File corruption rears its ugly head

During the last few weeks, I’ve seen the following error in Adobe Lightroom 3.

There I am, editing photos, minding my own business, and when I try to view a photo for editing, I get the error message you see above: “The file appears to be unsupported or damaged.”

When I try to view the file in the finder, I get the same error message, this time directly from the OS: “The file […] could not be opened. It may be damaged…”

Here’s my workflow:

  1. Shoot RAW
  2. Import RAW files as DNG into Lightroom (LR converts them on the fly)
  3. Process in LR
  4. Export as JPG or as needed
  5. Back up the catalog and check its integrity weekly

It’s pretty straightforward, and that’s the way I like it. I currently have about 85,000 photos in my LR library, whose catalog is stored locally on my MBP, with the files (DNG, RAW, JPG and TIF) residing on a Firewire Drobo.

Fortunately, the file corruption is only temporary, meaning there’s an error somewhere along the way:

  • It could be Lightroom
  • It could be the DNG file format (because I haven’t gotten the error with RAW or JPG files)
  • It could be OS X: I wonder how much testing Apple did for 10.6.5 with volumes greater than 4TB
  • It could be the Drobo: it’s a big volume (4.4TB) with lots of data that’s constantly being updated, lots of I/O traffic

I don’t know, and I hope someone reading this has an answer.

What fixes the error every time is quitting LR, ejecting the Drobo, cycling its power, mounting it, and starting LR. I’ve also tried just restarting LR, or just ejecting the Drobo, but those methods didn’t work.


2 Thoughts

  1. Hi Raoul, Thank you for blogging.

    I just added a 2nd gen Drobo to my existing 1st gen Drobo. I looked forward to using the Firewire 800 port but discovered the following: when I copy a large amount of data from my 1st gen Drobo to the 2nd gen Drobo connected via the firewire port, I get invariably an I/O error after about an hour or so. Every time such an I/O error occurred the 2nd gen Drobo entered a state that would not allow any further writes (reads were OK). The only way to recover from this state was to power-cycle the 2nd gen Drobo (very much like you describe). First I thought the I/O errors were due to the brand new WD Caviar Green disks (3x 1.5TB) so for testing purposes I replaced those with a 1TB WD Caviar Black and an older 750GB WD Caviar disk. This did not help: I still got those I/O errors. However, after I connected to the 2nd gen Drobo via USB the I/O errors vanished. My hardware: MacBookPro5,3 15″ running Lion (10.7.1).

    Assuming you connected to your 2nd gen Drobo via firewire I wonder whether switching to USB would fix your corruption problems.

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    1. I don’t know whether it would fix it, but it’s been better lately. I think I found only one corrupted file in about 6 months, which is almost acceptable given the sheer amount of files stored on it.

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