Corrupted DBF Files – How To Prevent And Repair Dbase Corruption

October 6, 2018

Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park / New Zealand

.DBF (DataBase File) files are some of the most commonly used files across multiple applications. First introduced as part of the archaic Dbase language, which later went through multiple versions before finally becoming xBase, the dbf extension has become somewhat of a standard for most programs that compile and structure data into specific ‘quantas’. Some of the commonly used programs that generate dbf files as the means to store data are FoxPro, Visual FoxPro, dBase (and it’s various versions), many popular games, and interactive programs such as Dragon Naturally Speak. While most programs that use .DBF files never require the user to directly interact with the file itself, some of them, especially those targeted at developers, need constant interaction with the database file. As such, losing data stored in a .DBF file can have severe consequences leading to loss of productivity, and many times hours of work.

Corruption of DBF files is not very common. However, given the number of times a give file needs to be loaded and unloaded in a developmental environment. Since most errors occur during the process of saving and loading, there are a few steps you can take to prevent such damage. There are basically two signs of damaged or corrupt DBF files:

1. Lack of readable content. If all that is visible when you open the file is gibberish or incomprehensible content, then most likely, the file is corrupt or at the very least damaged.

2. If the file is unopenable, in that you receive a ‘cannot open file’ or ‘data file inaccessible’ error, the file is probably damaged or corrupt.

The next important thing to understand is how a file can get corrupted. According to Microsoft, over 90% of file damage occurs due to improper saving of the file. For example, if the program was shut down as it was saving a file, or the computer lost power during the saving process. Most newer operating systems have in-built instructions to prevent such corruption by ensuring proper saving of the files. Many of the newer versions of Foxpro and other development platforms also have taken measures to prevent such damage. Even so, corruption of DBF files is not all that rare. Usually, it is very hard to pinpoint the exact causes of the corruption of the files when incorrect saving is not involved. All that is known clearly is that the data is almost always restructured in a manner that database reading programs are no longer able to recognize and use it.

DBF Repair – How To Recover DBF Files

It is impossible to repair DBF files without using a good DBF repair program. The file needs to be deeply studied, and the data within re-organized making ir readable to a regular DBF reader. The data must also be studied for differences between which sectors of the file are ‘newer’ than the others. This is usually done by looking at the date and time stamps on the data. If this is inconsistent with the data, then it indicates irregular saving, or errors during the save. This is, as is obvious, most common in corrupt data which is a result of incorrect saving. A good DBF repair software should be able to go through the given file, into the unstructured data, and place the related data packets together where they belong. This restructuring allows a standard DBF file reader to understand the data again and open the file normally.

Once the file is repaired and the data restored, it is recommended to open the file again and save it as a different copy on another medium of storage. This will ensure that you have a non-corrupt copy of the file as backup and don’t have to go through the DBF repair software over and over.

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