Just When I Thought It Was Safe

Just when I thought it was safe to start using my computer again, I found out just how wrong I was.

For the last six months or so, I had been saying to myself that I really needed to get a new hard drive for my home PC. I was starting to run out of disk space, and had had my current drives in the computer for more than five years. About a month or so ago, my primary hard drive failed. I turned on my computer one day, and it wouldn’t boot. I checked the BIOS and found that it was no longer detecting the drive.

So, I went out that night and finally got the hard drive I had been wanting for a while. I pulled out my dead 40 gigabyte drive, replaced it with the 40 gig drive I had been using as my slave drive, and put in a brand-spanking-new 300 gig Seagate drive that I got on sale (using the new IDE cable that came with it).

I used the software that came with the drive to partition it and get it all set up, moved all of my important files from my 40 gig drive (the one that used to be my slave, and is now my primary drive) onto the new drive, and got Windows and all of my software installed onto my 40 gig drive. Then, when I tried to install SuSE (my Linux build), I found that the partitioning software that came with my drive is a piece of crap that somehow simply creates an LVM on the drive without actually partitioning it. So, back to the drawing board, I had to move all of my files back off of the brand new drive and onto the old 40 gig drive. I used gParted to re-format the 300 gig drive. I then moved all of the files back off of my 40 gig drive and onto my new drive again. I got SuSE installed, and everything seemed to be fine and dandy. It only took me a week or two to get everything completely straightened out, and I hadn’t really lost any important files, so I was a happy camper.

However, I had no idea that my problems were about to get a whole lot worse.

I turned on my computer yesterday, and noticed that I couldn’t access the new hard drive from Windows any more. No big deal, I figured. I assumed that something had just got messed up with the Windows driver I had installed that let me access it. After all, thinking it would be the easiest way to do things, and the safest, I had formatted that harddrive in ext2 format, and had installed some Windows software that’s capable of reading and writing on an ext2 partition.

I re-installed the ext2 driver for Windows and re-started my computer. I still couldn’t access my drive. I re-started my computer and started up SuSE to see what I could see from there. It turns out that I can’t see anything, as SuSE immediately went into maintenance mode after it was unable to mount that drive.

I re-started again, and accessed my BIOS, only to find that my brand new hard drive could not even be detected. I tried a few times to get the BIOS to detect my drive. I then turned off my computer, unplugged my primary drive (which is still working fine at the moment – knock on wood), used the power cable and the IDE cable from it, and plugged them into my new hard drive. I started up my computer again, and it still wouldn’t recognize the drive.

So, it seems that my brand new hard drive, which I just purchased about a month ago, is already dead. Worse than that, all of my important files seem to be gone with it. There are very few files that I can’t recover at all, but the ones I can’t get back are really going to stress me out. I used my slave drive as storage for all of my media files, software, etc. Obviously, I can re-download all of the software I had stored on there. I can re-rip and re-download the music I had on there (although, I had spent a lot of money on the music I’d downloaded to my computer, and really don’t feel like spending all that money again). I can even restore the majority of my digital photographs from my mp3 player, as I backed all of them up onto there a few months ago.

However, there are quite a few really good pictures I had taken recently, that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to recover. I plan to try out the drive in another computer, just to make absolutely sure it’s not something that’s gone wrong in my own computer. However, if that doesn’t alleviate my problem, I will be taking the drive back to the store tonight, and will most likely be raising some hell to see if I have any kind of data recovery warranty on the drive. I know I have a replacement warranty, but replacing the drive is not going to replace my files.

Everyone should learn from my painful lesson. Back up your important files constantly. Storage media will fail. It’s just a matter of time. If there are items on your computer that are important to you, copy them to as many different places as you can. Burn them to CD or DVD, upload them to the web, transfer them to secondary hard drives or external media. Do whatever you can to save that stuff.

Unfortunately, I can tell you simply from the prospect that all of my stuff is gone (not knowing for sure whether there’s any way to recover the data) that it is very painful to lose all of that stuff. Basically, I had accumulated five or six years worth of music, software, photographs and more on my computer, and seem to have lost it all to a hardware failure on a brand new piece of hardware.