The Hard Drive Crash Thread

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The Hard Drive Crash Thread

Postby Limax on Wed Jan 04, 2006 6:12 am

[EDIT BY JEFF: Over in the Master Nick? thread, I mentioned the hard drive crash referenced in this week's news item. This subsequently changed the course of the topic of discussion, which I think warranted a split. Some posts still related to this thread but which better related to the original topic have remained there.]

jtdarlington wrote:Oh, and atristain, my story notes are safely locked in the crumbled remains of my dead laptop hard drive, so nobody's getting to them... including me.


Wow... a completely unhackable computer. Brilliant, Jeff! ;)
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Postby fossil on Wed Jan 04, 2006 6:53 pm

Jeff, my empathy on the loss of the hard drive, and congratulations on taking appropriate action as soon as you heard the Dread Click of Doom. Fortunately, the ThinkPad whose disk crumbled out from under me was only my work machine, so I didn't lose anything of real importance. :-) (Full disclosure: most of the significant stuff at work is kept on file servers with redundant hot spares and scheduled automatic backups, which means that serious data loss would require catastrophe on the order of a fire, flood, or explosion in the server room.)
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Postby Erzengel on Wed Jan 04, 2006 7:31 pm

fossil wrote:(Full disclosure: most of the significant stuff at work is kept on file servers with redundant hot spares and scheduled automatic backups, which means that serious data loss would require catastrophe on the order of a fire, flood, or explosion in the server room.)


Perhaps I'm wrong, but shouldn't there be off-site backups to prevent even that from being too catastrophic?

Most of my important data is on DVD-RWs that are handled with extreme care, with backups on DVD-Rs at arbitrary intervals. Even when a HDD fails (which it just did) I can continue working with it with any DVD recorder drive equipped computer.
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Postby fossil on Wed Jan 04, 2006 10:19 pm

Erzengel wrote:
fossil wrote:(Full disclosure: most of the significant stuff at work is kept on file servers with redundant hot spares and scheduled automatic backups, which means that serious data loss would require catastrophe on the order of a fire, flood, or explosion in the server room.)


Perhaps I'm wrong, but shouldn't there be off-site backups to prevent even that from being too catastrophic?

Most of my important data is on DVD-RWs that are handled with extreme care, with backups on DVD-Rs at arbitrary intervals. Even when a HDD fails (which it just did) I can continue working with it with any DVD recorder drive equipped computer.


Good point. They do send some of the server backups offsite, but it's not a daily thing. Imagine being a developer during the crunch part of a project, and the last offsite backup was a week or two ago, and that's all that's left after $DOOMSDAY. You could re-create that much work, but it wouldn't be fun.
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Postby Erzengel on Wed Jan 04, 2006 11:34 pm

fossil wrote: Imagine being a developer during the crunch part of a project, and the last offsite backup was a week or two ago, and that's all that's left after $DOOMSDAY. You could re-create that much work, but it wouldn't be fun.


I've had that happen, and it is really disheartening.
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Postby jtdarlington on Thu Jan 05, 2006 7:26 am

Since this is quickly becoming the "Jeff's Hard Drive Failure" thread, here's some of the gory details: Probably Monday night, I noticed Apollo's HD started making a few odd noises. The seemed only incidental, so I wasn't even sure I was hearing them. Tuesday, I went back to work (Monday being my New Years holiday), and as per my usual custom, Apollo dutifully sat nearby so I could squeeze in some comic time between things popping up on my day job.

The clicking became more obvious and louder. It finally got to the point that it made such a racket it made my stomach churn. There was a time or two that it would crunch over and over trying to read something, effectively slowing down the system to a crawl. By this point, I knew something had to be wrong. I quickly jumped off the wireless network and plugged into the wired, started archiving things like my mail, bookmarks, and the absolutely essential GPF files, and moving them over to Diana, our main XP desktop.

Once I copied over the most important things, I started running a few diagnostics. IBM usually installs software called PC Doctor on all of its machines, so I decided to run those tests first. The "SMART Short Self-Test" (whatever that means; I'm a software geek, not a hardware geek) failed, as did the surface scan. When I saw the surface scan results, I decided I should try to run ScanDisk and see if I could recover anything that may have been lost to bad clusters. So, as per XP's usual way of doing things, the machine shutdown, rebooted, and started the scan. I noticed a few bad clusters show up, but unfortunately I missed the final result details as by then I was busy doing some heavy programming on my work machine. I saw Apollo's screen go black out of the corner of my eye, and watched him to make sure he rebooted successfully.

Then I saw the four worst words I think I've ever seen: "Operating system not found." I was about ready to throw up.

