My mp3, she is busted
June 28, 2016 12:49 PM   Subscribe

A few years ago, I'd amassed an impressive mp3 collection, organized obsessively on an internal hard drive. One day something happened: some of my mp3s suddenly became... other mp3s. Not just one other mp3, but several in a row.

This all took place about 2008, maybe? It was an Win XP machine, likely SP2. I had begun experimenting with Soulseek, a file sharing program focused on hard to find music, and had only been using it for a day or so. I was not new to file sharing, and I only mention Soulseek because it may have some bearing on the answer.

I had a portion of my collection shared. I remember not being able to access the hard drive for a short time, but when it came back (perhaps after a reboot), the mp3s were there but had been corrupted. Some would simply not play though all metadata and file characteristics were intact. Some, however, would play but the mp3 was a different song! Not only that, but sometimes, ANOTHER SONG WAS APPENDED!

For example: this happened to Amy Winehouse's "Me & Mister Jones", originally 2 minutes and 32 seconds long. When played, it starts in the middle of Johnny Cash's "I was there when it happened", then goes on to "I will rock and roll with you" (both from my collection as well) and cuts off before the end. What the?

I took that hard drive and put it away, restoring from my backup. I've just found and hooked the drive back up recently and it really has me wondering what the hell could have done this? How could separate songs become transposed onto another like this? Was it a virus? I'm just at a total loss on this!
posted by dozo to Computers & Internet (3 answers total)
This happened to me after a hard drive crash in 2007 (iTunes library on my last-ever Windows machine). Upon restoring I suddenly found little bits of one particular album appended to the ends of many other MP3s in my collection for a duration of about a half-second each. I had to trash all of the affected albums (about 70%) and re-acquire them through various means. Fortunately it sounds like you had a backup, but consider this anecdotal evidence that it is a thing that happens. If your hard drive took a little vacation for a while, I'd guess you had some kind of data failure/corruption, which mirrors my experience.
posted by mykescipark at 1:26 PM on June 28, 2016

If the drive is formatted with FAT, the file allocation table probably got corrupted, probably when the drive got unmounted. The FAT is a table that, given a block of a file, tells you what the next block is. If this table gets corrupted, then the supposed next block could be in a totally different file, or an unallocated block. This situation is notoriously difficult to fix in an automated fashion, because how can a repair program tell whether a given block really should be in a given file or not when the FAT says it is? This is why we use NTFS now.
posted by kindall at 1:27 PM on June 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

Thanks to both of you. This is a considerably late reply, due to several factors, but I wanted to say that I appreciate your answers. Every once in a while I'm reminded of this and become consumed with curiosity, but no more.
posted by dozo at 11:39 AM on March 17, 2017

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