Frozen Hard Disc

Doesn’t happen often, but for some reason when it does happen it picks the most inopportune moment. Friday morning I get into the office, having done a little bit of coding on the ferry (I’m thinking twice about using the laptop on BART following this article in the Chronicle), and try to copy the updated files onto my main desktop system. But I get an unexpected message about not being able to write the file. A quick check on the desktop system and I see that my whole home directory has vanished. Not a good way to start a day.

Some investigation of the system logs tells me that the drive my home directory is on was somewhat unhappy, and was unmounted. Attempts to remount it proved useless, and the drive itself was making noises that should not be heard from a hard disc drive. In fact, the only time I’ve heard worse was back at school when the heads on a physically large hard disc attached to the schools TI-990 mini computer literally crashed into the very large platter, causing an ear piercing scream from the drive (it was clearly in pain). That was an interesting machine to learn programming on; some very simple programming mistakes could crash the whole multi-user system, making you very unpopular, but I digress.

I didn’t have a lot of source code on the drive that wasn’t already somewhere else in a code management system (checking in changes often is a good thingTM). There were a few documents, most of which are on my laptop too, but there are all those little things like bash setup scripts and preferences for applications that are just so useful to have. So, I thought I’d try something that I’d heard about a few months back: freezing the drive. It spent the night, wrapped in bubble wrap, inside the freezer in our kitchen at work. Today, fresh out of the freezer, it mounted and I managed to get eveything copied off of it. No errors, no strange noises. Now, I’m not going to trust that drive again, but it looks as though the freezer trick might actually work!

As for the replacement… well, it is going to be running with a software RAID-1 configuration, providing some redundancy, so hopefully I won’t need to worry about freezing any future drives that fail.

2 thoughts on “Frozen Hard Disc

  1. i had a drive cack on my ancient winduz pc. an ibm deathstar; a notoriously unsuccessful piece of … its failure jammed the ide bus. fortunately it wasn’t the boot drive. unplugging it restored the machine, but it had all my data, most of which had never heard of a backup, but fortunately the most important (my financials) had. one of my co-workers suggested if it wasn’t on the ide bus, it may spin up enough to be recognizable and mount through firewire or ide. i have a firewire card in my machine (a pointless, until this emergency, acquisition). a chum loaned me an out-of-warranty lacie firewire enclosure. i cracked it open, took out his drive, inserted mine, plugged it into the pc and -i’ll be damned- all but a few sectors were recoverable.

    best part is the sectors that weren’t were my financials …

    never heard of freezing the sucker, though.

  2. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Hard Drive Detail

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