What You Should Know About the Format of Records Saved to a Save File

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When a file contains variable-length fields, the data of the fixed-length fields of its deleted records can still be retrieved.


A known technique to retrieve the records deleted from a file consists of saving the file to a save file and extracting the records from the save file. This technique is based on the fact that, in many cases, the records of the file are stored in the save file maintaining their format, apart from a status byte added by the system at the beginning of each record.


However, there are situations where the format of the records in the save file is different from the original format. This happens when one of the fields of the file is variable-length, nullable, or of type date-time (DDS types L, T, and Z). In these cases, we can still retrieve the data of the fixed-length fields of the deleted records and, what's more, the data of some variable-length fields for some of those records.


Some Terms

From now on, when we talk about the length of a field, we will be referring to the number of bytes (not characters) and, for variable-length fields, will not take into account the two initial bytes.


So the current length of a variable-length field will refer to the number of bytes taken up currently by the data of the field, its maximum length to the maximum number of bytes that its data can take up, and its allocated length to the number of bytes that the system allocates for its data.


For example, the maximum length of a single-byte variable-length field of 10 characters (10A VARLEN) is 10 (not 12), and its current length can be from 0 to 10. The maximum length of a graphic variable-length field of 10 characters (10G VARLEN) is 20 (not 22), and its current length can be 0, 2, 4...or 20.


We will say that a variable-length field is of type 1 if the number of bytes allocated by the system for the field is equal to its maximum length. If it is less than its maximum length, we will say that the field is of type 2.


The space allocated by the system for a variable-length field is calculated as shown in Figure 1:


130121 MaciasFigure1 

Figure 1: This is the space allocated for variable-length fields.


Note that the system can allocate some space for a variable-length field without the user's request. On the other hand, when the user requests the system to allocate a number of characters for a variable-length field, the number of characters eventually allocated by the system can be greater than the one requested. We will see later how to obtain the length of the space allocated.


Data Records Saved to a Save File

When a physical file is saved to a save file, the records of the physical file are stored in the save file with a format different from the original one. First of all, every record of the physical file is stored in the save file in a logical record A and, in some cases, in a logical record B.


Records A contain the data of the fixed-length fields, the variable-length fields of type 1, and the variable-length fields of type 2 whose current length is less than or equal to their allocated length. Records B contain the data of the variable-length fields of type 2 whose current length is greater than their allocated length.


To simplify the following description, let's suppose that only one of the members of the physical file is saved to the save file.


Records A (corresponding to the records of the saved member) are stored consecutively in positions 1 to 512 of a group of records of the save file. These positions of these records of the save file make up what we will call the area A of the save file. Records B are stored (in general, consecutively) in positions 1 to 512 of another group of records of the save file. We will call these positions the area B of the save file.


Records A and B contained in a save file are shown in Figure 2:


130121 MaciasFigure2 

Figure 2: Here's an example of a save file containing a physical file.


To find out where area A begins, we have to look for a record of the save file whose positions 15 to 24 contain the name of the saved member. This is the first record of the save file containing information about that member. Then, look for a record whose position 2 is equal to x03 and whose position 33 is equal to x80. This is the first record of area A and contains the first logical record A from position 33.


To identify the initial record of area B, we have to look for the last record of the save file belonging to area A (we will see how to in the section "Format of Records A") and then for a record whose position 2 is equal to x13. This is the first record of area B.


Areas A and B are divided into segments 16MB long (2^24 bytes). As each record of the save file contains 512 bytes, a segment is stored in 32K (32,768) records of the save file. The first 32 bytes of a segment are reserved for the segment itself.


A record A can be stored in two consecutive segments. In this case, the part of record A stored in the second segment will begin in position 33 of the segment (as its first 32 bytes are reserved).


A record B cannot be stored in two consecutive segments. If a record B does not fit into the remaining space of a segment of area B, the whole of it will be stored in the following segment from position 33.


