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Keeping Your Recordings Safe

There are many threats against our recorded material but the one I am focused on today is keeping files that you have recorded, safe from getting lost or corrupted.  There are three main threats. One, Your hard drive breaking. Two, your project file getting corrupted and three, your files getting lost because of your own disorganization.

Hard Drive Failure

There's death, taxes and hard drive failure.  It will happen. I’ve had the most expensive drives fail.  I treat a hard drive like it has an expiry date on it. Two years is the maximum amount of time that I’ll use one.  I buy the inexpensive western digital portable 4TB drives. I buy them in two’s. They both get labelled on the physical hard drive and electronically on the desktop.  If I was activating one today (The writing of this Blog) It would be labeled Audio 2020-02 and the second would be labeled Audio 2020-02 BU. This way if I have multiple hard drives plugged into my computer I can easily eject one and be able to find the physical drive to unplug it.

At the end of each session I copy the file from the primary to the back up.  I have another step most people do not need. Because I am pushing my DAW to the max I need a quicker hard drive.  I use an SSD to work off of and then transfer them off the drive when I am done.

If anything strange happens, for example, a drive isn’t immediately recognized by my computer or anything unexpected I retire the drive and it's back up right away and get new ones.

Project File Corruption

The project file within your DAW doesn’t have any audio.  What your DAW does is tell you computer when to play the wav files you created.  It is a “traffic cop”. If this file gets corrupted you will still have your audio files but no way of recreating your project.  If you have multiple takes and several tracks it would take more time to recreate the song than to start over and record again. Your DAW likely makes auto backups.  You can not rely on them but they are a good “go to” first line of defense. Here is what I do. When I start a song I will have my original project file. Each time I open the song I “SAVE AS” a new project in the same folder.  If I do any significant work I will also do the same thing. This way if my latest project file gets corrupted I can go back to a former one that was working. I’ve found that since I’ve been doing this I haven’t had a project file corrupt.  My theory is that when you have a project file that gets worked on for months and gets more complex each time the computer has more of a chance of getting a glitch. I have no proof of this, as I mentioned it is my own personal theory.

File Naming

This is where you can protect your music against yourself!  If you’ve ever made a final copy and labeled it “Final”, You know what I mean.  It's never done. We end up naming things, “final, final copy”, “real final copy”, and my favorite “Oh crap the really really final copy”.  Here is what I do to protect against this.

On my drive I create a master file for each client.

Within the master file I create a file for each song, preproduction and masters.

Within each song I store the project files.

The project file naming protocol is very important.

I label them, SONG NAME Year/Month/Day/Version/Notes

An example would be, New song 2020-02-04.1 drum tracking

When I open the file again I save as New song 2020-02-05.1 Bass tracking

If I record more on that day I will create a new version New song 2020-02-05.2 Vocals

This way each time I create a new file it goes to the bottom in my folder structure.  If I need to go back I can clearly see where I will find what I am looking for.


This is a pretty vanilla topic until you lose a recording.  Getting this right has saved me time, money and much heartache.

I hope you never lose any of your recorded material.


Paul Smith

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