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The Hard Drive Chronicles

I work on a Frankenstein computer. No, that’s not some geeky brand of elite super computer. It is spare parts held together with bailing wire and dust. It is an new piece of hardware fit into an old case with the help of a Dremel and a cutting blade. It is just enough memory to do what I need but not quite enough to do what I want. And it is a 60 gb hard drive that floats between 500 mb and 2 gb of free space.

I finally squirreled away enough from my budget to purchase a new 500 gb (p)ATA hard drive. (Being honest with myself this was less about budget and more about martyrdom. I buy things for the kids before myself.) Additionally, Newegg had a great special on a USB external drive. Since I vowed to free myself from being bound to a single computer, I jumped on the special with plans to install a bootable OS such as Ubuntu and keep my entire development environment on the USB drive. As such, I should be able to work anywhere on just about any machine with enough memory.

The upgrade plan was simple. Make a backup of my workstation to the usb drive, then clone the 60 gb drive to the 500 gb drive and I’d be done. Unfortunately, the 60 gb drive came dead on arrival and had to be RMA’d. I couldn’t wait so I started the cloning process but ran into read errors. So 2 days of drive testing and using different bootable CDs with a variety of partitioning and cloning software turned into 3 days and then it happened. Everything quit working! I powered down and haven’t had the guts to return since. I could have just potentially lost a significant amount of data related to the success (if you want to call it that) of my freelancing career and the support and operation of my family. No, despite my rhetoric about the importance of backups, particularly offsite backups, I do not practice what I preach. The quantity of data I manage long outgrew my ability to create meaningful backups of every bit and byte. Instead I grab what is viewed as essential and make sure it is in a few places. For instance, I drop a couple of dollars each month to make sure Amazon has a copy of all our family photos in addition to the subset of photos that make it up to Flickr. I am not prepared to lose entire hard drives.

Next immediate plan of action: Determine damage-Test components individually. If neither drive works by itself, assume the IDE controller fried and test in another machine. If I can show the drives are both good and pass a chkdsk, then I have one more big gun of a partitioning program and an equally big gun of a cloning program that I have not tried. I expect them to be successful and this debacle to be over. Oh..but I have to watch Warehouse 13 first!

Update: My 60 gb drive has been confirmed functional with data. My current suspicion is that the primary ide controller has failed. This could be a good excuse to buy a new computer 🙂

Update: 60 gb drive okay but no longer boots. IDE controller is fine. 500 gb drive approved for RMA. Next step, clone the 60 gb drive to some backup space then tinker with the master boot record to see if I can get the drive booting again.

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