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Fun and games with computers

25th May 2010 (11:03)

Or, why backing up your files is important...

A week ago, I had a PC with two 300 Gb hard disks, both of them pretty full. The first hint of trouble I received was when I switched the computer on on Sunday afternoon and couldn't see my desktop wallpaper - just a black screen. "File not found". Double-clicking on icons for programs stored on the second hard disk produced no result. So I checked Windows Explorer:

"The disk in drive D is not formatted. Would you like to format it now?"

Yep, drive D is one of my hard disks. Without any warning, it just failed. Completely. After some quiet panicking and trying the usual things -- rebooting the computer, waiting and trying again, and running a virus scan - I downloaded some diagnostic software from the hard disk manufacturer. It had barely started working when it flashed up a big red FAILED! sign. Okay, got that. So just to make sure, I checked my other hard disk. This got about 40% through the test and failed too. Not really surprising, the disks are both the same make and equally old, so if one has failed the other one wouldn't be far behind, but still - not a good sign.

And this is the bit where my first paragraph comes in. The good news was, I had a regular offsite back up of my most important files - you know, accounts, tax information, projects for clients. Things I really, really couldn't live without. The bad news is, that still left vast amounts of information with no backup because there wasn't the storage space available. All the clips I've created for vidding; dowloaded software; artwork; personal writing - including bits and pieces of 'Buffy' fic and meta I've been working on but never finished. All those things - lost in time, like tears in rain.

So, even though I can't really afford it, I had to buy a new computer - it arrived yesterday, and it's what I'm typing on now. (On the bright side, it's far more powerful -- and shiny -- than my old one, and cost less that that one did. The wonders of progress.)  I also got an external hard drive, connected it to my old PC and set to work salvaging whatever data I could. I used file recovery software on the dead disk, and was pleasantly surprised to see it manage to retrieve quite a lot of files. But a lot more weren't recovered.

So, that was my week. :-\ At least all the stuff I've posted to LJ and AO3 is still around, since it's on their servers...


Posted by: The Mezzanine (deird1)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 10:14 (UTC)
Willow (eek)

Well, that sucks.


Having erased my entire hard drive and then reinstalled it just today, you have my sympathies. I spent quite a while working out exactly how much I'd lose if my backup didn't work...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 10:44 (UTC)

Thanks. :-) It was an anxious moment waiting to make sure my backup had worked properly too... being automatic, there's always the thought that it could have kept on going after the disk failure and backed up the corrupted files on top of the decent ones...

and happy birthday!

Posted by: The Mezzanine (deird1)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 10:47 (UTC)


Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 10:21 (UTC)
a little comfort by awmp.


Glad you were able to retrieve some things at least, but my heart aches for all the rest!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 10:45 (UTC)

I know - what's worst is when you can see what a file used to be, but can't open it. Or it's an image file and the thumbnail is intact but half the picture itself is corrupted.


Posted by: woman_of_ (woman_of_)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 10:35 (UTC)

It is amazing how much we depend on our PC's. File recovery sites are a godsend.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 10:46 (UTC)

And only a week or two earier I was cursing the backup because it was taking too long...

Posted by: Cal (caliente_uk)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 10:42 (UTC)
oh dear cap john

That happened to me last year, so you have my sympathy. The one thing it taught me is that you should always back up your files.

Looking on the bright side, at least you have a shiny new computer now! :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 10:47 (UTC)

There is that. :-) But now I've got to get used to Windows 7 (my old machine used XP)...

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 11:14 (UTC)

Ouch. Sympathies. That's never fun.

But kudos on the Bladerunner reference. :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 11:24 (UTC)

It seemed appropriate... the Skynet icon was also there to show how evil computers can be...


Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 14:40 (UTC)

I'm sorry to hear that. I had a similar scare a couple weeks ago. My computer suddenly started shutting itself off for no apparent reason. That caused some panic, since I hadn't backed up my files in about 6 months.

It turned out the problem was a USB drive I'd left plugged in when I'd shut the computer down the night before. Apparently it doesn't like that.

But, I need to buy a new computer now too. The one I have is 5 years old and not really up to the tasks of modern computing. I think I've settled on a Gateway with 6 GB of RAM, a 2.93Mhz processor and a terabyte hard drive.

Unfortunately, that means I have to have a 64-bit operating system. I eagerly await finding out which of my vital little 32-bit programs will fail to work with it.

And I can't really afford it either, but I pretty much live on the computer.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 15:49 (UTC)

Well, I've now discovered that my treasured copy of Microsoft Office 2000 (which is, obviously, at least 10 years old) doesn't work on Windows 7... :-(

My new system is pretty much what you're going for, except a 2.8 MHz processor. I did try installing one of my games on it last night that used to struggle on the old PC, and now it just flies along at the maximum graphics settings, so I'm not complaining.

Posted by: none of the above (frogfarm)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 16:10 (UTC)

Thanks for reminding me to buy a new hard drive ASAP.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 16:22 (UTC)

Happy to be of service. :-)

Posted by: M (spankulert)
Posted at: 25th May 2010 20:32 (UTC)
Community whyyyyyyy??!

Ouch! I know how much that sucks. Hope the new shiny will at least half make up for it.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th May 2010 00:29 (UTC)

I'm trying to stay philosophical about these things. :-) Thanks!"

Posted by: ladydorotea (ladydorotea)
Posted at: 26th May 2010 03:47 (UTC)


Btw - do you know you still can recover info even from failed a drive ? I am not sure it is worth it for you , but possible. There is some software around that can do it for you. For the future , I also may suggest getting a removable drive for backups - such as this:


I keep all my important stuff on one of these babies - they are great.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th May 2010 18:01 (UTC)

Thanks! I did know about data recovery software - it's what I spent most of last week using trying to salvage what I could from the trashed disk. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I did get back, but there's also a lot gone missing forever.

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