Monday, September 08, 2008

***Important*** Don't make this same mistake!

First things first...


There, now that that's out of the way I can proceed.

One of the great things about hanging around in a large blogging community is that every now and then something happens to someone that stands as a valuable lesson for everyone else to learn from, so that we don’t have to repeat the same mistake ourselves.

I’m here to provide you one of those lessons now.

About a year ago I noticed the hard drive on my home PC was nearly full, and so I decided to buy one of those external USB hard drives and move my personal data over to that. Off went all of my pictures, documents, music, videos, source code for 5 web sites, email archives and hundreds of other miscellaneous files. My data was happily tucked away on a new home and my PC was breathing with ease once again.

It doesn’t take Nostradamus to know what’s coming next.

A few weeks ago I started noticing a “clicking” sound coming from behind my computer. For several days I thought it was coming from the new cable modem we had just received as a result of switching internet providers. Then one day I decided to find out once and for all what was making that noise, and determined it was my external hard drive instead. “Huh, that’s odd.” was about the extent of my reaction. Until a few days later when my computer finally stopped recognizing it all together.


If I had known that a clicking hard drive is a failing hard drive, I could have EASILY bought a new one and copied my data over the first time I heard it. However, because I had never seen, heard or read of this problem before, I instead ignored it to the point of where it will now cost me a minimum of $500 to hire a data recovery service to get my data back.

At this point I have 3 things I want to say:

1. Please please please make note of this so it doesn't happen to you. If you ever hear your hard drive "click" even once, drop whatever you're doing, acquire another one and make a copy IMMEDIATELY! Mine clicked for over a week before it stopped working, so you should be able to save all your data if you act right away - although there are no guarantees it will continue to work at all. Just don't keep using your hard drive as is. Once it starts clicking it is on its road to failure and needs to be replaced anyway.

2. If anyone of you know of a (much) less expensive data recovery service please let me know. At this point, even though this data is important to me, I simply cannot afford $500 to recover it. I was hoping I could get this done for around $100 but I was seriously mistaken. The local guys took a look at it and said it needs to be sent in to a service that uses a clean room and takes out the platters and puts them into another drive etc. That's why it's so expensive.

3. If you're like me and your data is important to you... ALWAYS keep a back up. With the cost of hard drives coming down so low these days, you should be able to afford to have a duplicate external hard drive to which you can periodically do a complete system save. This was my main point of failure and the very reason I called myself an idiot at the beginning of this post.

Bottom line... if this post helps even one person to not lose their entire hard drive I will be happy.

Please make me happy.


Steve Novoselac said...

same thing happened to my external drive. I took it out of the USB case and put it in my machine straight, not through the USB. then I did a good chkdsk on it, and was able to copy all my data. If that fails, you can also use a 50 dollar program (or free if you ahve cool friends :)) to get your data off, which I have done with other failed drives. dont spend 500. But the first thing is to get it in your machine and not through USB, much easier to recover

Ed said...

To quote the "dude"...that's a bummer man...

Oh...and my head keeps clicking...what should I do?

Maureen said...

Yikes! Jeff, I hate to read this! I do a backup of all my photos and documents every month to disk; I have original disks for my programs, so I hope I am all set. I even do a monthly backup of my blog template and posts... it's my OCD kicking in.

I hope you get your stuff back; fingers crossed here for you.

Babs (Beetle) said...

Well I have two external drives, one for movies and photos and one for backups of certain stuff and my music library.

You have made me realize that if either one of them failed, I would still lose everything! The thing to do would be duplicate everything, having a copy on each of the drives!

That will be a very long job!

Anonymous said...

Oh do I feel your pain! This has happened to me twice now. Yes twice.
In fact, Elly thinks she's adopted because all the baby pictures I have of her are on a failed hard drive waiting for the day when I have the extra money to have them recovered.

I've been hearing clicking on my computer, or wait... maybe it's my knee.

Regardless...thank you for the public service announcement.

Mom Thumb said...

Wow, that is a total bummer, but thanks for passing on the information. I lost all my stuff once and I do not want to repeat that experience.

Babs (Beetle) said...

Thanks for that warning. I have just scheduled a backup of all my photos, from one external drive to the other! said...

I have a 400G internal and a 400G external drive, and I let Vista back it up once each week. The photo and data files are matched on both drives - therefore, if one goes I still have the other. Outside a lightning strike, I feel confident in this backup system.

When one clicks, as it has before, I simply replace that drive and pull down the backup files and they both match again.

Some really important photo and data files, I also have backed up on DVD disks.

Sorry for your recent problem...I know how anxious it can make you.

Anonymous said...

I never use my external drive and work directly off it on my documents.

It's backup - it's sole purpose is simply fetch files I want from my laptops and store.
So I use it for may be half-an-hour a month.
The rest of the time, it sits safely in the closet with the underwear.

It's given a good 4 years of service.

