Play it Again, Steve: A Tale of Lost Things

Thursday, August 20, 2015

This week there was an incident involving our PS4. While watching Netflix, the power flickered and when we attempted to turn the PS4 on again, it refused to boot properly. In the moment it lost power some of the system files were corrupted and it would not load the dashboard. What followed was an arduous journey that we hope to never repeat.

From the get go, it was clear that this was serious. We've had the PS4 on when we've lost power once or twice before and it hadn't impacted anything seriously. All we had to deal with in those instances was a longer boot while it scanned for issues. I couldn't help but think of the half dozen times I had to send my Xbox 360 in to fix a red ring of death. I hadn't heard of the PS4 bricking itself but I dreaded the idea of sending the console away to be fixed.

After fighting through the support pages, we found what appeared to be the solution; starting the console in safe mode. Many people in the forums said that this worked for them and they were able to restore the system from the safe mode menus. Fingers crossed, we hoped for the best but weren't able to get much further. The latest updates couldn't be retrieved through the internet and it left us with the option to download the latest system data onto a flash drive and then use it as a boot/recovery disk. 

We dug through the desk until we found a large USB that we could part with. It was a large airplane shaped memory stick that we were given by years ago. The modish angles of the PS4's chassis, however, didn't allow enough space (read any space) to fit the USB into the recessed ports on the front. We disassembled the nearly three inch long airplane to discover the actual stick was only about 1/3 the size.

There are numerous guides to preparing a USB for use in restoring a PS4 and each one has different dos and don'ts in almost every single step of the process. They didn't even agree on how to format the USB drive. Sony's own support site lists two different processes for restoring corrupted system software. One method involves installing the latest update while the other formats and re-installs the entirety of the software. Our system wasn't able to use the update file at all, so we had to settle for the full format route. That meant however, that all our save games would be deleted. We didn't have any other option, and the process gave no opportunity to backup the files to USB or otherwise.

We lost it all. Every screenshot, video capture and save game. I had thought that I had enabled the cloud save function that I'm supposedly benefiting from as a PS+ member, but evidently I was wrong. So now we are left with no other option than to start over. Every game (excluding Destiny, thankfully) from Dragon Age to Towerfall is completely gone.

Time to go back and seal the rifts again. You ready, Varric?

I didn't appreciate the importance of backing up save data until now. I recommend keeping a flash stick nearby (or forever plugged into the console) for backing up files, even if you have the cloud backup option. A backup plan for your backup plan, so to speak. Storage devices are exceedingly cheap these days, and even if you don't have the funds to buy a USB drive, you may have one just laying around. Check your junk drawers, just make sure you find one that is malll enough to fit.

I've been working hard to find the bright side in all of this. I may have lost my 140+ hour playthrough of Dragon Age: Inquisition, but now I can play it with all of the new DLC included and see if it gives a different perspective on the story. Destiny would have been heartbreaking to lose, but that data is stored server-side, and therefore safe. I may have to start Shadow of Mordor over again, but I look forward to all the new Uruk I'll meet/convert/kill along the way. Alien: Isolation is... okay, I'm still trying to find the silver lining in starting over such a scary game.