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Friday, August 31, 2007

Fried Computer

Last Monday, my wife turned on my computer, and after running for about 10 minutes, it shut itself down, along with a slight electrical smell. Not good. I asked her to unplug it, and it was a good thing: the plug was really hot, and might have even caused a fire if left alone.

Since I purchased the computer from one of those computer building shops, and I had a 5-year labor warranty on it (at least that's what I thought before they charged me $110 for labor - still not convinced I didn't just get robbed), I decided to let them replace the power supply, and get this thing back up and running. At least that's all I figured it would need.

As it turns out, not only did the power supply burn up, it took the motherboard, and my primary hard drive with it. According to the guys that fixed the computer, the hard drive spins, but just isn't recognized as a peripheral by the computer BIOS, so there's no way to get at the data. No cheap way, that is.

The good news, is that I ALWAYS make a backup of my code, and carry it around on a USB stick, and occasionally (2-3 months) make a backup of my repository to a CD. Though my last backup of the code repository is way back in May, I have the most current code safe and sound in three different places now (I made a bunch of copies after the incident). I'll lose a bunch of "checkin" history, but the end result is safe, and that's good enough for me.

I did lose a number of other things: a couple months worth of digital pictures, documents, a number of e-books, and who knows what else. I guess I'll just have to say goodbye to those things. I am considering buying a SATA external drive enclosure, and see if I can get at the data at all, but I'm not really holding up much hope for that.

Did I learn any lessons? Despite never having lost a hard drive in my 25+ years of computing, it can still happen, and there is no excuse for not having a good backup strategy. Granted, it could have been worse (I would have cried for weeks, if anything happened to RealmSpeak), but it could have been better.

I'm looking into some real backup software for the first time in about 5 years, because my strategy of "oh, I guess I'll burn some files to a CD now cuz it would suck to lose them" just isn't sufficient. A friend of mine recommended Dantz Retrospect, but if any of you PC users out there have any suggestions, I'm all ears.

I do have a new version of RealmSpeak nearly ready, so I may get that online pretty soon. It really depends on how long it takes me to get the fixed computer back up to a point where I'm able to build and upload the software. Of course, when that happens, you'll see it here first!


Steve Schacher said...

I've been using Sonic Backup MyPC, but I'm thinking of changing. I'm going to look at Norton Ghost.

Here's my setup today.

I have a 250Gb main hard drive (C:), and I bought a 160Gb second drive (perhaps I should have matched drives). I partitioned this into 3 50Gb drives (G:, H:, I:).

With Backup MyPC, I scheduled three sets of automatic backups. Each set goes to one of the partitions. I start with a full system backup on a Sunday, then run incremental backups of changes daily for two weeks. After two weeks, I switch to the next partition and take another backup.

This is all managed through the task scheduler. It was a pain setting it all up, but once it's done it runs on its own.

I've been running this setup for about 4 years now, and have had to do a few restores in that time. However, recently I've been getting catalog errors that I haven't been able to fix. I may have to reinstall the backup program to reset something as my next troubleshoot.

Which is why I'm starting to look at a new solution like Norton's Ghost.


DewKid said...

I used to use Norton's Ghost, but there is a minor problem with that solution. If you have to change computers (as I essentially had to do when I replaced the motherboard and hard drive), then you have a backup image that essentially wont work with your system.

I'm just going to experiment a bit, and see what works, I think. Thanks for the note!

Steve Schacher said...

Just wanted to let you know that I fixed my corrupted catalog problem, and BackUp MyPC is working again just fine.

If you store the backups on an external drive (or secondary drive), then restoring to any computer is a matter of first reformatting the new drive, installing the OS, installing BackUp MyPC (save your license number), and then restoring the full backup from the second drive with the overwrite option.

Have you had a chance to look at backup solutions since the crash?