The C: drive on my Windows box died over the weekend.  I mention this so that you can ask this question now (when my drive failed) and not later (when your drive fails):

What’s your plan if you have a hard drive failure?  Do you back up regularly?  Could you rebuild the machine from original install disks?  Would the amount of time it took to restore the machine be acceptable?*  If you make backups, would the data loss between what you had and the latest backup be acceptable?

The problem with hard drives is that they fail infrequently; my wife has never experienced a hard drive failure in the decade+ that she’s owned a laptop.  The result is that I’ve known too many people who haven’t given the problem of hard drive failure much thought until they had already lost data.  A hard drive is an electro-mechanical device…with moving parts…that spin really really fast.  It’s amazing they don’t fail more.  Think about backups now!

For backup these days I like 2.5″ USB drives – they’re fast enough, small, store a ton of data, and they don’t require an annoying power cable.  You could use one to back up several computers.

Nag over…WED 1.2 is almost done – the remaining bugs are Windows-related and will need to wait for a replacement C: drive, which is in transit.  So perhaps we’ll get an RC1 going this weekend.

Update: when the replacement drive arrived, I used Trinity Rescue Kit to boot from CD and do a drive-to-drive copy using the tool ddrescue.  I do not recommend anyone ever have “I’ll rescue my drive” as a data safety plan – it’s a terrible plan.  But…in my case I appear to have gotten lucky; the rescued image is bootable.  This is a nice-to-have in that it saves me a few hours of reinstalling Windows + MSVC from scratch.  (On the other hand, I don’t get that minty-clean feeling of reinstalling Windows from scratch with a clean registry.)  So…chkdisk is running now and I should be able to kill off remaining WED bugs “real soon now.”

* For my Windows and Linux setups (two drives that are alternately used in one machine) my approach has been “rebuild it when it fails”.  For Linux this has already worked well – my Linux drive died a while ago and a total rebuild from a new Ubuntu install DVD was quite fast.  We’ll see this week whether putting a Windows box back together can be done in a reasonable amount of time.

About Ben Supnik

Ben is a software engineer who works on X-Plane; he spends most of his days drinking coffee and swearing at the computer -- sometimes at the same time.

16 comments on “Learn From My C: Fail

    1. Acronis True Image is pretty good for Windows. Bootable backups and all. Also does incremental. Can restore to a new (or existing) disk and boot right back up.

  1. Another vote for CCC
    Also, not wishing to be smug (!) I always have 1 external + 1 internal HD sitting on the shelf ready to go. To be honest as we’re now almost back to pre-Thai flood prices making HD’s too cheap to not have “in-stock”. I can’t afford the down-time of waiting for couriers and I live out of easy range of bricks and mortar stores.

    On my Mac a combination of CCC from internal to external plus a separate Time Machine backup has saved me more than once.

    1. Having the drive on the shelf is great. When my Mac lost one of the RAID volumes, I shut it down until the new one came, rather than fly with one engine. But as I get new drives (the old ones are often replaced by warranty) I’m starting to accumulate a nice set of swaps. Also, NewEgg is _really_ fast for getting you an HD. 🙂

  2. I use Apple’s Time Machine, which ensures I won’t lose more than an hour of anything. I use Backblaze, which ensures I won’t lose more than an hour or so of anything even if some event takes out my local backups at the same time. I use Dropbox for really important files, which ensures I won’t lose more than a few seconds of anything there.

    Off-site backup is an important part of this. If you don’t have an off-site backup, you should consider your files to be merely temporary.

  3. Ben; you been thrashing yourself again? LOL.

    I remember when a backup was a casette tape.


  4. Or you could go with an SSD for your mission critical data (i.e pictures of the pets and kids).

    1. And lose it in the same way you can lose a HDD … or even worse, as SSDs tend to quit really suddenly (have seen this once), while at least in some cases HDDs give you a short grace period before everything is gone (have seen this happen more than once).

      So, no, don’t bet your life on an SSD, and just backup it too …

  5. Ha! Thanks for the reminder, Ben.

    I must be unlucky… too many HD fails to count. I now use SSD for important stuff (as well as your idea of external USB HD backups). SSD spec sheet MTTF looks great.

    All the best…

  6. To those touting SSD’s. SSD’s also fail. However, unlike the spinning platters of rust, when an SSD fails, data recovery is very close to impossible due to the load leveling firmware on the drive, and the undocumented layout of the memory (manufacturers claim trade secrets). Also, some SSD’s internally RAID0 several smaller elements to achieve greater capacity. If one element of a RAID0 fails, the entire array is unrecoverable.

    1. Also HD’s fail in other ways:
      – Your laptop gets stolen.
      – Your child introduces your computer to oatmeal.
      – Lightning strikes.
      – Cat experiments with gravity…

  7. I use Macrium Reflect to take an image of the C: drive (Windows system and Program Files) weekly and that gets put on a NAS box. Takes about 5mins to restore the hard drive if there’s any problem, there’s a boot option to use the restore function. I also do a daily delta of all data files (d: drive) and a monthly full backup. This is all automated with scripts in Reflect.

  8. I bought a nice 2TB External usb 3.0 for backing up all my xp10 goodies 🙂

  9. I use Time Machine to backup my 500GB SSD to an external 2GB Backup drive.
    My x-plane archive (v8 – v10) is stored on 2 external 2TB SATA RAID-1 drives.
    The home folder of my MBP and a few really essential files are mirrored off-site once a week via SSH/rsync to a server at the office.

    I have yet to experience a complete drive failure myself but have seen friends loose their complete work all their digital images, contacts – everything – with no backup whatsoever.


  10. I have my boot drive on an SSD – if it goes, I use the install disks on a new drive. Everything else on that drive would be lost but not a problem.

    I have two large HDDs on which I store all data and simply run a back up from one to the other of the data I don’t want to lose.

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