June 01, 2003

Total Disk Failure

Not everything about my vacation turned out to be "fantástico" though.

When I came to switch my main PC back on, it failed to boot. After some diagnosis, it transpired that the main system disk containing the OS had totally failed and was not even registering with the BIOS. I have never ever had a total disk failure in my life - usually it's the more normal gradual process of increasing numbers of bad sectors which give you plenty of warning of impending trouble rather than a catestrophic immediate failure. The drive is just over 3 years old, so statistically this is rather a fluk occurance well outside the normal MTBF (mean time between failure) parameters of these disk drives.

So, I have had a fun time during the last day buying and installing a replacement hard disk, and reinstalling Windows 2000 from scratch. I'd forgotten how long it takes to do the install, then bring it up to the current service pack and patch state.

In the process, I have taken to opportunity to try out Virtual PC, and initially I am very impressed.

Ultimately I would like to consolidate the old Windows 98 "games machine" which the kids use onto some faster hardware, but maintain isolation from my development work, and vpc seems like an ideal way to do this concurrently.
I need to see how vpc copes with Dungeon Seige and other graphics intensive games before getting my credit card out for the final purchase, but the vpc trial license gives me 45 days to make up my mind - and that means a great excuse to play lots of games during the next 6 weeks - all for "testing purposes" of course! ;-).

Luckily all my critical data is on a separate hard disk or under CVS version control, but a total disk failure sure does make you re-evaluate your backup policy! When you start looking, you soon find data files splattered all over the place, and consolidating them all into one place to keep data files separate from programs and OS files and allow easier backups is still way too hard on Windows.
And if Robert Scoble is listening, this is a big area of pain must corporate IT depertments still have with Windows, and has always been a big bullet in the pro-UNIX armoury, and still remains something to be fixed in Longhorn IMHO.
Here's the test: list ALL the directories a user would need to copy to backup ALL their data - including Outlook mailboxes, and things like Powerpoint templates, but excluding Temporary Internet Files, for example. It's getting better as more and more stuff moves under "Documents and Settings/%USERNAME%" but there's still a lot of garbage in there too that is long overdue for a cleanup.

I lost a few non-critical files in the process, so I do need to refine my approach to backups a little more for the future - and maybe it's time to invest in that RAID store I keep thinking about.

I may be able to get the old disk drive repaired to recover some or all of the data, but losing a whole drive rather than just a single partition is not a pleasant scenario at all.

Entry categories: General
Posted by Jorgen Thelin at June 1, 2003 08:23 PM - [PermaLink]
Traceback List
Data Recovery
Excerpt: I just phoned round for a few quotes on recovering the data from my failed disk drive, and the going rate seems to be 850 GBP / 1400 USD per disk. At that price, I have a strong suspicion I will find a way to live without the lost files! I think I nee...
Weblog: TheArchitect.co.uk - Jorgen Thelin's weblog
Tracked: June 2, 2003 12:48 PM
More fun with disk drives
Excerpt: After my recent problems with disk drives, I have purchased a simple RAID controller and extra disk to construct a simple mirrored RAID 1 configuration to safeguard my main application data. However, getting this working has proved rather problematic. ...
Weblog: TheArchitect.co.uk - Jorgen Thelin's weblog
Tracked: June 9, 2003 11:33 AM