Monday, May 4, 2009

Shell shock

Ever have one of those moments where things suddenly start moving in slow motion? You can see a myriad of possible outcomes, but you know, you instinctively know with every fiber of your being that Worst Case Scenario is staring you right in the face.

My external harddrive got knocked over this weekend. It was standing vertically, got bumped and tipped over to its side. Not even a drop. A tiny, insignificant vertical-to-horizontal rearrangement in the grand scheme of things. Except that it immediately stopped working.

This is our backup disk. It has everything on it. Everything. Which normally wouldn't be such a bad thing, being the backup disk. Except that a couple of months ago the harddrive on my desktop crashed and had to be reformatted--the second time this had happened in a six month period--so I'd never actually bothered to copy the content from the backup drive back to the PC. Didn't actually seem worth it, since it was the PC that crashed while the external drive functioned perfectly. Yes, I'm painfully aware of the folly involved in this faulty decision making.

But when I said it contained everything, I mean everything: The Wife's photo studio portfolio. All of my photography. My writings. Yes, all my writings, going back 20 years, give or take. Much of the older works exist as hard copies in various poorly-maintained files, but more recent work--short fiction, in-progress novel chapters, extended verbatim interview transcripts--those only exist as files on said drive. My slate, she is wiped clean.

With a growing knot of foreboding anchored in my gut, I took the pitiful harddrive in to a computer shop near the university that's done good work for me before. They listened to my tale of woe, said it didn't sound too bad and that they'd have me up and running again by the end of the day. An hour later they called with bad news. Despite no apparent damage, their recovery systems couldn't even detect the drive, much less save any data or fix it. Then, apologetically, they began speaking of clean rooms. For the uninitiated, the difference in the cost of a clean room computer repair facility with your standard local shop is essentially the cost of buying a new computer system. Or, as Luke Skywalker put it, "We could almost buy our own ship for that!"

So, any of you tech-savvy folks out there in internet lands have any suggestions? I'm afraid I'll be entering a fugue for the next few days and not entirely capable of rational thought.


Rick Klaw said...

A writer's worst nightmare. Holy shit! I'm sorry to hear that.

MrJodie said...

Jayme, there's hope. When they say "not recognized" means that the "boot sector" of the hard drive has become corrupt or damaged. All is NOT lost. You need to find a data recovery guy in your area. I'm assuming you're in the bay area (by looking through your bio I see SF and don't, immediately, think SciFi) so try (They're part of a national IT group). You're probably looking at around $250. Much more than that and you're getting ripped off. Good luck!

Jayme Lynn Blaschke said...

MrJodie, I believe it's more than that. These guys have recovered data for me in the past with crashed/corrupted harddrives. They're pretty good at what they do, and are convinced this is a clean room problem.

But I'll definitely look into your suggestions. At this point, all my options are open (except, apparently, getting this thing fixed for pocket change).

Jeff said...

Most of us have been there, at one time or another.

I have two back-ups -- little portable guys from Western Digital that are 70 and 160GB. They are plenty for my important and historical stuff.

To keep the day-to-day copies backed up in between, I use It's an on-line service that you schedule and it runs alone in the background. The space is free up to 2GB, which is more than enough for my tales and their associated research.

It's a blessing, and after a laptop death I can confirm that it works.

Dave Hardy said...

My hard drive just died. I'll take it over to the data-recovery place and hope they can save it. I didn't do enough backups. I feel sick.

Keith said...

You might be able to remove the drive (or drives - some have more than one) from the case of the backup drive, mount it in a PC, and run Gibson Research's SpinRite on it. SpinRite is an amazing tool - if the drive is at all readable, it will restore all or most of the data. Of course, the drive may be physically munged in which case a data repair service that can remount platters in a new drive may be the only solution. Big bucks there, but if it's ALL your data ....