Inert Detritus The Internet's dust bunnies

25 November 2006 @ 10pm

A Death Knell

After over a year and a half of trusty and loyal service, the Toshiba 30 GB 4200 rpm hard drive was mortally wounded earlier this week. An unknown disease struck it in its prime, and without warning, it was on its way to the grave.

I’ve run backups religiously, every night, for the past year. Every piece of my data that matters (TV shows and movies don’t really count) exists in two places. I woke up on Wednesday morning to a horrible grinding noise emanating from the iBook’s case, about where the hard drive was. I quickly saved my tabs in Camino, quit all running apps, and ran one last backup to a trusty 40 GB 2.5\” external drive. After that was done, I shut down and rebooted from the backup, and was able to take a closer look at the drive without worrying about the system as it ran.

The S.M.A.R.T. status of the drive showed nothing out of the ordinary. It did have one amusing number, however: “Power On Hours: 11801”. I bought traded the iBook G4 for an iBook G3 back in April of 2005. 11801 hours is almost 492 days, or about a year and a third.

After a test backup from my active drive (the external) to the internal drive, however, the problems became clear. There were inaccessible sectors, and the drive was slow as molassas at times. The sound it makes is likely the read/write arm dragging on the disk surface.

An interesting “feature” of OS X became apparent just now. I’m running from a Firewire attached hard drive. When the machine went to sleep yesterday before I left, I removed the drive and stashed it in my bag. After reconnecting everything when I arrived in town tonight, I simply woke the iBook back up, and it spun up and read the external drive as though nothing had happened. This certainly makes it easier to travel in this half-crippled state.

I’m in a bit of a tough spot for what to do about repairs, however. If I take it in to the bookstore now, I’m without any machine for at least a few days, and that simply won’t do. I have another drive to backup my (former backup, now active) drive to, so there’s no chance of losing anything should the external drive fail as well. I suppose I’ll limp along on this ghetto-rigged drive setup until Christmas, when I can take it in for a proper repair.

The overarching lesson here: backups are your friend. For anyone using OS X, SuperDuper! is indispensable, and is a second-to-none tool for the job.