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ArchiCAD File Disaster Scenario – What Can You Do When a File is Corrupted?

Eric BobrowToday one of my long-time clients sent me an anxious email. With a deadline tomorrow, he had a project file that crashed while he was working on it, and now ArchiCAD couldn’t open it – every time he tried, it gave a warning message and immediately closed. When he tried to open the BPN file he got the same error.

He sent an email to Graphisoft Tech Support but contacted me to see if I could help since he was on deadline.

Ever happen to you? I think this is pretty rare, but over the years I’ve seen a number of clients have gruesome problems at a time when they couldn’t afford a delay. The particular error message this time was not something I had seen before: “ArchiCAD detected a cache corruption error and will be closed.”

I wrote him a lengthy email, giving some general advice on how to approach this situation. I thought that it might be of interest to other ArchiCAD users, so I’m posting it here.

GENERAL ADVICE WHEN AN ARCHICAD FILE CAN’T BE OPENED

1. Restart your computer, if you haven’t already. This clears some issues that otherwise linger once certain errors are encountered.

2. Open a different file in ArchiCAD, and see if everything works OK. If not, then you will need to fix the problem with ArchiCAD, as (in this case) there are problems in multiple files. Reinstalling the application may be necessary – see the ArchiCAD Wiki for guidance on this topic.

3. If ArchiCAD works OK on other files, then open the problem file. See if the error re-occurs now. Sometimes the restart and opening another file can clear things up.

4. If the file cannot be opened without crashing, occasionally I’ve had success by creating a new file (use the same or similar template to provide a compatible context) and using the File menu > File Special > Merge command, and then selecting the problem file and trying to merge its contents into the blank file.

5. If this succeeds (no crashing), you may have some or a lot of cleanup or reconstruction to do. For example, this will only bring in the model, it will not bring in the Views or Layout Book. All the data on the plan will come across (3D and 2D), but no 2D stuff from Sections, Elevations, etc. and no Detail drawings, Worksheets, etc. Obviously, this is only “practical” or usable if you are fairly early in a project, when there is mostly just a model and not too much other stuff.

6. If merging the problem file causes a crash, then there’s not too much you can do to access the data until Graphisoft steps in. They have certain tools that may allow them to extract data differently than what a user can do, or to clean up specific corruption in the file. The response time or turn-around time is not necessarily very quick; try to impress upon them the importance of the situation – be honest, but if it’s life or death, or means potentially losing a client and job, they will probably push it up higher than if the work is something you can reconstruct yourself or can wait for.

7. In cases when both the PLN and the BPN give the same errors, it’s good if you have an earlier versions to try to open. If you have Time Machine on the Mac, or certain backup systems on PC, there will likely be earlier copies you can grab; hopefully you can find one that is fairly recent and has not been corrupted. There will be work to do to bring the file up to date, but it’s far better than starting over!

TIP: I recommend that dated versions of a project be saved on a regular basis, and manually or automatically archived in a safe place for possible use in disaster scenarios such as this one. For simplicity, keep the current, active file with the same name throughout the process, but “peel off” or archive files along the way with names that indicate their origin (e.g. Smith House Nov 17 2011, Smith House city submittal 1, etc.). By keeping the active file with the same name, you’re less likely to get confused about which file is the most current, avoiding the “which file did I do that work in?” scenario.

8. Over the years, sometimes I’ve found that a file will not open properly because external references are damaged. These can be libraries, hotlinked modules, or files placed as drawings in the layout book. Occasionally this might have to do with a server issue  such as the server path changing, server unavailable, file damage, or even incompatible versions caused by others opening a linked file and resaving from their workstation.

Isolating the workstation from the server (disconnecting from the network), removing external hard drives, and even moving libraries or external files to the desktop (or changing their file path or folder name) may sometimes be attempted as a way to see if the problem opening the file is actually caused by external references. If one succeeds in opening the “bare” file with no external referencing, then one can add back in the references (moving them back in place) one by one to see if the trouble source can be identified. Once pinpointed, remedial action may be taken, including reinstallation of libraries, or repair or recovery of trouble-causing external files from backup.

