A Warning and a Plea

This is NOT actually my hard drive*

Well, dear friends, it seems as though I have fallen victim to an incurably failed hard-drive…

Without warning, the other day, my newest and supposedly nicest HDD apparently decided that reading data off platters was a silly thing to do, and that wagging it’s heads blindly about the spinning disks was much more fun. As this had previously seemed to be my most trustworthy storage device, it was the one (of four, if you were curious) upon which I stored the all-important My Documents folder. So yeah, pretty much everything is gone. Gigabytes/years of research, most every digital photo I’ve ever taken, letters from old friends, long-forgotten school assignments**… Like a house-fire indeed… I have procured an identical drive with which I plan on performing a risky platter transplant, but with the scraping noises the thing was generating I doubt my attempts will be met with any sort of success.

And so, a Word of Caution: BACK UP YOUR DATA! Better yet, do as a wise friend suggested and set up a RAID array. I had had drives fail before, but it was always in a gradual and/or recoverable way. I am well-familiar with the magic of data recovery software, and thusly thought this current type of, well, death impossible. I appreciate the learning of such a lesson, but couldn’t it have happened to the drive with all the pirated zombie movies or something? Heck, the boot/OS drive would have been infinitely preferable… Anyhow, go to NewEgg (sponsorship, please!***) or something right now, buy an external drive or two, and BACK UP YOUR DATA!!!

It is precisely because I did not back up my data, that I must now ask you all a favor. If, over the years, I have shared with you any documents, higher-resolution images, etcetera which is not currently available on Flickr, etcetera, would you kindly email copies back to me? This includes the high-res version of this, as the admittedly-sketchy hosting service I used seems to have sketched right out of existence… Many, many thanks to you all, and may you each have a fantastic holiday season!

PS: Don’t trust Western Digital SATA drives! Evil, I tell you!

*Photo (and, presumably, drive and well-manicured hand) belong to one Mr. Kingsley, who it seems was also dissatisfied    with his Western Digital experience.

**Nothing due or in any way current, mind you, but most valuable for sentimental reasons

***Hey, it worked for Datamancer!

Published in: on December 18, 2007 at 2:32 pm  Comments (13)  

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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Oh, man, that sucks. I hope you have better luck with your other or future hard drives and that people send you copies.

    Merry Christmas*!

    (Replace with your religious/nonreligious event of choice as appropriate)

  2. Before you try transferring the platters (I’ve never heard of that being attempted be sure to tell the story if it comes down to that) you should stick the drive in the freezer. There have been reports of this working, for long enough to get the data off (http://tinyurl.com/8k492). The theory is that the metal parts shrink thus increasing the tolerances enough to allow the parts to spin. It is also worth noting that not everything works when you do this. I got the feeling that the OS wasn’t on this hard drive, but if it was the drive might not work well enough to get the data off of it. If that is the case I recommend Puppy linux (http://www.puppylinux.org/) for recovery (it works just from the RAM and boots off any portable media). Of course it would be best to transfer the data onto another SATA drive as your Documents folder wouldn’t have nearly enough time to transfer over USB (at least if its any where near the size of mine) before the drive thawed and stopped working. Luckily I’ve never been in a situation when I’d have to use this method as I have automated backups onto portable drives now.

    Best of luck and happy holidays,

    P.S. I recommend Seagate drives over all others

  3. Haha! Maybe I should start name-dropping “Ferrari” and “Rolex” (which will be promptly sold on ebay and turned into “Mouser” and “Snap-On”).

    If you do the platter swap just be certain not to touch the platters and to make sure the donor drive has the EXACT SAME chipset on it, right down to the firmware updates.

    I personally would try going the software/data recovery route first. The popular concept of a “crashed drive” is quite a misnomer. That grinding noise you heard was probably the heads flipping back and forth from full extension to “park” very rapidly. It makes a hell of a clattering racket, but I highly doubt anything has been damaged. I’ve seen trialware apps that you can download that are reported to work very well. They will scan the drive and show you what files can be recovered but you have to buy it for $100 to actually recover them. Another solution might be to find a friend with an external hard drive enclosure, open it up and stick your drive in there (its just a standard IDE drive in those things). It sounds weird, but I’ve heard of that working before to allow access to a dead drive (it works the other way too..sticking an external drive back into your PC). I just lost access to my 300 gig external and am going to try that route myself.
    I feel for you. Best of luck!

  4. Its times like these I’m reminded of the the three certainties of life: Death, Taxes and Data Loss.

    Never underestimate the power of an external hard drive and some good data recovery software.

  5. Try Spinrite from http://www.grc.com This program has worked wonders for me on several hard drives (data processing can really burn up drives quickly).

    Good luck.

  6. I second the comment regarding SpinRite from GRC.com.

    In the past I’ve used it to repair/recover data from hard drives that a PC BIOS stopped recognizing, drives that stopped booting into Windows, etc. A truly amazing program and a real bargain for those times when you need it.

  7. Hope this isn’t too late & you still have the hdd – in addition to software recovery there are ways of having the platters recovered / read physically (avoiding actually removing them, or their being removed under strict lab conditions with specialist machines). It may be pricey, I’m not sure of the costs; it’s used in forensics. Typically an hdd can be written over up to 9 times and all previous data layers are recoverable by that method – so unless it has been really physically ground or scratched you should be able to retrieve what was on it.
    And even if it is physically damaged, its very likely that undamaged areas are still recoverable.

  8. There’s nothing sadder than listening to a failed drive spinning and scritching in its last death throes 😦

  9. I totally recommend a Drobo. It’s lazy, sure, but it looks neat and you can use it as a central NAS.

  10. Thumbdrives, lots of thumbdrives, that’s all I can say.

  11. I’ve never needed to back up my stuff, but thumbdrives are a good idea. By the way, you need a much better e-mail authenticator.

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