Kathy said...

My sympathies, Jeff. I should probably do backups more than once every six months. The only thing I really care about are my older photos and my blog. Both are backed up in two places, but not often enough. Warning heeded.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely, positively, it is always ALWAYS a good idea to keep a backup of anything you deem important. I have a 120GB external with copies of all of my photos, word documents, web pages, and anything else I want to keep. Those files are also on my computer's hard drive. A couple months ago I reformatted my entire laptop, doing it the "safe" way (i.e. saving all my files in another place), only to discover a few weeks later I had missed a few folders with three years of valuable photos. So always be triple, quadruple, whatever SURE that you have everything at least twice.

Idaho Dad said...

I have our photos backed up onto an external drive AND a laptop AND the online backup site -- $4.95 per month for a little peace of mind.

I also have 134GB of music backed up in two places. The music and the photos are what I fear losing.

MYM said...

I didn't even know you could fill a hard drive! Wow! I never do backups, I don't think I even have anything on my hard drive except a few photos.

Sorry to hear about your problems. Hope it all works out!

Elizabeth said...

I never back up my data, but I can be trained, I will start tonight! Thanks for the cautionary tale!

Heather said...

Thanks, I'll add that to the list of things that I worry about while laying in bed at night.

Ed (zoesdad) said...

Clicks, huh? No clicks but mine's got a high pitched humming. Been dodging bullets for over a year now. It's been a while, but it seems about every 2-3 years I have to do a Format C and start from scratch.

I really don't want to do that.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like I'd better get busy doing some back up. Sound advice!

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

steve - I took mine out of the case too and hooked it up with an IDE cable. I took it to a local service shop and they couldn't read it either. :-(

ve - Sound like you need to reformat your brain. And just think of how much space that will open up!

maureen - Thanks. I appreciate your finger-crossing. Can you cross your toes too?

babs - According to my son, we're supposed to be mirroring our stuff to 2 separate hard drives automatically. Oy.

jennine - Maybe we can submit all our failed drives together and get a bulk discount.

mom thumb - Hey, you gave me an idea. Maybe I should check the lost and found!

babs - Good for you! You'll be the better for it.

mushy - I like your plan... and will probably mimic it myself.

jaffer - Good plan. But the main question I have is... boxers or briefs?

kathy - I have a bunch of scattered CDs with various levels of backup on them. I plan on going through those and recovering as many pictures as I can. Bleh.

jessica - It seems you can never keep track of it all. I guess it's an age old problem huh?

phil - I'll have to check out Mozy for sure - especially for my blog stuff. But even that isn't foolproof. I mean what if they go under some day?

drowsey - Well, my PC is very old so the hard drive is only 20G. It doesn't take long to fill that up.

elizabeth - Like I said... please learn from me ;-)

heather - Funny. Feel free to blame me in the morning.

ed - Yuk. I'll need to do something similar soon because we're going to get a new PC before too long. I HATE.HATE.HATE.HATE.HATE trying to transfer data from one box to another. Did I mention I hate it?

carlaE - You go girl!

Jen - Queen of Poo said...

I am extremely stupid because I have backed up nothing and haven't even really figured out how to do so, not because I'm not smart enough to figure it out but because I tend to be an extreme procrastinator. You'd think I'd learn from you, but sadly, I probably won't because it's almost bedtime and tomorrow morning I will forgot this conversation we are having.

Jen - Queen of Poo said...

I will HAVE forgot. My memory is bad, but my grammar is pretty okay.

Anonymous said...

Now thats weird, because this very weekend that is exactly what has happened to me - the 80g external hard drive with all my photos and mp3 tracks on it has died.

OK, so I dropped it on the floor last week, but I'm sure thats got nothing to do with it.

Fortunately I am not as stupid as you and I have a backup of the mp3 tracks on TWO (read it and weep) TWO other external hard drives - I daren't check yet to see if I backed up the family photos too...

Liberal Banana said...

I'm sorry to hear (er, read) that! That's a huge bummer. Thank you for the heads up! I don't even have an external hard drive to begin with, so um, yeah. I should get on that.

Anonymous said...

I heard a clicking when I went by the PC room. Thankfully it was just the wife clicking her false teeth.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

dftf - My grammar is gooder than most people too.

jerrychicken - I have copies of stuff scattered across other hard drives, thumb drives, SD cards, CDs, DVDs and laptops. Boy, that sure helps doesn't it?

liberal banana - You should check them out. They're very inexpensive these days. However, they're also very untrustworthy... so there's that.

bill - What sound do they make when they bounce off your head?

Windyridge said...

What I did and I would highly recommend it to everyone is buy a computer with dual RAID drives. This means that you have a 2nd hard drive of the same size mirroring everything you do and in the case of a catastrophic failure, you will have a duplicate drive ready to be used. Many of those external hard drives don't have the best reputations and last only a year or so. Another thing I do is copy my email, and photos to disc once a month. Everything else in online especially my favorites (I use delicious). Data recovery is expensive no matter whee you go but there are some programs you can buy and try. I don't know much about those other than that they exist and do work depending on the situation.