I went into the BIOS and the drive was still being recognized. As stated in the news item, I threw in a Knoppix CD I just happened to burn a month or so ago when my sister's HD failed. Knoppix booted beautifully and all the other hardware seemed to be working fine. But whenever I tried to mount the HD, it simply produced the most sickening clicking and grinding noises. I shut him down and he hasn't been booted since.

All in all, it could certainly be worse. I was able to get the absolutely most critical things off before it died. I haven't been able to get my mail working yet: I have Thunderbird on Diana, but every time I try to overwrite the default setup there with my stuff from Apollo, it just ends up messing up the entire screen. I've probably missed a setting somewhere in the preferences file. I'm currently using my ISP's webmail app to keep tabs on my inbox and keep it from overloading with spam, but I'm not replying to anything until I've got Thunderbird working again. The strips I was working on were quickly moved over and I've already finished and uploaded them. My continuity spreadsheet was already on Diana, but I copied over the most recent version over as well.

I mentioned that my story notes were probably lost; that's not entirely true. While the master copy was on Apollo's HD, I also keep a copy on my Palm using Documents To Go. Ergo, I still have my notes, but I can't back them up in case my Palm dies as well. I was able to back up all my contacts, calender, etc. from my Palm to Diana, but anything else like my DocsToGo files are stuck until I can get Apollo back up and running. I also lost my local backup of all the low-res GPF strips since Year Four, some Java and Perl code, and other files like some novels and fanfics written by some friends and myself. Although I backed up the settings, my IM was on that machine as well and is currently down.

The good news is that I ordered a new HD Tuesday night, and according to the IBM site it has already shipped, so it should be here in a couple days. I just need to find a reliable data recovery place that can salvage as much as possible from the old disk. Since I know there's a physical problem with the platters or the drive head, I'm pretty sure I can't recover it myself. My biggest concern will be that the OS isn't recoverable; IBM has this annoying habit of storing all the system recovery stuff on a hidden partition on the HD, then giving you a CD that essentially unlocks it if you need to reinstall from scratch. Thus, I don't have any Windows XP installation disks should the recovery fail. If that happens I'll have to either go out and buy a new XP install :P or finally take the plunge of moving my most essential and used machine totally to Linux. It's been a goal of mine to take the creation process of GPF to all Open Source software, but this wasn't the way I inteded to do it. :roll:

As for backups, both redundant and off-site: Every time I finish a high-res GPF strip, I have an extensive little ritual to keep them safe. For the current year, I keep a copy on two different systems, Diana and my primary Linux box, Demeter. Throughout the year I may make CD-RW snapshots just to be extra safe. Then, once the year has been officially closed, I burn those files to a pair of DVD-Rs. One remains here in my office and readily accessible. The other goes in the safety deposit box at the bank. In over seven years of GPF, I've only lost one comic to any sort of data failure, and that comic I was at least able to rescan the original line work and rework so I could replace it (and get it into Book 5... whenever that finally happens).
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Postby atristain on Thu Jan 05, 2006 1:25 pm

Man! Looks like you started the year with the wrong foot. I hope you can recover most or all that you need. (and also the things that you don't actually need but were funny)

But looks like you have everything that you need to have a safe recovery. What could go w... :o Sorry I almost jinxed it for you.

Funny how this thread started so different than it started. I promise to refrain from making "Houston" jokes.
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Postby Erzengel on Thu Jan 05, 2006 4:15 pm

jtdarlington wrote:IBM has this annoying habit of storing all the system recovery stuff on a hidden partition on the HD, then giving you a CD that essentially unlocks it if you need to reinstall from scratch. Thus, I don't have any Windows XP installation disks should the recovery fail. If that happens I'll have to either go out and buy a new XP install :P or finally take the plunge of moving my most essential and used machine totally to Linux.


WTF is IBM thinking? Technically I don't have an XP Install disk for my Toshiba laptop (the only computer that I didn't build myself), but I have a CD from Toshiba with the Norton Ghost image of XP and all of Toshiba's tools and drivers. At least when the HDD goes bleh I can install a new one and let Ghost put the OS on it. (Been there, done that)


