Living with Chronic Hard Drive Failure

Hard DriveThe portent of doom implied by my hard drive failure scare from several weeks ago turned into an ugly reality this past Saturday morning: I woke up to a locked-up operating system. When I tried to reboot, the resulting sound coming from beneath the laptop’s keyboard was loud, whirring and not very confidence-inducing. By then I had more or less made peace with the fact that the hard drive was dead, and another long walk to Tekserve confirmed it.

The PowerBook is still under AppleCare extended warranty protection, and it will be back within the week (I hope). I feel very fortunate, though; immediately after the first signs of trouble, I quit my procrastination and scheduled full backups of the hard drive on alternating nights to two different external FireWire drives — aided in no small part by the sheer awesomeness of Shirt Pocket Software’s invaluable SuperDuper! product. As a result, I lost less than a day’s worth of work; not perfect, but it could have been loads worse.

SuperDuper! made it exceedingly easy for me to create a complete, bootable mirror of my hard drive, which actually allows me to continue to use the same system — with all of my files, preferences and software tweaks intact — with another Macintosh. I pulled my old Aluminum 15-inch PowerBook G4 out of retirement and booted it from one of the backup FireWire drives. This allows me to continue to be productive — in theory. It’s a trooper, but this old PowerBook is painfully slow, and the whole setup is just a shade too far to the dangerous side of fragility for me to be willing to do much work on it. All of which is to say that, until my PowerBook returns from Tekserve, I’m doing only a minimal amount of extracurricular computing, surfing, blogging, etc. I hope to be back on my feet again next week.

  1. Well, I’m glad that you didn’t lose more time and information! I think my hard drive failing or losing my cell phone full of numbers is one of my reoccuring nightmares.

  2. Same here! Couldn’t live without my nightly backups! Full backup ones a week and incremental the rest of the nights. Not only am I afraid of hardware failure but also theft. Someone might steal my Powerbook anytime. Better safe than sorry!

  3. I had a simlar problem like eight months ago. Unfortunately my Powerbook was not under warranty. I have been using rsync ever since but it ddoesn’t seem to always work quite right. But thanks to your other hard drive post I grabbed SuperDuper and so far it seems to be a lot more efficient with backups. Maybe someday I’ll go back and figure out why rsync was so testy, but I’m glad I have something to get the job done.

  4. Glad to hear you didn’t lose anything but time. That makes for a happy story.

    So, what you’re saying is SuperDuper! is worth the bucks? I’ve actually been planning to look for a backup package this week, which might make me susceptible to the dreaded “clunk”.

  5. Yes, I really do think SuperDuper! is worth the money. It’s the most intuitive backup software I’ve seen and there’s an obvious amount of care put into it. It’s pretty essential for me.

  6. I had a similiar experience but was not as lucky. I used to run raid 0 with 4 250 gig hard drives. Meaning, I had a terabyte of usable hard drive space. Needless to say, 1 of the drives failed and I had no backup (how do you backup 600+ gigs of stuff).

    Because of that, I’m now ultra crazy about how I back things up. I now run Raid 0+1 (2 drives mirroring 2 drives at all times), plus a 5th drive gets a compressed backup of the main drives every other day, PLUS I dump the compressed backup to an external drive once a month.

    Crazy? Well, for me to lose everything, two locations would have to burn down at the exact same time…

  7. Also worth a look is Carbon Copy Cloner by Bombich Software. I’ve been using it for a while now and it works a treat. Dunno how it compares to SuperDuper! but I found it easy to get up and running.

  8. I had the similar problem with my PB’s hd – at first, the OS slowed down considerably and then one morning just stalled and the machine refused to reboot. I borrowed DiskWarrior from a friend and it reported the HD was trashed and there was no way to get the stuff from it. No backups of course. A little googling pointed me to another rescue solution, Data Rescue II. I gave it a try and to my surpise I was able to recover everything from my 80gb hd – well, I lost 10 or so pics and some mp3’s but that’s a very small price. There’s a demo on the site I think.

    Now, I also swear by SupderDuper, such a well designed and intuitive piece of software – superior to Carbon Copy Cloner imo.

    The little paranoid in me urged me to install SMARTReporter, a freeware app the monitors the SMART status of your HD in case of a hardware failure. Apple doesn’t support firewire SMART which is a pity.

    BTW – I did change the internal HD myself and opening the uppercase of an alu pb is not the easiest tasks in the world.

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