The Daily Ping

The 1st Ping was published on January 6, 2000.

August 15th, 2000

Hard Drive Crashes are Fun!

I tell you, there’s no greater feeling in the world than when your five-year-old computer decides to die. It leaves such a warm feeling in your heart to know that your PC’s given up the ghost, and that five years worth of data could be gone. Especially when your boot disk has gotten lost and you have that warm, fuzzy feeling when you think about all the things you should have backed up, but didn’t.

In case you couldn’t tell, this happened to me this past weekend. I have two hard drives in my computer, so I’m hoping that one of them (the one with most of my data) is OK and that it’s just the boot disk that’s dead. Or, even better, that both drives are salvagable. Unfortunately, when I downloaded a disk image of a DOS 6.22 disk, just so I could boot my computer and make sure the hard drive contents were in place, it hung after it said “Starting MS-DOS.”

I love computers, man. I just love ’em.

I wrote this yesterday before I went home, and I have good news to report: the computer is fine! Somehow a couple semi-obscure settings under “Advanced” in the BIOS setup got set to DISABLED when they shouldn’t have been… enabling them got my computer working again, with everything in tact! Thanks to Tony and his touching prayer. 😉 -ram

Posted in Technology

FROM: Paul
DATE: Tuesday August 15, 2000 -- 9:13:30AM
May your computer's BIOS never go south again.

I've been through two HD crashes in my day. The first was caused entirely by DoubleSpace (remember that?!) - the compression wasn't exactly bulletproof. It'd image your entire HD in one file and, as luck would have it, that file decided to leave this world, taking much of my data with it.

The second time was hardware: my Western Digital 1.2GB (remember when that was big?) had power problems. Sometimes it would spin up, sometimes not. WD's warranty policy was excellent: they shipped me a new 1.6GB before the 1.2 went back - so my data was saved.

I think a lot of the problem is that there aren't backup devices economical enough for these bigger HDs anymore - heck, 45GB isn't uncommon... what are you gonna back that up on? Zips? :)

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Tuesday August 15, 2000 -- 9:35:47AM
Isn't it astounding that there are 45 gig hard drives for under $200 now? On my PC at home, I have two drives that total 2.2 gigs. :)

As far as backups, yes, to do a full backup, there needs to be a better solution. I think the best idea would be to do a data backup onto CD-Rs periodically, at this point.

DATE: Tuesday August 15, 2000 -- 10:43:58AM
Were you drunk when you wrote this?
"...there's no greater feeling in the world then..."
"It leaves such a warm feeling in your hard..."
Blah. ;)

Speaking of hard drive crashes, I've had a few nasty things happen to me. One year, when we turned the computer on after taking it to school, the computer booted... but when I looked at my directories, the file names were scrambled and it was telling me I was using 170GB or so of space... when I only had a 850MB drive, I think. Recently, before installing Win98, scandisk told me I had tons of problems on one of my partitions and decided to cut every file down to 32k in size. Yay.

Yay for getting your computer working again, though. Maybe used their mystic powers to change all your BIOS settings as revenge for all your whining. ;)

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Tuesday August 15, 2000 -- 11:15:01AM
Rob -- Geez. What's wrong with me?!

FROM: Aaron
DATE: Tuesday August 15, 2000 -- 11:58:07AM
Yeah, it seems like IDE hard drives are about the cheapest method for storing large amounts of data nowadays. Maybe they are a good option for archiving data as well.

Depending on your backup needs, you could go for something like a 9GB DAT tape drive. The downside is that they are expensive. But then again, you could throw the tape(s) and DAT drive into a safe and have a fairly secure back-up of your data.

Another option is to encrypt your stuff and keep it on various free-disk-space things on the web (iDrive,, etc.). That's a funky idea but probably not very practical.

Lastly, you could just sport the $200 or so for a 45GB IDE drive and create five 9GB partitions and keep redundant copies of the data on these partitions. Chances of losing all 5 partitions at once is probably pretty small.

FROM: Terry Murphy
DATE: Tuesday August 15, 2000 -- 12:53:24AM
I agree that hard drives are a good way to do backups, but I do not think it is a good idea to use one single hard drive with multiple partitions as a backup solution. If there is a malfunction in the drive itself, you will not be able to get any of the data. Two drives (from different manufacturers!) in the same system is considerably better, but still problematic.

I think it is a good idea to spread backups over multiple computers. It is very easy to FTP your archive to different computers, preferably running different operating systems and architectures, to insure against hardware/software bugs (e.g. if somebody created a worm which erased the hard drives of all Linux computers, you would be protected if you ran more than just Linux, or if there was a bug in AMD CPU's which corrupted data you'd be protected if you ran something in addition to AMD). This is my current backup strategy. It takes less than a minute to archive my backup, and transfer over the network to different local machines.

Also, it is a good idea to have backups outside of your house, in case your house burns down, or some other localized disaster. I do this also, using Zip disks in a storage unit. I would like to diversify this a bit more, adding one or two more types of media (to protect against obsolescence, media decay, etc.)

The main hole in my backup strategy is if there is a termonuclear disaster in my area, or potentially even an earthquake or other natural disaster, since my backups are not very geographically diverse (all within a 10 mile radius). I will look into using one of the internet drives to potentially resolve this issue.

Also, I do not see any reason to backup ALL of my data, but just data I have created. The rest can just be restored from the installation media. Even if you have a 45 GB drive probably only a couple hundred of MB's are actually irreplaceable (unless you're creating movies or something similar!)

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Tuesday August 15, 2000 -- 1:40:01PM
Good thoughts, Terry.

I have made it a point to backup certain non-sensitive data on Internet drives (ie. my music collection database that I've been building for the last four years), but I clearly need to back up the rest of my personal data, which I would do on an Internet drive, provided I can encrypt it before I upload it.

Life was easier on old computers, when making a backup meant copying floppies. :)

FROM: Robert
DATE: Tuesday August 15, 2000 -- 6:39:15PM
I avoid computers at all costs for this reason. If only you knew how I circumvented that fear to post on the Daily Ping about 7 times a day.

FROM: Tony
DATE: Tuesday August 15, 2000 -- 9:32:35PM
I had a mystery file in my 13gb drive that was an .avi that was ever expanding, ended up taking up 9.67gb, before I realized , Im running out of space too fast. Ive also only decided to backup my 450 or so mp3's, everything else is replaceable. I wonder when we'll have enough storage to give up hard drives, and use a fixed mem solution to hold data ( like ram ) to store stuff? Maybe we never will?

FROM: Paul
DATE: Tuesday August 15, 2000 -- 10:22:32PM
That'd be scary, Tony. If this was about 5 years ago, I'd say Iomega would release such a product but... man, hard drive capacity just blew up so fast.

Ah, but Ryan's right. I remember backing up stuff on my Commodore 1581 3.5" disk drive... THOSE were the days.

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Wednesday August 16, 2000 -- 9:08:03AM
The Rapidly Changing Face of Computing newsletter often discusses the quantum leaps being made in storage capcity. Astounding.

FROM: Brian
DATE: Sunday June 10, 2001 -- 4:35:53PM
After recent addition of a new 80 GB drive, my system is now up to a total of 144 GB of HD space. Ahhhh... a life of geek excess.

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Sunday June 10, 2001 -- 10:16:15PM
You know, Brian, after all your posting, I still didn't make the connection. Until now, that is... :)

DATE: Monday June 11, 2001 -- 9:19:20AM
What connection? The loooooove connection? ;)

DATE: Saturday January 1, 2005 -- 2:41:57 pm

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