Length of the Space Allocated for Variable-Length Fields

The length (in bytes) allocated by the system for each variable-length field of the physical file, as well as whether they are of type 1 or 2, is stored in the save file between the first record containing information about the saved member and the first record of area A (see section "Data Records Saved to a Save File").


We have to look for a record of the save file whose positions 47 to 56 contain the name of the member and then for a record whose positions 1 to 2 contain, in binary format, the number of fields of the file. An array with one item per field of the file is stored in this record from positions 33 to 512 (and, if necessary, in the following records from positions 1 to 512). Each item of this array is 32 bytes long. Its format is shown in Figure 3:


 130121 MaciasFigure3 new

Figure 3: This is the format of an item containing variable-length info for a field.


For an example, see section "Example of Records A and B for a File with Variable-Length Fields."


Format of Records A

RecordA = Status [VarLenInfo] [NullInfo] FieldA1 ... FieldAn [VarLenFiller]


where [ ] shows that an element can be present or not and n is the number of fields of the physical file.




1 byte. Values x80 or xA0 show a valid record, xC0 or xE0 a deleted record, and x00 or x01 the end of the area A.


VarLenInfo = RecordBSegment  RecordBOffset  RecordBLen


Exists if any field of the physical file is variable-length. In this case, it is 8 bytes long.




2 bytes, binary format.

Number of segment of area B where record B lies. It is 0 when there is no record B associated.




4 bytes, binary format.

Offset of record B inside the segment. This offset ranges from x0000 0000 to x00FF FFFF (that is, byte 1 is always x00).


The absolute offset of record B in area B can be calculated as follows:

(RecordBSegment - 1) * 2^24 + RecordBOffset.




2 bytes, binary format.

Length (in bytes) of the record B. Can be 0.




Exists if any field of the physical file allows the value null. In this case, 1 bit is used for every field of the file to store whether it is null (1) or not (0). Therefore, the number of bytes needed is n / 8 rounded up, where n is the number of fields of the file.


FieldAj = FixedField or VarField     for j = 1 to n




Exists if any field of the physical file is variable-length and the length (in bytes) of record A is not a multiple of 16.

It contains as many bytes x00 as necessary for the length of the record A to be a multiple of 16.




Contains the data of a fixed-length field. This data has the same format as the physical file except for the types shown in Figure 4:


130121 MaciasFigure4

Figure 4: These are the types with different formats in a physical file and a record A.


Figure 5 shows how some date-time values are stored in a record A:


130121 MaciasFigure5

Figure 5: These are date, time, and timestamp values in record A.


As a field of type date is stored in record A as a number of days, we can obtain its equivalent in *LONGJUL format by taking any of the dates of Figure 5 as a reference and taking into account the leap years.


VarField = [VarFieldFiller]  VarFieldLen  [VarFieldAllocSpace]




1 byte x00. Exists if the offset of VarField in record A is odd. This way, the offset of VarFieldLen will always be even.




2 bytes, binary format.

Contains the current length (in bytes) of this variable-length field.

Possible values: from 0 to 32740 (x7FE4)that is, up to 32740 single-byte characters or 16370 graphic charactersand -32768 (x8000). The value x8000 shows that the data of this variable-length field is not stored in record A but in its associated record B.




Space allocated (if any) in record A for the data of this variable-length field. Its first VarFieldLen bytes contain the data of the variable-length field when VarFieldLen is different from x8000.

Can exist even when VarFieldLen is equal to x8000.

See section "Length of the Space Allocated for Variable-Length Fields" to learn how to obtain the length of VarFieldAllocSpace.


Properties of Records A

All of the records A have the same length.


If the physical file contains a variable-length field, the length (in bytes) of record A is a multiple of 16.


The offset in record A of the length of a variable-length fieldthat is, the offset of VarFieldLenis always even.


The record number 1 of the physical file member is stored in record A number 2, the record number 2 in record A number 3, and so on. The record A number 1 does not correspond to any record of the physical file member.


