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Repair Options for Collections that Report Unfixable Errors
Don’t Panic

If an error is detected in your Helix collection, our first piece of advice is: don’t panic! The problem is probably minor and rash actions could make it worse, or result in the loss of your up-to-date data. Although it is difficult when faced with such a situation, the first order of business is to take a deep breath and allow the panic to subside before moving forward.

You can sometimes fix the problem yourself by following a few simple steps (outlined below). Even when that isn’t possible, 99.9% of the time your collection can be quickly repaired with zero to very little loss of data.

Of course, you are always invited to contact our technical support department to discuss the situation and to set up a repair. While there are no guarantees, our average repair times have been trimmed to less than half a day.

However, we are not always immediately available, so if you are in an emergency situation and you are unable to repair the error yourself, our advice is — if possible — to go ahead and use the collection until you can contact us. If a collection can be opened, the error is not so severe, and it is unlikely you will compound the error with further use. But you should make frequent backups, just to be safe. And contact us as soon as possible! Do not ignore the error reports! Also, if you do need to send the collection to us, you can expedite your repair by uploading it (step #4 below) prior to contacting us. We would rather disrupt the normal order than have you without your database any longer than necessary.

About Collection Errors

Like any type of file, Helix collections are susceptible to errors from a wide variety of sources. Hardware failure (permanent or temporal), software bugs (in the OS, Helix, or another running application), and network issues are potential avenues for a file error.

If your collection seems to be running fine, but the structure check fails or Helix Utility reports an error it can not fix, do not ignore it! When problems like this have been detected, even the minor maintenance that is important to keep a collection running smoothly is not done. The result may be crashes, performance issues, or other odd behavior. In rare cases, actual collection damage or data loss may result. If you are unable to repair a collection with the methods outlines below, contact us as soon as possible for expert diagnosis, and make frequent backups until the collection is repaired.

Some errors can be repaired automatically or by applying some understanding of what the error indicates. If an error can not be automatically repaired it is flagged by changing the icon and file type as follows:

  • Helix 6.2 icon Structural errors are detected by Helix RADE, Engine, and Server when a save is done. When the structure check fails, a dialog gives you the option to Cancel the save — and thereby to revert to the last saved state, which should be before the error occurred — or to Proceed and save the collection with the error in place. When this option is chosen, the icon displays a ‘stop sign’ and an exclamation mark, as shown on the right. If you ‘Get Info’ on this icon in the Finder, the ‘kind’ will be reported as a ‘Helix collection with structural errors.’

    Learn more about the integrated structure check by clicking here.

    Prior to Helix 6.2, you must use the separate Update Collection application to test the structural integrity of a collection. Learn more about Update Collection 6.0 by clicking here.

  • Data errors are detected by Helix Utility, a stand-alone application that comes free with the main Helix applications. When data errors are detected, the icon displays a ‘caution sign’ and an exclamation mark, as shown on the right. If you ‘Get Info’ on this icon in the Finder, the ‘kind’ will be reported as a ‘Helix collection with data errors.’ When errors are detected, the ‘Detailed Logging’ option produces output you can send to our technical support department for a quick diagnosis of the error.

    Learn more about the Helix Utility by clicking here.

    Helix Utility 6.2 and later make obtaining diagnostic data much easier.

To learn more about the Helix diagnostic utilities, click here. The Intel Native Helix Utility 6.2 is described on the main Europa product page.

Assessing the Situation

When a Helix application crashes or is closed abruptly, it is possible for the collection that was running to be in a ‘fragile’ state that Helix Utility would report as an error. Therefore, after any unusual shut down (or an error has been reported) your first step should be to reopen the collection with Helix RADE, Engine or Server. As soon as the collection is opened, save and close it again, then retest it with Helix Utility. Why? Because these applications do routine maintenance when a collection is opened (and closed normally) and sometimes that maintenance alone is enough to correct the original errors reported by the utilities.

If that is not successful, locate the diagnostic logs created by Helix and Helix Utility. Our web site contains various pages that address some errors found in these diagnostic reports, but you are always welcome to send the report(s) to our technical support department for analysis. If you need a fast reply, follow up with a phone call or instant message so we can give you an immediate diagnosis of the problem. Information on locating these logs is found by clicking here.

