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CCAD's AutoCAD Tutorials

Recovering From Disaster

First, let's narrow the field a bit and define disaster from an AutoCAD user's point of view.

In this tutorial I'll show you how to cope with these AutoCAD disasters. In some cases you'll have to prepare in advance.

The computer ate my file! I saved it last night but now it's gone!

Exploring - My Computer

I can't guarantee that files won't just disappear, but it's not very likely. It is more likely that you forgot where you saved your file.

To find a file that is missing in action, try using the SEARCH tool in MY COMPUTER. Although you'll still have to have some idea where to look for the missing file, SEARCH can make it much easier.

MY COMPUTER can be launched from the START button or DESKTOP.

If you know what Hard Disk Drive or Network might contain your file, select it. This will shorten the time the search takes.

Then select Search from the toolbar.

Files or Folders dialog


Find: All Files dialog, name tab

If you think you know the name of the file, type it next to the label Named: You can use wildcards, like Plate*.dwg to find Plate1.dwg and Plate-base.dwg, but not Base-Plate.dwg.

Usually my problem is that I don't remember what I named the file, but I know when I last saved it. The WHEN WAS IT MODIFIED option is useful in these situations.

If my file name specification is *.dwg and I've selected the option shown in the Date tab, pressing the SEARCH button will locate all drawing files saved within the last week.

Files or Folders dialog, date tab

The power went out or the computer locked up and I didn't save!

preferences dialog, general tab

That's too bad, I hope it wasn't too important. This is a tough one if you're not prepared.

Your best protection against this disaster is the AUTOMATIC SAVE feature. The interval between Automatic Saves is set on the OPEN and SAVE of the OPTIONS command.

So how do you recover an Automatic save file? When you open AutoCAD after a crash the DRAWING RECOVERY MANAGER should display. If not, type DRAWINGRECOVERY and press ENTER.

Backup files (BAK) and Automatic Save Files (SV$) that were found are displayed in the DRAWING RECOVERY MANAGER and can be reviewed and selectively recovered.


When I try to open my drawing, I get a message that my drawing needs recovery.

This one is easy. AutoCAD has detected some anomaly in the drawing. Instead of trying to open it, select the RECOVER command. It works just like OPEN, but does an audit on the drawing. Usually, AutoCAD determines that nothing is really wrong and you can continue on. If it does find something amiss, it will attempt to reconstruct the data. If it is too badly damaged, the data will be deleted.


Every time I try to open my file, I get a message that says Fatal Error.

The patient is dead. If you're prepared, you can rename the .BAK file that is created every time you save your drawing (provided you didn't disable this feature). You can use MY COMPUTER to rename the .BAK file. Let's assume your drawing file is named PART.DWG.

There should be a file named PART.BAK in the same folder as the drawing. Rename it to PARTBAK.DWG.

Hint: You can't rename it to PART.DWG because that file already exists.

So, you're unprepared…there is no .BAK file. You'd better hope there is a system backup of your file. If you didn't just start your drawing today, there may be a backup of your work. Is a backup performed on your computer or network? If not, you're in trouble. If so, track down the person responsible for setting up the tape backup and beg for help.

The process for retrieving the file depends on your particular device and the software it uses. Information (files) on backup devices is compressed and stored in special file formats.


I accidently deleted my drawing file!

If you are using Windows 95 or later, you're in luck. These operating systems have a recycle bin, a folder that deleted files are move to before they are actually deleted.

recycle bin

To restore a file from the recycle bin, open the recycle bin (double click on the icon on your desktop), highlight the file and right-click. Press Restore from the menu. Your file will be restored to its original location.

Note: Files do not hang around forever in the recycle bin. You will not be able to restore a file deleted a year ago. Also, files you delete on another workstation or server may not show up in the recycle bin.