Friday, May 22, 2009

What to Do When Your Hard Drive Dies

Like so many things you don't want to think about, having your hard drive crash is probably high on your list. You may know someone who lost everything (so to speak) and ever after became a nut about backing up files in six different places. But, until it happens to you, you just don’t believe it ever will. Then, one day for no discernible reason, you turn on your computer, and nothing happens. Nada. No familiar whir of start-up sounds. No sudden appearance of your overcrowded desktop. Just plain nothing.

You reboot and wait. Same nothing. Uh oh. You have a problem. Just how big a problem depends on several factors. If this is your only computer, it’s big. If you didn’t back up everything on it before it crashed, it’s huge. If you don’t have an extended warranty policy, like AppleCare for Macs, it’s expensive. At the very least, it’s annoying, frustrating, and time consuming.

I have personally experienced all of the above scenarios and the emotions they engender. The panic attack that follows a hard drive crash is indescribable, as is the feeling of relief when the computer EMT restores my data long enough to move it to another computer while my original hard drive slips into oblivion.

Even under the best of circumstance (that’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one), the whole affair is a pain in the neck. It just happened again, so I know. My laptop hard drive died. I took it to the Apple store. “Yup, it’s dead,” the guy at the genius bar told me. I whipped out my AppleCare box, which seemed to suffice. “OK,” he said. “Give me an hour, maybe less.” It turned out to be less. “Here’s what you do,” he instructed. "Plug your fire wire into both computers. Restart the source computer. Go do something else for a while. Everything from your desktop will load onto your laptop.” And it all came to pass, just as foretold.

Fantastic — except for figuring out how to reset the wireless access to the Internet, the missing latest versions of software that had been on the laptop but not the desktop, and anything else I didn’t know was the only file for something irreplaceable. Much hair pulling and expressive mumbling later, I think I am functioning again.

OK, here’s the advice part: Back up. Back up. Back up. Not too original, but worth repeating. Back up to a separate external hard drive. Back up from one computer to another (if you have two). Back up to iDisk (otherwise known as the Cloud), if you have a Mac. Back up to some other cyber storage place if you have a PC. Think of it this way: If your hard drive crashes, you have all that stuff somewhere else. If you house burns down (God forbid), you still have all that stuff, except that now it’s up there, somewhere in space.

Final words. Back up every day!