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.