Inert Detritus The Internet's dust bunnies

26 October 2008 @ 10am

Hard drives and tire blow-outs

The most tragic hardware failure in computing today is the loss of a hard drive. It dies, taking your bits with it, and getting them back is an expensive proposition. I hear about it all the time, from friends, people online in forums, and even in blog posts.

Hard drives are tires for your computer. You can’t go anywhere without it, and over time they wear out and need replacing. The difference between wearing down a tire and wearing out a hard drive? When your tires need replacing, they usually don’t blow out when you’re doing 80 on the highway. But your hard drive will.

Hard drives fail fast. An armature will go from happily seeking to permanently parked in a matter of seconds. A spindle motor will be spinning fine, until it’s not. My disk failures have all been abrupt: waking up to a clicking iBook, or a drive enclosure making a god-awful scratching noise. The above-linked author’s point about this is concerning, as it reveals what he thought before now:

Hard-drive failures can occur without warning. In the past, Ive always known a disk was going to fail because Id get some sort of warning (strange sounds, error messages). Not this time. I had been telling myself that I didnt need to back up because everything was running smoothly. I was wrong.

That should read something more like this:

Hard drive failures will occur without warning. Don’t count on having advance notice from strange sounds or the system giving any indication that something is afoot. Keep your data safe, because a blow-out can really ruin your day.