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, I’ve always known a disk was going to fail because I’d get some sort of warn­ing (strange sounds, error mes­sages). Not this time. I had been telling myself that I didn’t 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.