Mission impossible: Saving the hard drive

By on March 24, 2012
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I set out to save a hard drive and things didn’t go so well.

We like to think that our gadgets are invulnerable, that nothing will ever happen to them. What else would explain the fact that so few of us take full backups of everything on a regular basis?

I’ve had an external hard drive for a number of years now and it was working fine until recently. It’s a Buffalo DriveStation with four 500 GB drives in it, configured in two partitions, giving me two 1 TB volumes to save information to.

For the longest time I just threw files into the drive and everything was fine. It was connected to a PC in our home office and shared over the home network. It wasn’t the fastest drive, and it made quite a bit of noise, but it was working, and it swallowed a lot of data, which is always a good thing.

But then, a few months ago, the problems started.

The drive started to basically die at what seemed random times when it was writing or reading data. It could be in the middle of copying files, and it just shut down, or, it could be in the middle of emptying the trash, and it would die.

The strange thing was that it never seemed to happen when I was sitting in front of the computer, always when I had left it to work on something. But I ran different kinds of tool utilities and none of them found anything wrong. I connected the drive to a Mac instead, and it made no difference.

Copying the data off of the drive was a pain in the you know what, because I couldn’t just start to copy and leave it. Always when I came back, the drive had died and I had to start it again. The only way I got it done was to copy little by little, sitting in front of the computer, monitoring what was happening. But that meant it took a long time. In fact, the 1 GB plus worth of data took me over a month of copying it bit by bit.

Once the data was safe, I swapped the hard drives and see if it was them causing problems, but the problem happened even with four brand new drives in the cabinet. So it’s the actual DriveStation, and since it’s out of warranty, it’s now a worthless piece of metal and plastic.

The good news out of this short story is that I actually didn’t lose any data. Instead, I had a great opportunity to get rid of a lot of digital stuff that was just gathering dust. And I also realized how much I really love the online services I use for storing some of my files like DropBox and Amazon S3.

If you take anything with you from my story, it should be that sooner or later all technology breaks. Yes, that includes Apple stuff as well. So make sure you back up your data to keep your valuable memories alive.

And your backup strategy should include an offline element as well as an online one. That will make sure, as much as possible, that you stay safe.


I write and talk too much about tech. You can find my personal blog at Nystedt.org, my radio shows at dxbtech.com, and me on Twitter as mnystedt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=614705061 Shakeeb Ahamed

    try Teracopy 

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