My Hard Drive that just went dead was *brand new*, I just got it this past September. Toward the end of the december it was clicking and grinding a lot whenever I did something intensive--games, 3d studio. My important data was already on RWs, but I went ahead and burned off any data which wasn't on a CD/DVD onto DVD-Rs, particularly since during startup it would give me a BSOD every few boots (Error in Win32.sys, MS says that it's probably a hardware problem). What was strange is if I let the computer 'cool' by leaving it off, it would start up fine. Then after a while, it would just BSOD in win32.sys and die. After burning everything, I went to try and fix it, but nothing would recognize my partitions (I don't understand, one is 30 gigs, within dos limits, and the second is 270, needs XPSP2), and then it wouldn't recognize my hard drive as having an OS. So I tried reformatting it, and it failed the format. I plugged it into another computer, and it couldn't format it either.
I bought a new hard drive, and after formatting it windows can't seem to install on it--I've tried putting the disk in the CD-ROM drive, and in the DVD-ROM drive. I've switched to one of my other XP-Home disks, and tried in both. I've even tried one of my old, tiny hard drives.
All have the exact same error: "<filename> could not be copied correctly" or "<filename> on hard drive does not match archive". After retrying it continues, but then when it finishes the "copy files" part it goes to the actual install and says "Could not setup: Required windows component not installed". This coupled with the fact that a couple times during the ordeal the computer would spontaniously turn off half a second after turning on convinces me it's not just my hard drive.
The problem is... which is it? My Motherboard? My CPU? I can't check them because this is my only Pentium 4 computer, the other CPUs don't fit. I'd rather not have to buy a new CPU and motherboard when I can just buy one. (Although I can then find out what's wrong, send it in under warranty, and have myself another Pentium 4 computer...)
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Postby CyburNetiks on Thu Jan 05, 2006 4:38 pm

never had a hard drive crash, but man i love my ipod. i keep all the important stuff compied on there (so basically i use it as an external hard drive) with backups every month onto cd-r (no dvd burner yet)
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Postby Limax on Fri Jan 06, 2006 6:32 am

My dad was remarking to me last night (and I haven't gone to confirm this) that IBM is getting rid of or has gotten rid of their 'ThinkPad' line and is no longer making laptops, and that the name was sold to some company in Asia. I'm stirring the pot here, and I know there's bound to be comments on this...
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Postby kmd on Fri Jan 06, 2006 7:32 am

Yes, IBM sold off all of it's laptop/desktop machines to a company in China called Lenovo. They've kept the Thinkpad and ThinkCenter names, but they're no longer IBMs.

Consequently, getting hardware from IBM that used to take a couple days now takes several weeks. Shipping parts over from China always seems to get hung up in Customs and sits and sits for days. *sigh* Sometimes being able to track your packages via the web isn't such a great thing. It's frustrating seeing it not change in status for an entire week. Oh well.
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Postby cyberwood on Fri Jan 06, 2006 8:35 am

kmd wrote:Yes, IBM sold off all of it's laptop/desktop machines to a company in China called Lenovo. They've kept the Thinkpad and ThinkCenter names, but they're no longer IBMs.

Consequently, getting hardware from IBM that used to take a couple days now takes several weeks. Shipping parts over from China always seems to get hung up in Customs and sits and sits for days. *sigh* Sometimes being able to track your packages via the web isn't such a great thing. It's frustrating seeing it not change in status for an entire week. Oh well.


No kidding...I watched for a week, while my new memory was hung up in customs for my ThinkPad.

On the other hand...I just had to send my ThinkPad back for service (yeah its still under warrenty), it was out of my house from Noon Tuesday to 5PM Thrusday...53 hours. All is well with it.

I did have my HD die last spring, replacement HD was at my house w/in 48 hours and since the drive was dead...install image CDs in my hands w/in 48 hours after that. There was a good chance that the drive shipped was supposed to be pre-loaded, but it wasn't, and now I have real recovery CDs.

I will say that when you get a support person w/ a clue (you might win the lottery faster), service is still kick-butt good.

I thought my ThinkPad would be gone for a week. The only thing that was pokey was the actual memory upgrade that I ordered.
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Postby CyburNetiks on Fri Jan 06, 2006 10:44 am

bah, ordering parts, sending it in for service, who needs it? just do your own work and buy parts from the local computer store (the bcoms here are excellent for prices, don't ever ask for support though, they litterally can't tell the difference between ddr ram and sdram)
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Postby Tuxmaster on Fri Jan 06, 2006 1:50 pm

jtdarlington wrote:"SMART Short Self-Test" (whatever that means; I'm a software geek, not a hardware geek) failed, as did the surface scan.

This is essenualy a real time backup in case of bad clusters.

jtdarlington wrote:Then I saw the four worst words I think I've ever seen: "Operating system not found." I was about ready to throw up.

Your Harddrive might be recoverable it is the true click of death then it would fail post. At least that is what I remember from hardware school.

jtdarlington wrote:I went into the BIOS and the drive was still being recognized.


