This message means that your project file has been damaged so badly that Help & Manual can't read it. In all instances where we have been able to analyze these
rare events directly the cause has been external: A power dip during saving, network problems during saving while saving on a network drive, failing RAM chips, bad sectors on the hard drive or other borderline hardware components, a badly-behaved third-party program or driver acting up during saving -- unfortunately there are very many possible causes on Windows computers.
The first thing to try is the Repair & Recover tool in the Tools menu, which will tidy up and reorganize the internal project database in the .HMX file. If this does not work the file is almost certainly too badly damaged to be recovered by normal means.
You may be able to find temporary files left over from your last working sessions. If a crash was not involved in the data corruption they may no longer be available because when H&M exits successfully it deletes these files, but if there was some kind of crash you may still be able to find them. Normally, you will not need to do a manual search for these files because H&M checks for their presence automatically every time it starts and displays a message asking if you want to recover them if they are found. However, the following procedure is at least worth trying in a worst-case scenario where something outside of H&M has corrupted your data.
Use Windows search to locate files called hmd*.tmp
. By default they are saved in the Windows temp directory for the current user but since this is often at a very deep level in the folder hierarchy it is easier to find the files with a search. (You can set H&M to store your temporary files in a more accessible location in Tools - Customize - Folders.)
If you find these files you can make them readable by H&M again by changing the *.tmp
extension to *.hmx
, then you will be able to open them.
If you have the automatic backup option activated you will have a copy of your project file in your project directory with a *.~HMX
extension. To open the file just change this to *.HMX. (For the future: You can activate automatic backups in Tools - Customize.
If none of this produces results you can always recover your data from the last compiled version of your help (this is not possible with PDF or eBooks, however). Just create a new project and select one of the "Import existing documentation from..." options in the first screen of the New Project wizard. You may need to do some editing depending on the format you are importing from, but at least you will have the data and won't need to write your texts again from scratch.
A general recommendation is to make regular backup copies of your data on a different drive from the drive that you are working on. This is a requirement for any type of data, because a Windows file system may become corrupted, a hard disk can fail and viruses can erase data. The only way to prevent data loss is to backup your data regularly on an external medium -- not on the same hard disk containing your project files. H&M is extremely reliable and is not known to crash or freeze without interference from some external factor -- freezes and crashes can be caused by defective memory chips or other hardware problems, brief power fluctuations, bad drivers (graphics drivers are particularly common culprits) and many other factors.
For ongoing backups of your work on a second hard drive we can recommend an excellent and inexpensive utility called AJC Active Backup:
This outstanding utility monitors specified directories and file types as you work and automatically creates a backup version every time you save. The backups are stored in a compressed archive and are incremental, only saving the differences between each version and the next. This makes them extremely compact and allows you to return to any version as required -- even the version from this morning if you want (AJC Active Backup must be configured to save open files to permit this level of granularity). If you configure the program to save the backups to a second or external drive it also radically increases your data security. Highly recommended.