that delete all but latest does not reduce the overall size of the backups by as much as you expect, since any attachments etc. in earlier backups will be rolled forward to the latest backup. In general, for timeline files with a lot of images or attachments, the total size of the backups will be similar in size to the original file.

Do not open or delete backup files directly

As described above, to save disk space, Aeon Timeline maintains incremental backups, where each backup records only changes made from the previous file version. 

For this reason, it is unsafe to open or delete backup files directly within your operating system (e.g. Finder on Mac, or Windows Explorer on Windows):

  • Any backup file you open directly is unlikely to be the complete file (e.g. it will not contain all of the attachments etc. you have added to the file)
  • Any backup file you delete may contain changes (such as new attachments) that are not present in later files.

Instead, you should always recover or delete backups within Aeon Timeline, using the Manage Backups interface. This will ensure that incremental backups are reconstructed correctly, and changes are safely rolled forward when deleting older backups.