Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Bound to Happen
My Desktop PC died today. Well, the hard drive did anyway. It was bound to happen. It's a Dell 4400 Tower I bought through Hopkins faculty purchasing plan back in 2002. I was planning on buying a new one this summer through a similar plan at the new job, clean up the PC and give it to my niece, but that plan was put on hold for 6 months with the unexpected outlay of $2,500+ for the vet.

It was fine when I check email around 7:30 this morning, but by the time I watched the news, made some breakfast, read the Sunday NY Times, and took a shower, at 11:00, it was showing "System Failure: Boot Halted...."

1. Tried rebooting - no go
2. Disconnected every single thing, powered down, dissipated the charge, plugged everything back in and tried to boot up - no go.
3. Checked the diagnostic lights on the back panel, and looked up the code. A, B, and C were green, D was orange. That code basically translated to: "You're screwed - call Dell".
4. Called Dell support and got a nice guy calling himself "Ronnie" somewhere in the Philipines.
5. Used the diagnostics CD that came with the computer and ran diagnostics for 20 minutes. No errors and the BIOS was clean.
6. Ran Setup and discovered that the computer is not recognizing the hard drive AT ALL, which is why I couldn't do a cold boot from the CD.

I need to re-seat the hard drive, but I think I might just take it out, put it into an external disk drive, transfer my files to this laptop, and get a new desktop computer. I might be able to get a new hard drive for the old tower and salvage it for my niece, but I don't want to put a lot of time or $$$ into this thing, when buying a new tower is probably cheaper.

Too bad - it was a nice system and ran beautifully while I had it. Intel 4 processor, 512 RAM and 40 Gigs of storage. Seems downright paltry by today's standards doesn't it?

And here it is 2:10 on Sunday afternoon and I have very little to show for it so far....
posted by Broadsheet @ 2:10 PM  
4 Editorial Opinions:
  • At May 18, 2008, Anonymous JJT said…

    My recommendations are as follows:
    - Purchase an external enclosure for the drive to connect it via USB. Make sure you make note to see if the drive is either an older IDE drive or a SATA drive.

    - Invest in a product by Steve Gibson called SpinRite. It saved my bacon when I bought my replacement for my old homebrew system.

    - Diagnose the drive and see if is making any terrible sounds. If it is making a clicking or otherwise, you may have physical damage to the drive, which is bad.

    - Feel free to ping me offline for any assistance.

  • At May 18, 2008, Blogger bosconet said…

    Considering the vintage (2002) it is almost certainly an IDE drive.

    The only advice I'd add to JJT's is be prepared to archive all the data you want off the drive as soon as you you access the drive next time. Sometimes with a failed drive you only get one last chance to get data off before it is dead for good.

    For that I'd suggest also investing in a small (2.5") USB external drive like Western Digital My Passport or Simple Tech portable drive. If nothing else you'll now have a nice place to store a back-up for your laptop and future desktop.

  • At May 18, 2008, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    Yep - it's an IDE and I fully realize that I probably have but one shot to get as much data as I can if I manage to access it at all.

    Any thoughts as to the advantages / disadvantages to using physical external hard drives versus on line data storage repositories? Security? Privacy?

  • At May 18, 2008, Blogger bosconet said…

    Using online back-up has pluses and minuses. A definite plus is as long as you have a network connection you can back-up your data. A good provider should also be taking steps to back up the data you store there (e.g. having fault tolerant storage archiving your data if that fails). It also provides a remote back-up of your data.

    Some minuses would be you are trusting someone else with your data. If you don't encrypt you back-up you might be exposing personal data to a 3rd party. Also per the providers terms of service they might not actually guarantee anything. This is something to be especially mindful of if you don't pay for a service.

    Personally I do both. I have external hard drives I use for back-ups. I also have an automated process to archive my Documents folder to an online source. I actually control and run that online source so I'm not worried about the data there but if I was archiving it to a 3rd party service I would encrypt it prior to saving to the online source. The automated back-up (rsync) saved my neck when a hard drive in a laptop failed. I did loose some data but nothing especially critical.

    I can't say what is best for your specific situation but a hybrid approach might also work well for you. Archive critical documents and file to an online, and also save a copy of them along with things like ripped CDs to an external drive.

    As an added bonus and external drive can also be useful for migrating from one computer to another.

    Hope that helps, if not let me know.

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