Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Tale of Data Recovery

Monday morning, I woke up and found my computer hung up on the POST screen. It was blathering on about a hard drive failure. Rebooting did nothing to help. Unplugging the system drive later that day got the system to POST, and so I was stuck with a bad system drive.

This drive has a capacity of 80 GB, and over two partitions, it contained all of my user data, personal documents, and VCD files, in addition to every picture I took with my digital camera since Christmas and an extensive email archive. I was devastated.

To make matters worse, I just went through this weekend and threw away every old backup disc that I didn’t have a good reason to keep ("just in case I want to restore some files from the previous installation" wasn’t a good enough reason). I tried to create a new backup of the C drive (where all this critical data was stored), but it crashed halfway through. I should have taken that as a warning.

But I was also quite busy. Tuesday, I managed to spend about 5 minutes with the machine, during which I found that the drive was having trouble, and that was all I could do. Today, I got a bit more time, but it’s been a few minutes here and a few more there. Fortunately, I’ve made some progress today.

I tried plugging the hard drive in with another cable (on the vain hope that it was a cable problem). That didn’t work until I changed the jumper on the drive. Then, it would start to boot to Windows, but then crash and reboot before it got to the welcome screen. The good news was that it was POSTing, and that the drive still had some valid data on it.

I promptly booted to Knoppix, and after figuring out where Samba was and all that, I started copying files to my other machine. I now have all of the desirable data backed up, and I’m ready to start doing some serious diagnostics on the suspect drive.

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