EPILOGUE / UPDATE

My client’s story had a happy ending. He wrote to me:

Before I tried your solutions, I tried something that I had been afraid to do.  See below.  I deleted the file that was saved and hit “continue” and was able to open the file after that, albeit with a loss of a lot of information, but fortunately, I had saved the file a little earlier so I didn’t lose too much.  Thank you for the lengthy response to my problem.  I really appreciate it.

He included a screenshot of the standard Autosave dialog, which offered him the opportunity to open up the automatically saved file that ArchiCAD had maintained of his work session. It seems that there was a problem with the Autosave cache, since when he deleted the Autosave he was then able to open up the working file, losing only the work he did since he manually saved.

This reinforces my long-time guidance: Save often! Don’t rely on Autosave! Although it works most of the time (perhaps it’s well above 99%, but who knows…), hitting Command-S or CTRL-S periodically is a sensible habit that takes moments and may save hours.

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 26 comments
Vistasp - November 18, 2011

Thanks for the article Eric. Speaking of backups reminded me of this discussion on AC-talk. The software linked would be useful for anyone who wants automatic versioning (windows only, unfortunately):

http://archicad-talk.graphisoft.com/viewtopic.php?p=181975&highlight=multiple+versions#181975

The software is no longer being actively developed but the last version can be downloaded from the developer’s website:
http://jpsoft.com/cascadepointdes.htm

Hope this helps someone.
= v i s t a s p =

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    Eric - November 27, 2011

    Thanks for the links and additional info!
    Eric

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Jared Banks - November 18, 2011

Eric, good advice. I could see someone using this post as a checklist for the next time they run into an issue like this.

And you know how obsessed I am with data safety and backups. http://www.shoegnome.com/tag/data-safety/

Anytime a coworker or reader of mine has a similar problem, my first response is ALWAYS: well open up yesterday’s file, is the problem there too?

There’s just no excuse for not backing up EVERYDAY.

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sab - April 26, 2012

You saved my (working) life!!!
The emerge thing worked!!!!
Thank you so mcuh for sharing your knowledge!!!

=D
Sab

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Graham - December 13, 2012

Just had the same issue of a ‘corrupted’ file (caused by rebooting a hung system when AC was open).

Have lost the last few hours of work but I can confirm that the ‘Delete’ files options works. (I did copy the files just in case before selecting this option!)

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Eric - December 14, 2012

Graham – I’m glad to know that you were able to recover your file by using the Delete option with the Autosave file.

Sab – I’m very pleased to read that merging the file into another PLN was able to help you recover your model.

Eric

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Ben - June 15, 2013

I have a teamwork file that when I try to open I get a (incompatible or corrupted cache file, unable to open ArchiCAD cache) error message. I have a message into graphisoft tech support, but do you have any thought.

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    Eric Bobrow - June 16, 2013

    Ben –
    I’m sorry to hear about your issue – it must be frustrating and perhaps scary (the thought that you might lose a lot of work).

    Here are some quick troubleshooting tips off the top of my head:
    1) Sometimes computers get into funny states, and a restart helps. Try restarting both the server and your local computer, to see if the problem goes away.
    2) Try connecting to a different teamwork file, to see if it works OK. If it also has a problem, that’s useful information – you have a bigger issue on your hands than just one file. It it does work OK, then try your problem file again, to see if somehow this has gotten it cleared up.
    3) You may be able to open the local copy of the Teamwork file, even if it isn’t able to connect with the server. If so, you may then be able to save a copy as a PLN, and reshare it again. Alternatively, see if another team member can login to the file, and then save as PLN and reshare.

    Finally, in addition to Graphisoft tech support and myself, consider posting your question on ArchiCAD-Talk. There are many veteran users who may have some insights on what to do in your situation. Good luck!

    Eric Bobrow

    Reply
Cristhian - October 22, 2013

Thanks!!!! I did it!

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doru - January 17, 2014

Thank you very much. Your advice with the merge worked.
If it haden’t worked it would had been the second time I started this project form scratch.
I have a question also: I saved the file manualy every hour, I got the error problem a few days before, had to start from 0 and so learned my lesson, BUT STIL when I tried to open the file a few hours later, just recived a bug report. Any ideea why?

