PSA – backup your files regularly

I got home from work last week (been away Mon-Thurs almost every week this summer) to find my hard drive dead. I had a blue screen with the error “STOP: c0000221 Unknown Hard Error \SystemRoot\System32\ntdll.dll” and could not even boot in safe mode. I ran the diagnostics and got the error “Error Code 0F00:0244 Msg: DISK_0 – Block 381272282: Can’t read, replace disk or remove Write Protection” on about 20 blocks until I just killed the test. So clearly the drive wasn’t in good shape.

Now I’ve had hard drives die on me before, about four times maybe. The first time I had absolutely nothing backed up (oh and it was the week before all my final projects were due). I paid a tech company $200 after they told me getting my files wouldn’t be a problem, then they stalled for a week before finally telling me they couldn’t retrieve anything. And wait, I also owed them $15 more for some fee they forgot. Obviously I was thrilled with this company, especially since I was pretty poor at the time and $200 was a whole lot of money. So after that first hard drive died I bought an external drive to back my files up to. I backed things up religiously at first, but got lazy about it over time, so every time a hard drive died after that, it ended up being a while since my last backup and I always lost a good amount of files. You’d think I would learn but at one point I ran out of space on my computer’s hard drive so I started keeping some files on my computer and some on the external drive, and not a backup in sight. I’m lucky my drive didn’t die while I was doing that. I finally bought a new computer in February of this year (my laptop was seven years old at that point any way) and got all my files consolidated in one place, then did a backup of all my documents, pictures and music onto the external. Although at this point the external was now six years old so couldn’t really be trusted to last much longer any way. I got lazy again of course, so my latest backup for the current disaster was from March 3rd. Five months of files gone. Awesome.

I’ve had luck retrieving some files before by booting with a Knoppix CD and then transferring files off of the messed up hard drive to an external drive. This time the drive couldn’t even be opened. My mom has had luck before by connecting the offending drive to an external case and plugging it in that way. I borrowed the case but the connectors didn’t match. I went ahead and put the drive in as a secondary drive in my computer and was greatly (and pleasantly) surprised to find that I could read the files! But wait, I had set them to private and didn’t have permissions to get to them. A quick boot into safe mode to change the ownership fixed that and I am currently retrieving my stuff. Since I couldn’t read the drive from Knoppix, I have no idea why I can read it now, but I’m just trying to get my files as quickly as possible before it stops working.

I was lucky this time but I don’t expect that to last. I bought a second internal drive and a copy of Norton Ghost so now I’ve set it up to mirror the main hard drive every Sunday night. This way the next time my hard drive dies I won’t lose files and I also won’t have to spend a whole day reinstalling everything and redoing all of my settings as well. I finally am learning. I’m going to also set up my documents to copy to the external drive once a week so I have those in two backups. Who knows how much longer the external drive will last since it’s already outlived all of my other hard drives but I’m still going to have the extra backup while it’s there.

Moral of the story: Backup your files if you don’t want to lose everything and have no one to blame but yourself. It’s very annoying.

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