Thursday, November 29, 2007


"Crash" fortunately is not the sound of a bone-breaking fall, or the collision of vehicles hitting each other at high speeds.

And I'm not referring to the movie "Crash," one of my all-time favorites.

It's the sound of a hard drive. My hard drive.

Don't you just love that?

After a great time visiting family at Thanksgiving, covering parts of Pennsylvania, while passing through Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and of course, North Carolina in one four-day period, the last thing I wanted to come home to was a hard drive that was unresponsive.

But I did. And it was.

We have two computers at our house. The primary computer is the one that has the hot-running "Prescott" Intel P-IV chip in it. (and by "hot," I don't necessarily mean it is fast, I mean it runs very very hot! warms up the whole room!) It is also the machine that holds our itunes library, Picasa photos over the last four or five years, Quicken, email, etc., etc. This is not a hard drive I can afford to lose, but clearly there are some bad sectors.

Even though I had turned both the machines off while we were gone (which may have caused the problem, who knows? I leave my computers on 24/7), when we fired it up, it didn't take long for the error to reveal itself.

Well, I am attempting to recover my hard drive data with a little piece of software called Spinrite. I learned of this program because I am a regular listener of the fairly geeky Security Now podcast. This software is interesting. It is a svelte, compact little piece of machine-language software that boots from either your floppy drive or your CD-Rom drive. Once you buy it, you run it to create a little .iso file that that it runs from either source (including even a USB flash drive, though I couldn't get my computer to boot to that). My computer doesn't have a floppy drive, only a DVD drive so I knew I was going to have to get this little program onto a CD.

If I didn't have the other computer, commonly referred to as "the kid's computer," I don't think this would have worked. Fortunately, though it is several years old, it has a little 4X CDRW burner. After downloading some freeware that allows you to install .iso files to the boot sector (this is very important, otherwise the bios will not see this disc as a bootable disc, but only as a disc with an .iso file on it!), I got the Prescott computer to load the software and start working on the drive. It found the bad sectors right away and started trying to recover the data.

As I understand it, the software works literally bit by bit, flipping each bit from what it is to the the opposite, then back again (0 to 1, back to 0). If the sector is bad, it saves that bit to another part of the drive that is healthy. My drive is 160 GB. Spinrite has been running now for six days, non-stop. It is 80% finished with the drive. After this week's long investment, I hope it can salvage the drive long enough for me to copy it to a new hard drive! I'll keep anyone interested posted in this exciting saga.