Recovery Options

If your database has errors that can not automatically be repaired, there are a number of options. If you maintain backups, one option is to revert to a backup copy that was made before the error occurred.

There are also a number of techniques that you can sometimes use to correct an error in a collection without our assistance. In the case of structural errors, the Error Identifier script available on our free AppleScripts page can often tell you exactly which icon contains the error. You may then be able to correct the error simply by modifying the icon. However, some errors will trigger a crash when the icon is modified, making it necessary to delete the icon and rebuild it. (If deleting the icon triggers a crash, contact technical support for assistance.)

In the case of data errors, Helix Utility’s ‘Detailed Logging’ option can identify which relation the errors are in. With that knowledge, you can try deleting the data (on a copy) until you either eliminate the error or identify the record that is triggering the crash. If, by process of elimination, you can remove the damaged record, Helix Utility will once again give the collection a clean bill of health. If not, check the Helix Diagnostics section of our knowledgebase to see if the error codes reported by Helix Utility have technotes you can use to resolve the error.

If these techniques do not work to restore your collection to good health — or time is of the essence — the next step is to contact us to arrange for a collection repair. Follow the step-by-step guide below to make the process as smooth as possible.

Note: Although the vast majority of collections can be repaired with zero (or minimal) data loss, a serious malfunction (e.g: power outage or hard drive failure) could cause a collection to acquire so many errors that Helix Utility can not even examine it. If you are in this situation, see Collection Repair for Damaged Files.

Collection Repair (& File Transfer) Service
Repair Fee

Collection repair (and design assistance) is billed on an hourly basis, as defined in our User Support Unit (USU) policy. If you do not have USUs on your account, you can purchase USU units in advance (at discount rates) or arrange for ‘pay-as-you-go’ support. Services will not be performed until payment is confirmed.

Turnaround Time

Although it is impossible to know exactly how much time a specific repair will take, a typical repair takes 8-10 USUs. (2 to 3 hours) An estimate can be done upon request; the charge is based on the time required, typically 2-3 USUs.
It is our goal to have your repaired collection returned to you within 24 hours. (And we succeed about 95% of the time.)
For mission-critical collections, we can accelerate the repair even more. For ‘I need it now’ service, we charge 2 USUs for each USU actually used.

Step by Step Instructions for Arranging a Repair
  1. Contact technical support before sending a collection for repair. A technical support case number (TS#) will be assigned and the repair scheduled. Use this TS# in all further correspondence regarding the collection repair. Payment for collection repairs must be made in advance, so please be prepared to make payment arrangements when you contact us.
    Note #1: if you discover unrepairable errors in your collection during hours when our technical support department is closed, you can go ahead and upload the collection before you receive a TS# — but please label the file clearly so that we can identify it as yours.
    Note #2: if you are using this method to send a collection in support of a bug report, use the R# for your report, as in “R8883”. (See the How To Report Bugs & Request Features via techdb page for further instructions.)
  2. If possible, send us a copy of the collection that has not been run through either of the Helix utility programs. If the collection has run through Helix Utility (indicated by a chip taken out of the upper left corner) then Helix Utility has attempted automatic repair. We need to see the collection in its pre-repair state, if at all possible. If you did not make a backup before you ran the utilities, then you should be prepared to send us two collections: the current one and the most recent copy that is neither chipped (Helix Utility failure) nor cracked (Update Collection failure).
  3. Document for us the name of a contact person, the email addresses, phone number(s) and times they can be reached, and a username/password that allows us access to Design Mode. Failure to include the username/passwords necessary to open the collection in Design Mode can delay the repair and add to the repair cost.
  4. Archive the collection. You can reduce the transfer time, often significantly, if you compress (or ‘archive’) the collection before sending it. If you are using macOS 10.4 or later, you can easily create a ‘.zip’ archive by right clicking on the collection file (hold the control key down and click if you do not have a two button mouse) and choose Compress (collection name) (macOS 10.5 and later) or Create Archive of (collection name) (macOS 10.4) from the contextual menu. A file is created in the same folder, with the same name as your collection but ending with ‘.zip’ and looking nothing at all like a Helix collection. That is an encoded archive that can be sent faster (and safer) than a regular collection file.
    Rename the .zip file before transferring it, using the TS# to identify it to us, as in “TS8883”.
    Note #1: Do not attempt to use the built-in archiving capabilities of macOS 10.3 or earlier. If you do not have macOS 10.4 or later, use Stuffit (or similar data compression software) to create a zip archive of the collection for transfer.
    Note #2 Do not compress a collection containing unrepaired errors using Helix Utility’s ‘Compress Collection’ option. This can make repair much harder and more costly.
  5. Send the file to us. We accept collections in many ways — but some of them require pre-arranged agreement — listed below in order of preference…
    1. Preferred: File Exchange, macOS: No pre-arrangement required

