As you may have read, my windows box has suffered a hard drive failure after a power outage yesterday. Well, my machine is back – at least in a way. I’m running on a bare bones windows installation with just the antivirus, firewall and few other crucial applications such as Firefox.
I mentioned that Knoppix was able to access the drive without much problems. Windows was not as nice. The access was sketchy, and the system partition, which was the one I wanted to access was missing. After few tries I pulled it out, mounted my secondary drive, and closed the box up. I just didn’t feel like dealing with it. What exactly did I loose?
- My Firefox Profile – I miss my familiar setup and my adblock filters which I’ve been tweaking for the last few years. Still, all my bookmarks are either in del.icio.us or in Google Notebook so nothing irrecoverable was really lost.
- The whole MUGEN folder with the 50+ characters I downloaded. Oh well. I can re-download all this stuff, it will just take time.
- Morrowind and HL2 saved games. While these are irreplaceable, I can live without them.
- All the emails I pulled from my school email account over the last 2-3 years. Most of that stuff was mirrored on my laptop, and I don’t think I will need any of it any time soon.
- Some applications that I obtained… Um… Let’s say, less then legally. I don’t think I ever bothered archiving the iso’s and installation files for these things
That’s about the extent of the damage.
I did learn that my backup strategy needs to be more robust. Because of my unique drive situation, I have been very diligent in backing up the failing drive. I’d usually back up my both drives to an external device twice a week using the Windows NTBackup software. Each time it was a full backup (not an incremental one) and because of space constraints, I would simply overwrite the previous file.
Of course, this plan has one big hole in it. What happens if the machine dies in the middle of a backup? Well, you end up with an unusable, corrupted file. Since Murphy’s Law never fails, this is exactly what happened to me. I thought I was ready, and I thought I was “doing it rite” but I guess I was not.
My new backup plan is:
- Backup twice a week like before
- Always keep at least 2 backups on the drive
- Automatically delete the backup with the suffix _old from the drive
- Rename the current backup with a suffix _old
- If necessary get another external drive and start a weekly rotation
- Check the integrity of backups at least once in a while
Fortunately my policy of keeping crucial data on non-system drive did pay off big time. This is the least amount of data I have ever lost in a critical failure of this magnitude.
I also learned that NTBackup does not like failing drives. I had an old backup from April stashed away somewhere, and it seemed to be in a pristine condition… Unfortunately I was unable to recover anything from the system partition. All the other drives and partitions were fine. Which just goes to show you that auditing the integrity of your backups is crucial even in home environment.
I decided to finally shell out some cash for a UPS. I saw small 1hr ones at Best Buy few days ago for $50. They seemed like a perfect size for your home desktop. This is another lesson that came out of this whole ordeal. If I had a working UPS underneath my desk, chances are the machine would do a graceful shutdown, perhaps extending the life of my drive few more months. Power surges, and hard reboots are definitely not healthy for your hardware.
Finally, I will never use a computer with just one hard drive, unless it’s a laptop. It is a security policy that prevents you from pulling hair, and murdering innocent bystanders in a fit of rage. That second hard drive is crucial to my mental health and I will always have one.
[tags]hard drive, hard drive failure, backup, backups, backup plan, ups, hardware[/tags]