How Hard Drive Crashes Kept Me Regular

November 9th, 2005 by Benj Edwards

HD CrashComputer hard disks weren’t always as reliable as they are now. From 1992 up until about five years ago, it seemed that I had a drive crash on me at least once every two years (Hmm.. they ceased right about the time I stopped buying OEM Western Digital drives from a questionable source). A total drive meltdown was always a terrible event, but it was still no where near as catastrophic as it would be now. You see, back then, the data on my computer was usually just stuff I had downloaded from BBSes or the Internet, maybe some text and Word files, and a few games. But these days, people keep their entire lives on their computers, including home movies, digital family snapshots, personal correspondence (in the form of emails), and gigantic music collections. Not to mention that more original creative work than ever is being done on computers these days — musicians record directly to them, photographers process their pictures on them, illustrators draw and paint with them, and writers write with them. This creative data is unique and irreplaceable — you can’t just download it again if you lose it, making a data backup plan absolutely essential for the modern computer user. Of course, I’m sure most people don’t back up their stuff, and computer users everywhere lose valuable data on a daily basis. Considering the importance of the personal data on PCs these days, I find it absurd that computer manufacturers don’t include some sort of redundant disk protection by default in every PC sold (or at least the build-to-order option). As RAID controllers get more economical thanks to the widespread adoption of the Serial ATA standard, such a scenario will become more realistic. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that in five years, redundant data protection of some kind will be a standard feature on all consumer PCs. From now on (starting with my last two computers), I’ll never build another computer again without at least RAID level 1 (data mirroring) protection. I also do daily backups to an external hard drive on my three main computers for an extra level of safety.

HD FilesBut my backup regimen isn’t really what I want to talk about today. No, it was my complete lack of one that we’ll focus on for the moment. Back when I lost my hard drives, I usually lost most or all the files on them as well. This functioned as sort of a “natural reset” (a big crunch, if you will) that set me back and forced me to clean up and start over. But once those natural resets stopped happening, things started building up. Data clutter reared its ugly head, and now data management and organization of all my files, including thousands upon thousands of legacy files, has gained incredible importance. Of course, it takes a lot of time to organize this data, but once you have it sorted out, it’s settled! Or is it? You still have to keep organizing every file you create, or else you will have a big mess on your hands, which I suspect is quite common among computer users. With larger capacity hard drives becoming ever cheaper for the foreseeable future, there will never be any need for the data pack rat to throw anything away. And with no natural resets, there will be no force making them throw anything away. At what point do I say enough is enough and trash MS Works files of 6th grade school papers? I just can’t bring myself to do it. At what point do I trash my collection of thousands of low-resolution, low-color images of old computers I downloaded off the web in 1996? I can’t bring myself to do it. I still have copies of DOS programs sitting around that I used in 1992. I have all my primitive MS Paintbrush computer artwork done in the mid-90s. I have archived HTML web pages that interested me in 1997. I have…lots of stuff. I’m swimming in it, and now with every new computer I buy, it’s hard to keep straight which file is where on my constellation of networked machines (which, I might add, keep my house quite toasty in the winter…whether I like it or not). I suppose I should centralize the data the best I can into a single, hyper-backed-up file server. I already have a similar server for most of my old files, but they aren’t actively backed up at the moment, and it adds extra cost to set that up. Either way, until I commit the money to it or — God forbid — “nature” takes its course and thrashes one of my drives, I’ll still be swimming in a digital sea of dusty — but priceless — data.

2 Responses to “How Hard Drive Crashes Kept Me Regular”

  1. Jake of Says:

    This Friday I am buying a secound external Hard drive and using it as a back up for my iBook.

  2. RedWolf Says:

    Excellent. I have a few external firewire drives and use Dantz Retrospect on my Macs and built-in Windows Backup on my PCs.

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