Computer Fail.

As I’ve said before us IT guys have the most interesting problems when it comes to our personal computers. Mine decided last night, in the middle of doing stuff for the wedding on Monday no less, that it would give up the ghost and stop working completely. No amount of cajoling or begging would bring my computer back from its silent grave and I was relegated to trying to recover my files hastily in case the drives were on the way out.

Turns out either the hard drive itself of or the controller on my motherboard decided that the main boot record and master file table needed to die, and proceeded to oblige me in this request even though I had done nothing to provoke it. I had had problems with it freezing in the past but since there was no data corruption I put it down to spurious windows chicanery, and thought nothing more of it. This assumption has cost me around 3 hours of my life, something which I’m not keen to repeat again in the near future.

This post will be a short and sweet one as the time I usually dedicate to writing out a thoughtful post have been taken away by said computer fail. I will say one thing though, the free file recovery software Recuva is worth its weight in gold, as it was able to scan my drive and recover all the files in a fraction of the time of any other utility I’ve used before. Everything else I tried took at least 15 minutes to get the folder structure right and then couldn’t recover anything past a few measly files. I was able to get a full 21GB off my drive without too much hassle using Recuva, and I’m now just a format and reconfigure away from having a working machine again.

My shopping list now includes a 2TB RAID 1/0 array, because I never want to go through this crap again. šŸ™‚


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  1. Ah, but you forget the first rule: a RAID array should only be relied upon to provided redundancy, never recovery.

    Sure, the RAID array you want will allow you to recover from a hardware failure of a single drive. However, in the situation you have described above, the same corrupt partition table would have been written to every drive in the array, leaving you in pretty much the same mess.

    You ought to be looking into a backup system for your important files too. There are tonnes of (expensive) solutions out there to this problem but it can be done on the cheap fairly easily too. I personally use the inbuilt Backup utility in Windows, and have it output to a USB Hard drive. Makes for a no-fuss solution, though slightly in-elegant: if you ever want to restore the system state you need to first install a basic copy of Windows, and then use the backup utility to restore from there. I’m sure with some research and $$$ you could find a one shot solution.

  2. Yeah you’re right about that one, if the controller is at fault then my data is rooted anyway.

    All of my most important files (pictures, documents, etc) are all backed up to my file server which has what amounts to a RAID 1 array on it. I say amounts to as it’s just 2 500GB disks, one of which I’ve shared on the network so I can dump stuff there. Periodically I run a script to copy the shared drive data over to the other drive. I haven’t automated it just in case the primary drive gets borked, as it would then happily copy a blank drive over the top of my archive one.

    I have a feeling it might’ve been the drive at fault on this one since the other drive on the same controller is fine. Realistically I’ve been having these problems with the same drive and motherboard for about a year now so it could equally likely be the drive as the controller. RAID would’ve saved me in that case, but we’ll never know šŸ˜‰

    After the wedding I’m going to do it all properly when I rebuild my server to use ESXi instead of XP + VMWare Workstation. Then I’ll probably use some kind of folder sync for critical stuff (like email) and a similar thing to what I have now for archiving.


  3. It’s already on there šŸ˜‰ Although it might fall a couple places depending on how Geon starts to evolve. It’s coming into its own as just a web app, but a market of 20 Million non-traditional tech users is something that’s hard to ignore.

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