The Great Hard Drive Failure of 2015

This event shall henceforth be known as the Great Hard Drive Failure of 2015 (the year that everything I possess that could break, broke.)

I like having my blog be around so I can look back at things that happened years later, like one would a journal, only public, so while this has very little to do with writing or flying, enjoy it as a little offering of non-fiction.

I came home one day, about a month ago, to find my computer showing a black screen. I moved the mouse to wake it up – nothing happened. Nothing I did made anything happen. Rebooted. Tried booting in safe mode. wtf. Nothing. Finally a went to my husband’s computer and started googling, figured out how to get to the bios, and hopped in there to poke around. I could see the hard drive, but I couldn’t tell it to boot from it.

This is literally the first time I’ve needed help to fix my own computer. I do tech support for a living, 7.5 hours a day, five days a week, for the last 10 years, and I’ve kind of got a handle on most things, though if something takes me more than 20 minutes to fix, I want to throw the computer out the window, because after 7.5 hours of fixing computers at work, I expect my frelling computer at home to work.

There are levels of techie people. People who aren’t techies don’t know this, but there are many levels and specialties, and I accept that I am a relatively low level techie person. I can fix a lot of things, but I have no formal schooling on it, and as far as coding, I know a couple of HTML commands but I wouldn’t know Perl from Shell or Java.

My best friend is somewhat higher level techie than me – she knows lots of more back-end stuff and coding, and has installed linux on one of her computers and knows her way around it. She got me set up with a flash drive to boot the computer into Linux from the usb flash drive. Then her roommate, who is even higher level techie, ran some diagnostics which confirmed my suspicion that it was the hard drive. And there was no repairing that – it’s pretty much the most nuclear thing that can happen to your computer. It’s that thing that can mean you’ve lost everything that’s not backed up on another device. And mine’s a solid state hard drive, which means you can’t just isolate the damaged sectors like you can with a traditional hard drive.

But the friend’s roommate ran a recovery tool – a good one apparently, and managed to make an image of my hard drive and save it on an external drive, recovering all but 4 kilobytes of data. Which, who knows what that will affect if the image is booted, but 4 kilobytes is a miniscule amount of data, so the recovered image is promising.

Next is getting a new hard drive…

So, my laptop is a snazzy-ass ultra-slim Asus zen-book. It is nice. I like it. It’s my favourite and most valuable physical possession. When I take it with me to write-outs, Rob Sawyer tells me how nice it is, like, every time.

It also has a proprietary eighteen pin connector for the hard drive. I bought it when solid state hard drives were a new thing, and while it runs very fast and pulls up programs that chug on many desktops instantly, it was before these things were really standardized, and only two models of hard drive were ever made to fit my computer. Both are no bigger than what I already had either, which was 128GB. Yes, I’ve been managing with 128GB of hard drive space on my only computer for the last 3 years. I can have one game installed at a time.

We researched options. There exists an M.2 adapter, which will allow me to install a more modern hard drive – possibly even a bigger one. There were reports of the new hard drive making it difficult to properly close the bottom cover after installing it, but people suggested filing  the cover or cutting a hole in the bottom for it. Meh – cross that bridge when I get to it. The adapter was 13$. If it doesn’t work for me, it doesn’t work.

I called Memory Express. That’s the shop of choice for techies in the ‘Peg. They have people who actually know what they’re doing there, to fix computers instead of the trained monkeys at the geek squad who just tell you you bought a lousy computer and wipe your hard drive and reinstall windows. They also don’t talk to me like my ladybrain can’t handle their tech knowledge.

I explained what had happened, and the sales person (note – sales person, not the tech guys at the back) assured me they’d have a hard drive in stock that would fit my computer, that solid state hard drives weren’t a big deal anymore and were very common, no problem, just bring the laptop down and we’ll get you set up. I expressed some doubt that they would have the adapter I needed, but he was pretty confident they’d have what I needed. I brought the computer in.

The guy at the back did a minute and a half of checking and confirmed what I suspected – they didn’t have the adapter in stock – it wasn’t common, and they didn’t have a hard drive in stock that would fit the eighteen pin connector, and who told you we did, he’s going to yell at him.

So the choice is order another 128GB hard drive that I know works, or if I want a bigger hard drive (which I do) try my luck with the adapter, and then once it comes in, pick up the hard drive from Memory Express then.

I ordered the adapter, and it came in about a week. The adapter seems to fit in the computer fine. I head back to memory express and pick up a hard drive. 500GB. It wasn’t the brand they’d told me to buy earlier, but the sales person assured me it would work.

I need to stop talking to the sales guys. I get it home, and install it, and the computer won’t even boot linux now or go tinto the BIOS now, let alone recognize the new hard drive. I look a the package and slowly realize that there’s nothing on there that says it supports SATA. I bring it back.

No trouble returning it – I went to the guys at the back this time, who again promised to bitch out the sales guy who sold me the drive. The one they had originally said I should get (sadly only available in 240GB) is out of stock. They will order it in. I get a call the next day that it’s on backorder.

The good news is there’s another brand available that they can order in for me, so we went that way. The will try and get a 500GB if possible.

Another week, and I get a call, that my hard drive is in. I go, I pick it up, I install it. The computer recognizes it. This is good. The next step is getting an operating system installed. I was dropping my friend off that evening, so I stopped in for instruction from her roommate on what to do with this image he made. We open up the computer, and he brings up a linux terminal to show me what to do when I get it home and starts typing jibberish, and I get the distinct impression he thinks I have a clue what to do with a Linux terminal. Lol.

Granted, that’s way cooler than guys who assume my ladybrain can’t handle things like this. He gave me a half hour crash course on Linux terminal commands. I was fairly confident I could manage to at least not make anything worse. Granted, I had an empty hard drive, he had a backup copy of the image on a second external hard drive, and the flash drive with Linux was easily reproducible if I accidentally erased it. There wasn’t a whole lot left for me to break. I got home and went to town.

After stumbling through getting errors that the directory doesn’t exist, I caught the roommate on facebook, and he coached me on using tab completion to deal with a directory name that had spaces in it. After that, I had it, and the process of copying the old image onto the new hard drive started. This was going to take a few hours. I left it over night.

Got up the next morning to a message saying the process was complete. I unplugged the external hard drive and the flash drive, and rebooted the computer for the moment of truth. Does that 4 kilobytes of unrecoverable data in the image render windows un-bootable, and I’m going to have to do a fresh install of windows, and lose anything I

And what happened next is what annoyed me most about the whole thing. At this point I’d been running my computer in Linux off the flash drive for a month, unable to save files, or use any of my normal programs. And the computer turns on. I get the windows splash screen. I log in. I have all my old icons on the screen. I open google chrome. It brings up all my tabs that I had open the last time I booted windows on the old hard drive. It auto-logs me into windows and facebook and everything. I open scrivener, and all my novels and stories are there, up to date.

And I’m like, you were gone for a month, not so much as a letter or a phone call, I was so worried, and now you waltz back in here AND ACT LIKE NOTHING HAPPENED!

It was just so anticlimactic, you know? I was all ready to have to deal with a fresh install of windows, but nope. All back, literally like nothing happened.

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2 responses to “The Great Hard Drive Failure of 2015

  1. Anticlimactic is GOOD! Remember the old Chinese blessing. May you live in boring times.

    My laptop died a few months ago. The most important rule is OPEN the window before you throw the computer out.

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