A record A can be stored in two consecutive segments.


Format of Records B

RecordB = RRN1 AccumLenB1 ... AccumLenBm [DataB1] ... [DataBm] +

                RRN2 EndOfRecord


where [ ] shows that an element can be present or not and m is the number of variable-length fields of type 2 of the physical file. See section "Length of the Space Allocated for Variable-Length Fields" to learn how to obtain m.




4 bytes, binary format.

Relative record number of the record of the physical file member whose data is stored in this record B. Can be 0.


AccumLenBk      for k = 1 to m


2 bytes, binary format.

Length (in bytes) occupied by the data of the k first fields of the record Bthat is, the sum of the bytes occupied by DataB1, DataB2...and DataBk.


DataBk                                for k = 1 to m


Contains the data (if any) for the kth variable-length field of type 2 of the physical file. This data occupies AccumLenBk - AccumLenB(k - 1) bytes, being AccumLenB0 equal to 0.




4 bytes, binary format.

Relative record number of the record of the physical file member whose data is or was stored in this record B.




1 byte with value x73.


Properties of Records B

Records B can have different lengths.


The offset and length of record B are stored in its corresponding record A (in VarLenInfo).


When the offset of record B is different from 0, its length can still be 0 (meaning that record B contains no data right now).


A record B cannot be stored in two consecutive segments.


Deleted Records

For a record deleted from a physical file, all the data in its corresponding record A remains unchanged except Statuswhich is set to xC0 or xE0and RecordBSegment, RecordBOffset, and RecordBLenwhich are set to 0so the data stored in NullInfo, FieldA1...and FieldAn can be retrieved. On the other hand, and unfortunately, we have no direct reference to the location of its record B.


Example of Records A and B for a File with Variable-Length Fields

Physical file FILE1:


A          R RFILE1

A            FLD1           3A

A            FLD2          30A         VARLEN

A            FLD3          30A         VARLEN(10)

A            FLD4          20G         VARLEN(5) CCSID(13488)

A* UCS-2: Space=x0020 1=x0031 2=x0032 3=x0033

A            FLD5           3A         ALWNULL




insert into QTEMP/FILE1 values

('AAA', ''     , 'FOURTEEN BYTES',

   vargraphic('12345' , 5, 13488), 'END'),


   vargraphic('123456', 6, 13488), 'END'),


   vargraphic('12345', 5, 13488), null )



Save file:






The format of records A and B are shown in Figures 6 and 7, respectively:


130121 MaciasFigure6

Figure 6: This is the format of records A for FILE1.


130121 MaciasFigure7
Figure 7: This is the format of records B for FILE1.


Records of the save file:


First record containing information on MEMBER1:


                                                    RRN  From  To

*...+....1....+....2....+....3....+....4....+....5   33     1  50

­­­­    FILE1     MEMBER1              °   ­­­ø­­­­­­­­­­




Record with "MEMBER1" in position 47:


                                                    RRN  From  To

*...+....1....+....2....+....3....+....4....+....5   41     1  50

­­­­     m   o-¯L           Ø       a  °FILE1     MEMB




....+....6                                                 51  60





Record with the number of fields in positions 1 and 2:


   < beginning of item   > end of item

   V Variable-length indicator   ww allocated length

   nn number of variable-length field of type 2


                                                    RRN  From  To

*...+....1....+....2....+....3....+....4....+....5   43     1  50

               Ë  §



                                <        V  nnww


....+....6....+....7....+....8....+....9....+....0         51 100




             ><        V  nnww               ><


....+....1....+....2....+....3....+....4....+....5        101 150

     Ø                               µ



     V  nnww               ><        V  nnww


....+....6....+....7....+....8....+....9....+....0        151 200




          ><       V  nnww               >


First (and only) record of the area A:


   Aj___ FieldAj   S Status   v VarLenInfo   n NullInfo

   f filler   ww length of variable-length field


                                                    RRN  From  To

*...+....1....+....2....+....3....+....4....+....5   49     1  50

­­­­     © u o-¯L                   Ø




                                Svvvvvvvvn   fwwww


....+....6....+....7....+....8....+....9....+....0         51 100

                              Ø         AAA     FO



______________A4__________A5_           A1_A2_A3__

              ww             fSvvvvvvvvn   fwwww


....+....1....+....2....+....3....+....4....+....5       101 150

URTEEN BYTES   ? ? ? ? ?END Ø         BBB Ø   FOUR



____________A4__________A5_           A1_A2_A3____

            ww             fSvvvvvvvvn   fwwww


....+....6....+....7....+....8....+....9....+....0       151 200

TEEN BYTESØ           END Ø         CCC   Ø



__________A4__________A5_           A1_A2_A3______

          ww             fSvvvvvvvvn   fwwww


....+....1....+....2....+....3....+....4....+....5       201 250

           ? ? ? ? ?




        ww             fS


First (and only) record of the area B:


   Bk___ DataBk   nnnn RRN   wk AccumLenk

   E EndOfRecord

                                                    RRN  From  To

*...+....1....+....2....+....3....+....4....+....5   57     1  50

     © u o-¯L                             VARLEN ?






....+....6....+....7....+....8....+....9....+....0         51 100

 ? ? ? ? ?    Ë          OVER FOURTEEN BYTES    Ë



__________               B2_________________

          nnnnEnnnnw1w2w3                   nnnnE




Figure 8 contains the maximum values for database files that we have been implicitly dealing with:


130121 MaciasFigure8

Figure 8: These are the maximum values for database files (from V5R3 to V7R1).


Juan Macias

Juan Macias has a Degree in Mathematics (1988) and a Master in Data Management from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (1989). He's a developer of RPG and COBOL applications mainly for finance and insurance companies. He can be contacted at



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    SB_Profound_WC_GenericWhen it comes to IBM Rational Open Access: RPG Edition, there are still many misconceptions - especially where application modernization is concerned!

    In this Webinar, we'll address some of the biggest myths about RPG Open Access, including:

    • Modernizing with RPG OA requires significant changes to the source code
    • The RPG language is outdated and impractical for modernizing applications
    • Modernizing with RPG OA is the equivalent to "screen scraping"


  • Time to Remove the Paper from Your Desk and Become More Efficient

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericToo much paper is wasted. Attempts to locate documents in endless filing cabinets.And distributing documents is expensive and takes up far too much time.
    These are just three common reasons why it might be time for your company to implement a paperless document management system.
    Watch the webinar to learn more and discover how easy it can be to:

    • Capture
    • Manage
    • And distribute documents digitally


  • IBM i: It’s Not Just AS/400


    IBM’s Steve Will talks AS/400, POWER9, cognitive systems, and everything in between

    Are there still companies that use AS400? Of course!

    IBM i was built on the same foundation.
    Watch this recorded webinar with IBM i Chief Architect Steve Will and IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington to gain a unique perspective on the direction of this platform, including:

    • IBM i development strategies in progress at IBM
    • Ways that Watson will shake hands with IBM i
    • Key takeaways from the AS/400 days


  • Ask the RDi Experts

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericWatch this recording where Jim Buck, Susan Gantner, and Charlie Guarino answered your questions, including:

    • What are the “hidden gems” in RDi that can make me more productive?
    • What makes RDi Debug better than the STRDBG green screen debugger?
    • How can RDi help me find out if I’ve tested all lines of a program?
    • What’s the best way to transition from PDM to RDi?
    • How do I convince my long-term developers to use RDi?

    This is a unique, online opportunity to hear how you can get more out of RDi.


  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using as a pre-built development environment



  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.


  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.



  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption



  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.



  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access




  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.


  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.



  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.



  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.