Anonymous said...

I use an external, had no idea they could fail like that. Mine's 3 years old now too.

cathouse teri said...

I dunno. My sister did it for me for free.

Didja ask Diesel?

Here's how I save my photos and stuff. I email it to myself at my yahoo address and it NEVER gets lost because yahoo NEVER dies!

It's called the back-up system for yahoos!

(I figure if the internet gets to the point of dying to the degree that we lose yahoo, my lost photos will be the least of my worries.)

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

windyridge - The RAID drives thing is exactly what Brandon told me I should be doing. It sounds complicated to me but he says it's no big deal.

memarie - Actually, I had another one fail before too, but it was only the USB interface, not the hard drive itself. But ya, these things are NOT bulletproof!

teri - I'm not sure how comfortable I am having the Googles and Yahoos holding my data hostage. I could see them some day charging a handsome ransom for my "free" storage. Besides, if Google is anything like the Blogger they own, I would be very worried when it comes to data loss.

Anonymous said...


Windyridge said...

Jeff it's not complicated at all, you don't do a thing (until the drive goes).

Anonymous said...

I womdered what hit me!

cathouse teri said...

All I can tell ya is that I've been using this method for YEARS, without a hitch.

Also, as I said, if the world has come to a point where Yahoo is "holding my data hostage" and wants a fee to get it back, then likely my data is the least of my worries! ;)

kapgar said...

Right now all my backups are only on DVD or thumbdrive. However, my internal HD is going to be full if I put all my music and stuff back on it. So I want an external desperately and then find a back up for that. Maybe an online service should a reliable one develop. We shall see.

Sorry, no recommendations on a retrieval service.

cathouse teri said...

My sister entered into a rehab facility recently. Cirque Lodge. The ritzy deal in Park City where the stars go (i.e. Lindsay Lohan, Eva Mendes). But first you have to go to detox at the University of Utah. Of course, their files must be very secure, because so many famous people go there, right? Well... recently, the company that keeps the back up files for their information system made a teeny weeny mistake. The guy who picked up the data (16 years of data!) from the site decided to keep it in his vehicle overnight and take it to the site in the morning. (I guess he was tired.) The vehicle was robbed in the night and ALL of the information was stolen. My sister received a notification from U of U offering to provide credit monitoring for the next year if her file was one that was lost.
Ain't that special?

Avitable said...

$500 sounds cheap compared to some of the places I've seen. I had a laptop fail that had important corporate information on it, and it cost me $1800.

Here's a tip once you recover everything - buy a Flickr Pro account and upload all of your photos to it. They'll keep the high resolution photos available indefinitely for only $29/year.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

jaffer - This has to be the only comment section in history that has digressed from data recovery to type of underwear. Good work!

windyridge - Sounds like me kind of solution. I'm great at not doing anything!

bill - You're lucky she doesn't use a cane.

teri - Just wondering how you'll recover your pictures from all those emails. Won't that be kind of a pain in the arse?

kapgar - So many options... so few good ones. I like the dual RAID thingy idea. Hard drives are pretty cheap these days.

teri - Nice. First it's Paris's cell phone number and now this.

avitable - Most of the recovery services have a price range of $500 - $1500. I'm just assuming mine would be on the lower end. Who knows, I could be totally wrong about that too!

Sarah said...

Let me talk to the tech guy on campus. He was giving us a leture a few days ago about the EXACT same thing. I'll email you to tell you what he did.

G said...

Count me in with the procrastinator above, but I really do hope to learn from your mistake. At least it's on my radar again.

Sorry you had to go through this, but I'm hoping that a less expensive solution comes through for you.

Anonymous said...

Eh, I saw this coming after I read the headline and saw the picture of the HD. That sucks. Just a note though, Western Digital in general has exceptionally high failure rates. For internal HDs, I *always* recommend Seagate. They often have a 5-year warranty on all drives (doesn't protect $$$ lost, but it shows they have faith). For externals, make SURE you shop around and read reviews first. All hard drives are NOT created equal. For example, I know the WD MyBook has SCARY high failure rates. Of course, having a backup is always necessary, as all hard drives will fail sometime.

JD at I Do Things said...


I've heard about this, but it's been a while, so thank you for the reminder and hard-earned lesson.

I'm SO sorry this happened. If you lived a little closer, I would send over my friend's 12-year-old son, who can fix anything. Seriously. And he'd do it for free, just because he enjoys it.

(Google "click of death," and you'll feel a lot better. You are not alone!)

JD at I Do Things

April said...

I'm so sorry to hear it! Thanks for the heads up. I would've gone for "ignore it and it'll go away" without your warning.