      Click here to connect to our server. (If that does not work, switch to the Finder and select Connect to Server from the Go menu. When the connect dialog appears, enter afp://support.qsatoolworks.com in the Address field, and click Connect.)

      In the dialog box that opens, choose Connect as: Guest and click Connect. A window/folder named Helix’s Public Folder should appear on your screen. (If not, select it from the list that appears and click OK.) In that window you will see a folder named Drop Box. Drag the ‘.zip’ file that was created in step 4 into that folder (the Drop Box). A warning appears telling you that you can’t see the results of the operation — Click OK and your file begins copying. You won’t be able to open the folder and see your file once it is in there, but neither will anybody else.

      This is a safe method: native collections can be transferred with this method.

    2. File Download: Pre-arrangement required

      If you have a file server (FTP, iDisk, etc.) and prefer that we pick up and deliver the file to it, provide us with the URL, username, password, & directory needed to retrieve the file. (Because of the time involved in this for us, there is a one USU charged for this option.)

      This is an unsafe method: you must archive your collection (see step 4 above) before it can be transferred with this method.

    3. Email: Pre-arrangement required

      Collections that are 10 MB or smaller (after compression/encoding) can be sent via email. Attach the archive file to an email send to the address given to you when you received your TS case number.

      This is an unsafe method: you must archive your collection (see step 4 above) before it can be transferred with this method.

    4. Physical Shipment: Pre-arrangement required

      Sending the file via one of the other methods is significantly faster, as shipping times add significant delays to the repair process. (Even the slowest internet connect can transfer most collections faster than the two days it takes to ship a disk back and forth.)

      Note: there is a $60 processing fee for handling physical shipments. We recommend Federal Express for the best service on all shipments.

      We can not read every disk format ever created, but we do support a wide range of historic formats. Contact us before shipping a file to us via physical media.

      Note: when copying a collection from one location to another, the format of the volumes involved matters. Volumes formatted as FAT16 are unsafe and a collection copied to one of those will be destroyed. In macOS, you can select the volume icon and choose Get Info to see the format of the volume.

  6. If you transfer the file via the internet, contact us and let us know when it has been completely transferred to our server. If you ship the collection contact us and provide us with the tracking number.
The Repair Process

Every effort is made to get the collection back to you as soon as possible. Once we receive the file, an initial assessment is done to determine the complexity of the repair: if it appears that the repair will take more than 24 hours, we will contact you to inform you of the situation. When the collection is done we will call or email you with the results.

After the repair we hold as copy of the repaired collection on site for two weeks in case any issues arise. If we have not heard from you within two weeks, we assume that the collection has been put back into use with no further problems, and destroy all copies in our possession. Upon your request we will destroy all held copies before two weeks has passed, but we can not hold them longer.

A Note About Privacy

We understand and respect the privacy of your data. We don’t usually even need to go into Design Mode and look at the data, but occasionally we must. To be honest, we’re focused on the repair, and the data is rarely even noticed. However, if the data is of a sensitive nature, please be sure to mention this to us beforehand. If necessary, we are happy to sign a non-disclosure, guaranteeing the confidentiality of your data.

Repair Services Agreement

In some situations (e.g: a password reset request), we may require you to sign our Repair Services Agreement before we can do the repair.

View the Repair Services Agreement. (pdf)