How to Recover Offline files in Windows XP

Offline Files


Offline FilesOffline files within Windows XP is a pig – make no doubt about it. Don’t get me wrong – what is supposed to be a nice feature, allowing laptop users to amend documents “offline” and then see them sync to their office server when they connect to the LAN, does work… albeit 90% of the time. That other 10%? Expect tears before bed-time.

Back in the day I debated the short-comings of off-line files with many a MSFTer, with the response from more than one Microsoft employee being a hushed “don’t tell anyone I said this, but off-line files is not a reliable feature”. You only have to look around at the number of blogs and web-sites dedicated solely to resolving end-users off-lines file woes to realise things aren’t right. Of course, Vista has come along now so everything is ok – but what about all those people still using XP – or to put it another way, what about 90% of Windows users out there?

I can’t recall the amount of times when I’ve had a ‘phone call from a user who had spent hours working on a document on his laptop, then found that document mysteriously disappeared when he synchronised his files on-line.

Clients Missing Files

One such situation occurred today when a client ‘phoned me to ask where two of his files had gone to – they were there one minute, but as soon as the computer had finished synchronising with the company server – they weren’t to be found.

The files had gone, sure enough, and although we could restore the last best copy from either on-site or off-site backup, the work the user did on the files since he last synchronised seemed lost.

Downloading CSCCMD

Step in CSCCMD – supposedly part of the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit. I say supposedly, because although version 1.0 of CSCCMD is indeed within the ResKit download – it doesn’t contain an important feature – the /EXTRACT function. This can only be found in CSCCMD 1.1 – which is apparently harder to find than Rocking Horse droppings! I finally located a copy via this blog – kudos to the writer for making the file available himself. I’ve made sure you can now also download the file csccmd_v1.1.zip here – if anyone knows an “official” source of this file, do leave a comment below and let me know.

Using CSCCMD

What do CSCCMD do? It allows you to work with the off-line file cache – located (a hidden folder) at C:WindowsCSC. If you browse to that directory directly, you’ll see a list of numbered folders and suitably mysteriously named files within. CSCCMD allows you to extract those files into a readable format using the EXTRACT function we spoke of earlier. In this case I dropped a copy of CSCCMD.EXE into C:WindowsCSC and then executed the command

CSCCMD /EXTRACT:\servernameshare /TARGET:c:temp /recurse

… where <servernameshare> is the off-line folder location you’re trying to recover, /TARGET:c:temp is a temporary folder setup as a suspense location for the extracted files, and /recurse is a switch that makes sure that CSCCMD extracts all files in all folders found within C:WindowsCSC.

Minutes later, CSCCMD had ran its magic.

My advice to the user going forwards? If you’re working on a very important document or making lots of changes, save a copy to a USB key-disk before returning to the office – I didn’t specifically say off-line files under XP wasn’t to be trusted, but he got the idea.

Now cue a ton of e-mails and comments telling me off-line files is infinitely better within Windows Vista and the user is a fool for sticking with XP… 🙂

Comments

  • Richard Tubb2013-02-28 09:46:16

    Allan - my pleasure! Thanks for taking the time to leave me a comment.

  • Allan2013-02-27 17:57:24

    Excellent article. Recovering offline files from dead SBS server. Thanks for sharing!!!

  • Richard Tubb2012-07-30 17:41:00

    Scott - thanks for the kind words. I'm glad CSCCMD has been useful to you, it saved my bacon in a similar situation to yours once too!

  • Scott2012-07-24 15:30:53

    Great information. CSCCMD v 1.1 is indeed a good tool to have. I inherited a configuration where users' PCs are using offline sync to back up their my Documents folder, even though they are on desktops. 3 servers later, offsync is full of invalid servers, mappings, lost data, etc. CSCCMD 1.1 has been very helpful in my situation. The /MOVESHARE command clears up most instances of invalid servers, and I expect to be using /EXTRACT shortly.

  • Richard2010-03-19 13:26:22

    Thanks for the feedback - glad this post is useful!

  • Stewart2010-03-19 13:17:48

    You don't know how long I've been looking for this. Absolutely great, thank you!!!!!!!!

  • Jorg2009-08-24 16:51:10

    This is a great posting, however, it doesn't work for me. I am getting an error message saying "System Error 87 has occured. The parameter is incorrect."

  • Tim2009-05-06 02:45:15

    Works a treat, thanks

  • Dale2009-02-10 21:36:02

    This is a great posting.Works as described.Thanks for a simple description of the process.

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