That is good news

jtdarlington wrote:
My biggest concern will be that the OS isn't recoverable;

IT depends if that partition is ruined. If you have the CD key all you really need is the CD. And a fellow geek might be able to help you out there.

I know there is also a scan program out there that might take 7 days to fully recover but it might work and restore your harddrive But with smart not working it is only a slight chance. Depending on how shot your harddrive is.
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Postby sharpestmarble on Sun Jan 08, 2006 11:48 pm

Erzengel wrote:I don't understand, one is 30 gigs, within dos limits, and the second is 270, needs XPSP2


As I recall, DOS requires FAT16 as the highest, which has a max of 2 GB. Am I out of it enough that you're not talking about that?
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Postby Erzengel on Mon Jan 09, 2006 12:26 am

M70X wrote:
Erzengel wrote:I don't understand, one is 30 gigs, within dos limits, and the second is 270, needs XPSP2


As I recall, DOS requires FAT16 as the highest, which has a max of 2 GB. Am I out of it enough that you're not talking about that?


Hmm, yes, FAT16 can have a max patition of 2 gigs. Strange, I must have misread something while trying to figure out why my hard drive wasn't working.

32 gigs is the largest that 2k can recognize, though, and since that's what I'm using on most of my other computers, that's probably where a wire got crossed.

But still, my other computers, Norton Recovery Disk, and the Windows XP setup disc should be able to recognize a 30 gig patition, even if they can't recognize the 270 gig.
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Postby electronerd on Mon Jan 09, 2006 12:46 am

Tuxmaster wrote:
jtdarlington wrote:"SMART Short Self-Test" (whatever that means; I'm a software geek, not a hardware geek) failed, as did the surface scan.

This is essenualy a real time backup in case of bad clusters.

Actually, no. It's a self-test, as the name implies. The drive does certain tests on its hardware and firmware and reports. It is not in any way a backup.

Tuxmaster wrote:
jtdarlington wrote:Then I saw the four worst words I think I've ever seen: "Operating system not found." I was about ready to throw up.

Your Harddrive might be recoverable it is the true click of death then it would fail post. At least that is what I remember from hardware school.

Not necessarily. And it won't be repairable via software.
Tuxmaster wrote:
jtdarlington wrote:I went into the BIOS and the drive was still being recognized.

That is good news

Perhaps, but it doesn't really mean much.

Tuxmaster wrote:
jtdarlington wrote: My biggest concern will be that the OS isn't recoverable;

IT depends if that partition is ruined. If you have the CD key all you really need is the CD. And a fellow geek might be able to help you out there.

I know there is also a scan program out there that might take 7 days to fully recover but it might work and restore your harddrive But with smart not working it is only a slight chance. Depending on how shot your harddrive is.

I would not power this drive back up. To do so may cause further damage. Besides, I have a funny feeling he knows how to install an operating system. The problem is that he doesn't have a proper install CD (Though he should be able to procure one through IBM if he's brave enough to wait on hold for that long).
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Postby Stephen Polaron on Mon Jan 09, 2006 5:38 am

Erzengel wrote:32 gigs is the largest that 2k can recognize, though, and since that's what I'm using on most of my other computers, that's probably where a wire got crossed.


32GB is the formatting limit for FAT32 when using 2000 and XP. When setting up a drive, partitions larger then 32GB are must be formatted using NTFS, although the operation system can use FAT32 volumes larger then that. This limit is caused by a limitation in the format utility (as I recall) used by 2000 and XP - thus, you can use a third party formatting utility (such as those provided by drive manufacturers) to format partitions larger then 32GB, and Windows will still be able to use the partitions.

FAT16 has a 4GB limit, but Windows again imposes its own limits. When using FAT, Windows will format partitions smaller then 2GB using FAT16, and larger partitions with FAT32.



But back to the original topic, sorry to hear about your Hard Drive problems, Jeff. Glad you were able to recover the important data.
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Postby jtdarlington on Mon Jan 09, 2006 6:45 am

electronerd wrote:
Tuxmaster wrote:This is essenualy a real time backup in case of bad clusters.

Actually, no. It's a self-test, as the name implies. The drive does certain tests on its hardware and firmware and reports. It is not in any way a backup.


Wikipedia is your friend. ;)

electronerd wrote:I would not power this drive back up. To do so may cause further damage. Besides, I have a funny feeling he knows how to install an operating system. The problem is that he doesn't have a proper install CD (Though he should be able to procure one through IBM if he's brave enough to wait on hold for that long).


