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Just Married, and a Windows Phone Rant

Published on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 4:00:00 AM UTC in Announcements & Personal

As you may have noticed, updates on my blog were kind of rare recently. The reason for this is my (now) beloved wife that I married just two weeks ago :). The weeks before the wedding were somewhat action-packed, with dozens of details to prepare and arrange. All of this took away most of my free time, but it was very much worth it, as we truly had the most wonderful day of our lifes. And after the wedding, this is were we spent our time:


This basically was the view from our room, about 500 meters above sea level, in an old monastery that's now turned into a spartanic but beautiful, small hotel (Sant Salvador). Staying in a 600 years old room with bare walls, no TV or telephone, kilometer after kilometer of serpentine road away from the next town is not exactly what you'd expect from an IT guy's honeymoon, but… I loved it :). I can only recommend that hotel, its most delicious food and the extremely friendly staff, especially if you want to get away from the busy days and enjoy some quiet.

Anyway, because I feel the need I have to give this post a bit of a technical touch, let's talk about Windows Phone for a moment.

At some point in the past I developed a certain routine when dealing with the photos on my phones: since we have that nice option on Windows Phone to backup all high-res photos to OneDrive automatically, I simply synced them from there to my PC in order to have them stored locally too, and for example create prints. Once synced, I could remove them from the phone safely to free some precious space there. Right?


After the above mentioned trip I pulled the photos from OneDrive to my PC and looked for a particular video that I recorded. I couldn't find it, but another one that I had taken only half an hour later was there. This made me curious, and when I skimmed through the photos I realized that some of them must be missing too. Again there didn't seem to be any logic to it. I found some photos, but others that I clearly remembered having taken minutes later or before simply were not there.

So I did something I hadn't done in a long time: plug in a USB connector and take a look at the phone directly.

Oh… dear!

So here's the statistics: out of 402 photos and videos taken during the last two weeks, only 238 were sitting in my OneDrive account. Which means that 164, a whopping 40% of them, somehow got… lost(?)… during the synchronization/backup process. Since backing up high-res photos requires a Wifi connection (and I had data roaming turned off anyway, just in case, because it's horrible expensive there), the sync was not done when I took the photos, but must have happened in batches once I had a working internet connection again. I suspect that something went wrong during that process; maybe a shaky or interrupted connection caused aborting or skipping some files during backup. I don't know.

But what I do know is: this is the worst possible user experience I can think of.

Just to be clear:

  • When you look for the feature in question on your phone you will find it as "backup". There's nothing that says "we try our best and might give up at some point", it's not labeled "beta – use at your own risk", it's named "backup". I personally expect a backup feature to back up my data. Not some of it, not randomly, but consistently and completely.
  • There is no indication on your phone that anything went wrong. Also, when you check the upload status for your photos on the phone, it claims there are no pending uploads. There's no indication with OneDrive either.
  • There's no way to initiate a re-sync of the missing files. Yes, you can select photos and "share" them with your OneDrive folder, but since you don't know which ones have been successfully uploaded and which ones not, you'll probably select all of them and then end up with hundreds of duplicates, because existing files are not overwritten. Also, the sharing option only uploads the low-res versions.
  • Doing a manual check for missing files quickly is not particularly easy, because depending on your phone model you might have multiple local versions of your photos next to each other ("…__highres.jpg" versions) that get auto-renamed during upload to OneDrive. So neither the item count nor the presence of particular file names is enough information to make sure you really have a copy of all of your high-res files in OneDrive.
  • A quick search, for example in the community forums, turns up quite some people that ran into the same issue (here and here and here…). Some of these date back half a year, so it doesn't seem to be a recently introduced issue or bug, but rather a long-standing problem. And no satisfying solutions are provided in these answers over there.

To me, this is truly disappointing. I don't know (and honestly I don't even want to know) how many photos I've lost because I deleted them from a device after blindly trusting that "backup" (yes, double quotes) feature.

Now I'm back to manual synchronization over USB again, and I'll disable the broken cloud sync feature, because it simply doesn't make any sense for me in its current state. At the moment I can only advise everybody to at least do regular checks to see if really all of your photos have been backed up, or switch back to manually copying them over if you want to be really sure.


Tags: Backup · Married The Best · OneDrive · Photo · Windows Phone