Lessons From a Broken Hard Drive

I want you to imagine that you are working on your computer and the screen suddenly goes blue — with a message from the operating system telling you that the computer has crashed, but not to worry because if this is the first time you are reading the message that it is most likely not a problem. You reset the computer and suddenly the screen tells you that there is no boot disk available. In fact, you hear a loud clicking noise as the computer struggles to get motivated — and you realize that you have just lost your hard drive.

This is exactly what happened to me on Tuesday morning, not too long after I was done writing about accidentally eavesdropping on the train. The computer would not go into Windows or go past that screen. I used a recovery disc to try to fix the problem but it was soon evident that the computer just didn’t acknowledge the existence of a hard drive.

Since I work at a university, I had to make an appointment for the IT department to visit and check out the computer before I could be permitted to get it fixed. I already knew what was wrong with it but they needed to put their stamp on it, so to speak. They came, they saw, and they determined what I already knew to be true — the hard drive was not functioning. I got online and ordered another one exactly like the one that had died and a whopping fifty dollars later, it was ordered and making its way to the office.

What I have learned from this is exactly how valuable network and cloud storage really is. All of the email that I have written and received in the last nearly three years, other than that which I have deleted, is safe and sound only because the IT department insisted that everyone’s accounts get put through a web service so that our data would be stored on their servers. Almost all of the hard work that I have accomplished in that time is also safe because I saved it on a network drive instead of the local hard drive. The few documents that I had started composing and a few things that I foolishly chose to keep on the local disc? Completely gone. Looks like there will be some rewriting and recreating for me to do.

It was because of this off-computer storage that I was able to resume work relatively quickly with the help of a loaner laptop from the library. All I did was input a few details of my account and I was up and running quickly.

Take my word — you don’t want to rely on one hard drive for your computing. Make sure you make extensive use of such awesome cloud services such as Dropbox, Box.com, and others. Between all of the various cloud services, just having free accounts on a few of them ensure that you can keep your critical documents safe. It may also be prudent to have a spare hard drive on hand — if I would have had one when my hard drive crashed, I would have already been set up and back on the computer — for fifty dollars, wouldn’t it have been worth it? Of course, therein is another lesson — be prepared! You shouldn’t wait for equipment failure to replace it.


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