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    Eric Bobrow - January 17, 2014

    Hi Doru –
    I’m glad the merge approach worked for you. With regards to your question about why this is happening, it’s hard to say. Are you having problems with other files? Sometimes this might indicate a problem with your hard drive (I’ve heard that from a few clients over the years – problems start happening, then later they find their hard drive needs to be repaired – either digitally or physically replaced) or with your ArchiCAD installation. I would consider reinstalling ArchiCAD to see if this helps. I doubt it is something that you are doing inside the file that would cause the crashing and bug report. In any event, you should definitely ask Graphisoft tech support for their help – perhaps there is something that they may be able to figure out.
    Eric

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Alex - March 31, 2014

Hello. I want to let you know that i learned so much from your lessons. I still have some problems with roofs (i can`t trim the roof to building walls). Now i have the most ridiculous problem. When i want to save, this message apears: Cannot save Plan file. WHYYYYY? I didn`t do nothing … just out of the sudden … Please, help?

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    Eric Bobrow - May 17, 2014

    Alex –

    Unfortunately, I do not know why your file could not be saved, and your comment was posted a number of weeks ago so I’m sure you’ve moved on.

    However, for the record, in case someone else sees this post, it is possible that something went wrong with your hard drive or your network connection (if you were trying to save to a server), or ArchiCAD has gotten into a “funny state” (this is a technical term, much like “glitch”).

    In a case like this I would try the File menu > Save As command then choose a different location (perhaps the desktop) for the PLN, or try saving with a different file format (such as an Archive file .PLA) that still retains the information.

    In a worst case scenario, I have on rare occasion forced ArchiCAD to quit (CTRL-ALT-DELETE on Windows to open the Task Manager or Command-Option-Escape on Mac for a similar Force Quit dialog) then started up ArchiCAD again and HOPED that an Autosave file would be able to be opened and then saved successfully. This has worked on a few occasions, but force-quitting is not something I would recommend.

    Eric

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ISSA - May 30, 2014

THANK YOU VERY MUCH !!!!

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Diego T. - July 10, 2014

Saving incremental versions is always good. This technique has saved me hours or even days of work before. The down side is that you will end up with many files. They can be erased after your project is done, though.

Diego T.

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Emmanuel - July 14, 2014

I started having a major problem that my files would not open. The container load window would start the fully process. I restated my computer with no luck, it keeps on telling me my Oc has crashed and I could either open “read only” or “exclusive access” none of which opened. After totally freaking out(all night long) uninstalling and reinstalling Archicad without luck, I was finally able to merge the file onto a new file. I have then saved 4 different files in the event this happened again. Shut down my computer to continue my work at home, only to find it has happened again. Please help

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    Eric Bobrow - July 14, 2014

    Emmanuel –
    I’m sorry to hear about your frustrating experience. Here are some quick ideas to consider. Are you having problems with multiple files? (You mention “my files would not open”…) If so, see if these files can be opened on another computer, perhaps a friend or colleague. Perhaps it is a problem with your computer. Can you create a new file and do a bit of drawing, then save, close and reopen OK? Is there anything special about this file – perhaps a complex mesh or morph elements or lots of Solid Element Operations? These can cause issues in rare cases. Can you open any of the files you merged your work into? Or merge them into a new file? Have you contacted Graphisoft tech support – they may be able to give you assistance. Post your problem on ArchiCAD-Talk – someone there may have some insights. I wish you the best in saving your work and continuing your project! – Eric

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David - July 19, 2014

Hello, I have done some files on an educational version of arhchicad 17 on a PC, but when I transferred them to my mac it appears “cannot read plan file” I’ve seen many forums and haven’t found an answer yet! could you please help me!

thanks!

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    Eric Bobrow - July 19, 2014

    Hi David –
    I’m not sure what the issue is, but here are some troubleshooting tips:
    1) See if you can reopen the PLN file on your PC.
    2) See if you can transfer the file to another PC and then open it.
    3) Transfer to another Mac and see if it can be opened.
    This way you’ll know if the problem is with the file (in which case you might not be able to reopen it on your PC) or in transferring the file (in which case you wouldn’t be able to open it on another computer, either PC or Mac) or if it has something to do with PC to Mac file transfer (in which case it won’t be able to be opened on any Mac). By the way, how are you transferring the file?
    Eric

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David - July 20, 2014

Eric, thank you so much for the info you gave me and for responding me as I was pretty preoccupied about this matter..
I think the problem has to do with PC to Mac transferring, because when I open it on another PC it works perfectly. I just have all the files on my USB, when I plug in into a PC, the files work fine, but when I plug my USB on my mac and transfer the files, if I open any .pln or .bpn file, the warning sign appears.

