It was only about 7 months ago that I wrote Google Docs vs. the Hassle of Microsoft Office and Friends in which I said:

Last week I lost a ton of productivity because the hard disk on my laptop failed. There's a long story behind this.
The short version is that I knew it was failing for a few weeks and, yes, I had backups. The IT folks got me a new notebook (an HP nc6400 which isn't bad, really) and I've spent quite a bit of time getting my stuff running again.

Would you believe that I'm on the verge of repeating this already?

Here's the support ticket I just filed with our IT group at work:

Subject: My nc6440 notebook seems to have a failing hard disk or controller
In the last week, my laptop has become flakey. I've been seeing an increasing number of these errors in my event log:
And yesterday I could swear I heard it making the dreaded "clicking" noise that's often a sign of imminent death. This machine has been quite stable since the day I got it, but it managed to bluescreen for the first time yesterday and it has locked up hard on me twice so far today.
Would it be possible to replace the disk, cloning the existing one in the process? Bonus points if the new one is bigger. :-)


Amusingly, one of the poster children for cloud computing is And their S3 service had a major outage today.

So there's that.

Anyway, this is a good reminder to write about my backup strategy soon. I'll likely be putting to good use... again.

Posted by jzawodn at February 15, 2008 12:52 PM

Reader Comments
# Joe Zawodny said:

Don't tell me about reality, it scares me. I have a disk from work out for recovery as we speak that contains irreplaceable data. It was backed up to tape (they call that a back up?) but the tapes were not properly exercised. Backup failed. I have gobs of HDs at home and back up things across platforms, but it is difficult to manage.

I see another sleepless night ahead. Too bad it is cloudy.

on February 15, 2008 09:15 PM
# Charles said:

Is this dying laptop the Stinkpad you bought when you ditched your PowerBook?

I just don't understand what the problem is with people and their dying hard drives. I've always bought quality gear and I've never had a hard drive failure in over 30 years of hard drive usage. OK, well maybe that's because I used to be a white-room hard drive tech and I know how to treat them right.
On the other hand, I've never had any data loss except once: during a failed backup. I trust the reliability of hard drives far more than the quality of backup procedures.

on February 16, 2008 08:45 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Nope. It's my work machine.

on February 16, 2008 04:44 PM
# Bob Lindner said:

Have you run spinrite on it? These the classic "spinrite can save you" symptoms.

Check it out here:

Hear about it here:

on February 16, 2008 06:00 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Oh, yeah. Spinrite is a classic.

on February 16, 2008 06:18 PM
# phreaki said:

Check out the hard drive with HDtune or HDD Health and if none of the Smart attributes that are critical have changed then I wouldn't worry.

This hard drive might be adjusting to temperature, or even retracting the heads.

I like spinrite since it seems to actually recover data in a bad sector environment where no physical failure is apparent. I have not tried to use it in order to exercise a disk however.

One good tip is this:

1. Boot system
2. Go into BIOS
3. Make sure battery is in, ac connected
4. Make sure system won't turn off
5. Now get ready....
6. Let it sit overnight

The drive should enter an offline scan with no intervention if there is a problem. A smart check the next morning will verify if it did find errors and if they were fixed.

I've seen a Toshiba laptop's hard drive (not sure if it was Toshiba HD) fix disc shift overnight with an offline scan that Spinrite clicked on all day.

My boss had never heard of disc shift, let alone an offline scan until that day. He had written the drive off as irrecoverable to anyone but Drivesavers and a failure.

Funny when the system actually booted into Windows and I was able to get all the system drivers back out of the INF folder for a reinstall. I know I didn't need the system booting for that, but I did want to see devices showed in device manager. One little bugger was -not- on Toshiba's site.

on February 21, 2008 05:41 AM
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