Restoring old WebCT backups

Just in case this ever comes up again, a note to remind myself how to do this.

Today I was asked if it would be possible for me to recover some old documents that a lecturer had placed in their unit WebCT site in 2004 or 2005.
While we don’t promise to keep backups of sites for more than two years after the end of a semester, we actually try to keep snapshots for much longer, on consumer grade hard drives (no guarantees!).

WebCT backups at the time (before my time, and obviously before Moodle), were just kept as WebCT backup ZIP files without metadata – it was this important to know the title (or partial) of the site at the time, to be able to find it. Even back then, it was thus common practise to name a site by the unit number.

All I had to do is look through the University handbook to find what the unit number was back before the unit number revolution of 2006, and search the archive for backups with that number.

dir /S /B | find "1395"

The ZIP file that I found was of course a WebCT CE4.1 backup zip, which has a broken header. Using WinRAR or similar one can repair the archive and then extract it.

The backup drive will now be packed up again, and be locked back up until the next time someone needs it. Looking at the ‘stats’, with this being the first request to have anything restored from that long ago, this ‘next time’ should be about 2015.

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