So, this weekend, I suffered a sort of minor stroke in my exocortex. The girl and I left for a bit to get food on Saturday afternoon and, when we got back, I found my PowerBook making grinding / growling noises from the general vicinity of its hard drive. A reboot or two later, and the poor thing stopped bothering to spin up the drive and just sat there in blinking confusion looking for a System folder.

Now, if you've been following along, you might be thinking, "Didn't he just go through this not too long ago?" If so, you'd be right. I'm not sure what I do to these things, since I killed an iBook hard drive like this, too. I'm very hesitant to blame Apple for this since, well, I'm just really not a careful person when it comes to hardware. I thank my lucky stars, so far, for AppleCare.

The problem this time, though, is that the failure happened without warning. The past two times, I had a bit of a gradual slide into failure with an agonizing period of intermittent function just long enough to evacuate some essentials onto another machine. But this time, boom. No warning. And stupid me: I deleted the backups I'd made back when I upgraded to Tiger.

So, my last decent backup of anything is about a year old, from the last time I had a hard drive crash. Thus, this feels a bit like a sound blow to the head. I've lost all my recent changes to my feed aggregator subscription list. I've lost all my Tinderbox documents. I'm still groping around for registration keys for all of my software. The arrangement of tools I've gotten used to being within finger-twitch range is now gone.

It's been a long time since I had a serious failure in a machine I depend on where I didn't have a recovery plan. Ouch. The two things that are keeping me from going entirely bonkers are:

  1. The girl never sold her old iBook and I turned it into a replacement for our ailing house Linux server, so I have a backup machine until the PowerBook comes back.
  2. I didn't lose this weekend's tinkerings because I shared them here.

Also, it's lucky that I've turned in all the chapters and artwork for the book, because I'd've really been strolling off a cliff if I'd've had to recreate any of that work. Of course, that stuff got zipped up and uploaded to at least 3 locations on a weekly basis, so I was at least smartly paranoid about that.

I guess this'll teach me though. As soon as the PowerBook comes back, and I've reconstructed my external headspace on it, I'll be setting up nightly backups to the basement file server and plan on doing monthly archival to DVD. I can't imagine how lost I'd be if I were really living in my laptop. :)


Archived Comments

  • "I didn’t lose this weekend’s tinkerings because I shared them here." Very Linus Torvalds, as in, "Only wimps use tape backup: real men just upload their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it."
  • Remember DriveSavers: they charge a fortune, but if a year's worth of missing data is worth as much as a few grand to you, they might be able to recover it. They can go as far as removing platters from the drive in a clean room. ( I haven't used them, but a colleague did, and they've been around for many years.
  • Ok there is an old trick way short of Drive savors and there expense ...... Only do it if your not going to send it out for a recovery service. If the drive is not spinning, you can tell by the sound / feel take the hard drive out of the powerbook turn it on it side but not straight up and down but on a slight tilt about a foot over a hard wood surface ( floor works fine ) and bang it once farly hard so that you hit the edge of one long side with a nice wack ( your not trying to dent or break the case just loosen the heads if there stuck put it back in and pray .... see if it will boot. if so emediatly back it up! then get a new drive to replace it. Stuck heads are a comon cause of drive falure when there not spinning. I have done this for friendds about 6 imes and at least have the time one can get it to boot at least once.
  • Don't kid yourself. You had plenty of warning. You say you had a another hard drive fail. How much more warning do you need? Now all your readers have been warned, too. I hope none of them write you in the future that their hard drive failed without warning.
  • I went through a very similar thing not too long ago except I didn't send mine back to Apple, I sent it off to MacResQ instead. They put a different brand drive in with a little more room than the one that had come with my Powerbook and I've been quite happy since. The point of the story is, the more and more people I talk to the more and more I hear the same story. It seems like there might be an issue with the hard drive's that come from Apple. Those that have used Applecare are invariably writing about recurrent issues. Those who have gone elsewhere for a new drive seem to be doing ok. And now I'm going to sit here hoping I just didn't jinx myself.
  • Ever since my media drive died I've done weekly backups of all my laptop's drives onto an external 300GB firewire drive which I bought specifically for backing up. I wrote a little script to make it easier in OSX: You're welcome to it. Said media drive came back from the dead, though it was really just a zombie; a month ago it died again. But this time I had a current backup and so it wasn't a big deal at all!
  • Once I had an iBook with the same problem you describe. Resetting the onboard powermanager (I cannot remember the key combo, but it involved shutting down and sticking a paperclip into the reset button until the iBook chimed three times - or for ten seconds - or something like that, it was very strange and counterintuitive) always helped fix the problem for about a month. In hindsight I suspect the harddrive making a connection to the case and getting statically charged, so the arm could not hover over the disk of the hd any more, but that's just a wild guess...
  • definitely give the PMU-reset (g's comment) an immediate go, secondly give the drive-bang/tapping a go (Oz Maile's comment), thirdly, consider DriveSavers. i've not used them myself but have read over their methods and hardware and they are (should be) very able. and come backup time: rsync!
  • > I’m very hesitant to blame Apple for this since ... because you are a company-paid astroturf.
  • Anonymous: That's funny-- I *wish* I got a paycheck from Apple. :) Next time use a name, please.
  • Funny thing that happened to my 15" powerbook just after I purchased a new 12" powerbook. I started copying data from the 15" to the 12" left home for a while because it was estimated to take about 3 hours for the copy to happen. I came home and everything was fine, I mounted the 15" drive onto my 12" to copy anything I forgot and the drive was like all clunk, grind, clunk, clunk... I was all like huh? and then it died. It was 4 years old. I am thinking that Apple doesn't make machines like they used to. My old pismo is still a rock solid machine...