Thank you,

David.

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Eric Bobrow - July 20, 2014

David –

Thanks for giving us an update. Now that you’ve verified that the problem is not in the file itself, but in the PC to Mac transfer, I suggest that you try using an alternative method to transfer the file.

You can use Dropbox.com (they have a free option that gives you 2GB of space), Google Drive or file transfer services such as Hightail.com.

Eric

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David - July 20, 2014

Thank you very much Eric, I will try your solution and give an update as soon as I can.

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Steve - September 23, 2014

Good Afternoon Eric,

As this problem is in the same subject matter as above, I am curious if you have ever run into this issue.

My projects are sometimes saving to a temporary file, which at the end of the day cannot be located and/or opened.

For example. I was working on a project all day, saving as I continued along with no errors. Later in the day after I had closed that file and worked on other items, I went back to the file to open, but it would not locate. It had saved to a temporary file, but never notified me Archicad was doing this. The file it saved to shows up as [/private/var/folders/p8/hbfhhqt16yggd9t8Q9r4mnd40000gp/T/Archicad-64_1947084627. When finally locating the file location, it was a text file not in any format related to Archicad.

I am able to go back to the old file on the server and open it, but it would not have any of the work I had recently done. The biggest frustration on this is that you cannot tell it is saving to that file. It gives you no warning. I thought it could be a server connection issue, as my files are saved to a server. But even if I lost connection, the program should warn me that I cannot save and require me to save elsewhere.

This has happened to me on a couple different projects, so it was not related to a bad file. Really confused.

Thanks so much.

Steve

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    Eric Bobrow - October 26, 2014

    Hi Steve –
    This issue sounds like a strange anomaly; I haven’t seen anything quite like this before. The temporary file you mentioned is actually not something you can open directly; it is in a special format that allows ArchiCAD to make very quick updates to keep your autosave up to date.
    Occasionally I’ve had clients experience a difficulty finding a file, then later locating it in some other folder or drive, rather than the one they though they were working on or saving to. I would think in these cases that using Mac’s Spotlight or the equivalent file search on Windows would help locate the file. Also, most of the time ArchiCAD will show the most recent files you’ve worked on, and offer to open these from the File menu > Open > Open Recent submenu.
    Note that while in general saving to a server is good, that if there are intermittent issues, then it may be best to save to your local disk, then when done for the day, copy it back to the server. (Of course you would in that case have to be extra careful that no one else opened the server file and worked on it.)
    Eric

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Usman Aleshinloye - February 1, 2015

Hi, Eric
I have been having a problem with my Archicad 16 for some time now.
I am new with Mac and everytime i’m working on a file and need to save it brings the dialogue box as if its a new file. Now the problem is this, i sometimes run multiple files at the same time and sometimes mix-up the names so i end up saving a file (hamid) as something else and so on.
I know in PC every time you hit the save button it automatically saves the file to the default name. Am i getting a setting wrong or this is how Mac works.
Best regards.

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    Eric Bobrow - February 1, 2015

    Hi Usman –

    In general the Mac should work the same way as a PC in that you can simply Save your work periodically without having to rename and possibly overwrite files. I’m not sure what is going on here that’s causing this behavior. Here are some ideas to check out:

    1) Are you working with a PLA rather than a PLN? PLA files include all library parts that are in use from the loaded libraries and are intended for archival purposes; they are sometimes used to transport files to another computer or to send to a consultant. If you save your file as a PLA, I believe when you try to save it again it will ask you for the name etc.

    2) Where are you saving the files? If your folder permissions are set incorrectly, then it is possible this may cause issues like this. Try saving the files to your desktop to see if the behavior still happens.

    3) Are you doing a Save As instead of a Save? If you do a Save As command, it will always ask you for the file name and location, and will overwrite if you confirm that you want to update an existing file.

    Those are the ideas that come to mind. You might consider contacting Graphisoft tech support to see if they have any other suggestions. If you get this figured out, please return here and post an update so we all can know the cause and solution.

    Eric

    Reply

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