Decrepit Old Fool explains a Hard Drive crash.

SEB regular and fellow tech-geek blogger Decrepit Old Fool has a great entry up on what a hard drive crash really is that folks may find interesting if you’ve ever wondered just what the hell it is.  The one pictured below, which I shamelessly stole from DOF for the sheer Yikes! factor it holds, should give anyone who values their data nightmares. I particularly love the two sentences DOF uses as a lead in to the article:

“Can you get my files back?”



17 thoughts on “Decrepit Old Fool explains a Hard Drive crash.

  1. I bought an ancient PowerBook at the flea market a few years ago, and it worked fine for a while.  I forgot about it for a couple of months, and when I turned it on again, it wouldn’t boot up, and the disk drive sounded like “unhhh. uuunnnhh.”  It was trying to turn, but to no avail.  I could boot it up with a floppy, but no hard disk.

    I took it apart, and the disk couldn’t be rotated, because the cartridge on the end of the tone arm (yes, they probably have real names) was stuck to the disk.  I finally pried it free, but then it came unstuck from the arm.  I glued it back on, but it never worked again…  record players were easier to repair…

  2. The hard drive in my, at that point eight month old, Toshiba laptop died a painful death right when I was in the middle of the final semester of my first Master’s degree. All the PDF full text articles I had downloaded for research were gone. The professors were very understanding but I did get a few odd looks when I would pull out my laptop and started it up just fine not two days after I told them the hard drive died (I was using SLAX or Knoppix live CDs). I blame my hard drive failing on my charming land lords at the time, the Wayne State University Housing Department. My apartment building’s electrical system operated at brown-out levels 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (It really was the least of my problems; there was so much water pouring into my apartment’s bathroom and bedroom from the floor above that I could take a shower without turning on my faucet.)

    Les, I was wondering if you could comment on the story over on Slashdot about cmdrtaco being forced to change his World of Warcraft name? I would not be suprised if your nom de guerre(s) have caused problems in the past, so I would like to hear your take on the topic.

  3. How about IBM’s certain DeathStar… err, Deskstar models which fried their electronics or Maxtors with breaking bearings.

    Total of broken disks I know (looked those personally or friend) is three Maxtors (cousing had two of those broking consecutive, at third time he took Western Digital) and one Samsung.

    If you’re interested about reliability of different HDs I suggest registering to here

    Damn… I wonder do I have bookmark of page with instructions for “partitioning” HD… with saw! wink

  4. I just bought a Seagate external hard drive about three months ago and it decided to crash yesterday. angry I’VE GOT MIDTERMS THIS WEEK!!  What luck!  thanks E.T. for the site it’s very useful.  I think I will try to replace it with a maxtor if I can get my money back.

    Anybody have any idea what would cause the LED to flash and for it to suddenly stop communicating with the computer?  It’s not corrupted.  It’s almost as if the speed it accesses information dropped off the charts.  I was writing a paper and went to save it and the word program almost crashed.  It responded again long enough for me to print the paper.  But it crashed as soon as I tried to save it again and froze up the entire computer in the process.  Computer has no viruses or malware and all the other computers I connect it to have the same reaction (recognizing it is connected but not being able to access it while the hard drive’s LED flashes).  Erg.

  5. I think I will try to replace it with a maxtor

    Be careful when saying that… some people might get serious convulsions.

    BTW, does that external HD make any noise differing from normal?
    I assume it has USB2 (or firewire) connection which means there’s some circuitry after HD (propably completely normal ATA/IDE model) which is required for transforming data to USB-compatible form and operates USB-connection.
    If it were older (/out of guarantee) I would suggest opening enclosure and checking if HD works separately.

    PS. If you have more than one HD make sure there’s airflow around them and don’t put them tightly together.
    (I would prefer one HD’s thickness as space between them)

  6. E.T:
    BTW, does that external HD make any noise differing from normal?

    Nope.  If I put my ear to it though the noises it usually makes are far less often and sporadic.  It connects via USB.  I am hoping possibly tomorrow or tonight opening up my roommate’s computer and taking my harddrive out of its case to plug it directly into his computer to see if it’s not the case that’s the problem.  It is still under warranty but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to void the warranty by taking the case off of it because I had to put the case on it originally anyways.

  7. I don’t know much about hard drives.  That said, isn’t the magnetic layer on the disk pretty thin?  If a crash happened that was bad enough to scrape all the magnetic stuff off and render it into powder, I don’t see how you could recover information from that powder, unless you put it together like a teeny jigsaw puzzle (taking into account the squoosh deformation, of course).

  8. Zilch is right about a drive like the one shown in the picture.  The storage coating on a platter is only a few molecules thick – once it’s ground away, as Porky Pig would say, “EbDee, EbDee, Eh, THAT’S ALL, folks!”  There’s nothing there to recover.  The answer to the user’s question in this case is still, “No”.

    Neo is right about a typical drive crash where most of the drive surface is intact.  The drive itself may not “work” in the sense that you could put it in a computer and read it, but a data-recovery company should be able to get data back from any intact portion of the platter. 

    It is expensive enough that most users will say; “forget it” but if it’s your company’s database, and you don’t have backups (fire your admin), get out your wallet.

  9. Thanks, DoF- that’s what I figured.

    This reminds me of hearing, at least thirty years ago, about forensic scientists identifying a record from a splinter found at a crime scene- back then, they had to painstakingly glue up a disk with the fragment, and connect all the grooves, so that it could be played on a record player.  Nowadays, it could be directly read with an interferometer of some sort.

    Of course, lots of information was still joined together in this case, and they didn’t have to reconstruct the information, merely identify it.

  10. In most hard drive crashes, if you have the right tools, you can get back everything that isn’t in the part of the drive that’s heavily damaged. Best way to protect yourself when disposing of an old hard drive is to drive nails through the sucker to shatter the platters.

  11. Best way to protect yourself when disposing of an old hard drive is to drive nails through the sucker to shatter the platters.

    Lest it come back some night and suck your blood?

  12. That was an awesome article, Elwed – the link is going in my Google Notes. 

    But it’s so much fun to use a cutting torch.  Bwa-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha!!!

    Funny thing enterprise networks are designed NOT to lose data, and to have redundant ways of destroying it.  You could grind the drive to atoms and if the network admin is doing his job properly, it could be recovered from somewhere else on the network. 

    Here’s a horrifying story of data persistence that resulted from pure admin idiocy, however.

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