Yeah, I've installed my share of OSes in my day. (Although the list would be so embarrassingly old....) The dead drive is currently sitting in a safe place outside the system until I can get it to a recovery place, and it won't get power until then. As for getting install discs from IBM... when it comes to this sort of thing, unfortunately I'm not a very patient man. :smug:

UPS says the new drive arrived in Greensboro this morning, so it should be out for delivery either today or tomorrow. Until then, I'm still using Knoppix on the machine sans hard disk for IM (through gaim) and wireless web surfing. I'm actually getting it to save my settings to my USB memory key (thumb drive, whatever you wish to call it), which is pretty neat. Mail and all my core GPF work is getting done on my mail desktop, Diana.
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Postby jtdarlington on Mon Jan 09, 2006 12:44 pm

Updates for the morbidly curious: The good news is the new hard disk arrived today, nice and shiny and ready to go. Horay.

The bad news is that the data recovery place I was planning to go to on the recommendation of a former coworker can't help us. They can do recovery work as long as there isn't anything physically wrong with the drive, which unfortunately is the boat I'm in now. They suggested a place out in California that performs physical recovery, but their prices are a bit too far out of my budget at the moment (starting around $1000). Ergo, I'm up the proverbial creek, watching my proverbial paddle proverbially float away.

Time to hound IBM/Lenovo for some OS discs. (Then again, I do still have my Fedora Core discs sitting over there. I've always wanted a Linux laptop....)
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Postby cyberwood on Tue Jan 10, 2006 6:57 am

Good Luck ! Hopefully getting image CDs go fast. I think mine arrived w/in 2 days of calling. I should note that my ThinkPad is/was under warrenty. You might also see if you can download the ISO images from ibm.com. I was able to get some lost tools via ISO image download.
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Postby jtdarlington on Tue Jan 10, 2006 10:03 am

Well, the recovery discs arrived today, and I ordered them yesterday. It wasn't as painless as I had hoped; since Apollo isn't under warranty, I had to pay $50 plus shipping to get them here. Oh, well. I've poked around the support site a great deal and never saw any ISOs for anything except the occasional driver or firmware update, so that wasn't any help. The big question now is trying to find time this week to begin the laborious process of reinstalling everything.

The recovery discs give me an option to try and recover data from the drive before installation and move it to backup media or a network drive. I seriously doubt it's going to work, but I might try throwing in the old drive long enough to see if the recovery program can access it. I figure at this point the old drive is now just a very expensive coaster or doorstop, so trying to access it again isn't going to make things any worse than they already are. If I can recover anything, then that's great; if I can't, then I'll swap back in the new drive and start from scratch.
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Postby stjen on Tue Jan 10, 2006 10:14 am

There are some other alternatives.

F'rinstance, if your laptop has the swappable CD/DVD drive bay, you can get an adapter that will allow you to plug in a second hard drive. Yes, that's right, you can load up the new hard drive with new software and stuff, then temporarily load the old hard drive as an extra drive, and maybe you can just retrieve data off of it without need of an operating system.

Alternately, there are kits that allow you to attach a second hard drive via a USB port (Apricorn has a nice one, ostensibly for upgrading a 2.5" laptop hard drive) or Firewire port, and you'd put the old one in that way. Again, it would be just a data drive, so you can see if it works without "fear" that you'll damage the new one.

Good luck, I know where you're coming from (and I still have my old laptop hard drive that I wanted to see if I could pull any data off of too).
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Postby jtdarlington on Tue Jan 10, 2006 4:19 pm

Well, I've given it a shot, and it looks like I've managed to recover somewhere between 50-60% of my core data from the old drive before it decided to stop responding. The good news is I managed to rescue some very important files. The bad news is I managed to completely lose some very important files. However, I do think that the absolutely most essential things were either backed up before the crash, were on the Palm or stored in multiple places anyway, or rescued here, so it could definitely be worse. Of course, since I managed to rescue kmd's Neverwinter Nights save games, she'll probably be happy. :smug:

Time to start setting up the new drive. stjen, I had considered the UltraBay extra hard drive slot, but frankly I think I've done about all I can do for now (and spent about as much money as I'm willing to spend).
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Postby FreminKendris on Wed Jan 11, 2006 7:11 am

At one of my client's office, they use IBM ThinkPads as well. One of the vice presidents had his hard drive give clicky-of-death-times as well.
I went and bought one of those laptop harddrive enclosures for 20 dollars. After putting the hard drive in, it didn't work in my desktop... until for some odd reason I plugged in both USB connectors into the computer. On the cable there is one end that has the mini-usb to go into the enclosure then the other end of the cable has two USB plug-in-doo-daddies.
Maybe it might work for you? Just a thought. If not... I find having the laptop-hdd-2-usb enclosure useful anyways because data recovery on crashed windows systems is a must at most of my client's sites.
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