What I learned the day my hard drive died

My Hard drive died recently. I thought I would share my experience so that others might not make the same mistakes I made.

Note: I am not a beginner, nor will I recap every single thing I did, but I hope the highlights will provide some illumination. Also, I am a BIG believer in Back-ups. I use Super Duper to regularly CLONE my main hard drive to two separate external drives…weekly.

My Dual 2 Ghz G5 Mac Tower, running Mac OS X 10.4.6, began acting strangely. Waking from sleep was screwed up and some programs were behaving a little strange.

I ran ALL of the utilities us Mac users have come to depend on…Disk Utility, Disk Warrior, Tiger Cache Cleaner, Tech Tool Deluxe, Drive Genius, Preferential treatment, and NONE of them solved my problem, nor did any tell me that my hard drive was in danger of failing.

I even have a little program I run called SMART reporter that is supposed to keeps tabs on the SMART status of your hard drive.

S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology)
Most drives today have the ability to detect problems. However, be forewarned that the SMART detection technology isn’t all that SMART and they admit that it won’t catch everything. Even after my drive failed, the SMART monitors in Smart reporter AND Disk Utility showed all was fine.

Note: While it’s absolutely true that a drive can fail for reasons that are outside the scope of the S.M.A.R.T. monitored parameters, DO trust your S.M.A.R.T. status when it warns you of an error. In other words, when S.M.A.R.T. says everything is okay, it might not be. However, when S.M.A.R.T. says something is wrong, it usually is.

Lesson one: Don’t rely on the SMART Status.

Because this status told me all was fine, I went looking for a software/system corruption problem.

Lesson two: At the first sign of trouble, back up your drive.

One of the last utilities I used was Apple Hardware Check. This comes on one of your CDs/DVDs you got when you bought your Mac. Before I ran this program, I could still access my drive. While running the HW check the “Mass Storage” check brought up an error. So I ran it again…same thing. Okay, it was the hard drive. I’ll back it up and get a new one piece of cake.

Restart from the old drive…and much to my horror, there was the flashing “?”. Meaning it can’t find a boot drive.

Lesson three: Run your back up BEFORE you run Apple’s HW test CD.

I boot up from one of my back ups and I can’t even see the internal drive on the desktop. I run Disk Warrior, which is a great program that has saved my bacon in the past. It ran all night long and could not bring the drive back to life.

I resign myself to the fact that my hard drive is now dead. But as a last resort I download Drive Restore from Prosoft.

Drive Restore was able to “see” at my drive and give me a list of files it could recover. After looking at my back-ups and looking at the $99 cost of Drive Restore, I concluded that what I was losing since my last backup was not worth $99. Due to traveling and holidays, I had not backed-up my drive in two and half weeks. I normally back up every week.

Lesson four: Stick to your back up plan

I got online (now running off back up drive) and ordered a new drive from OWC
[http://www.macsales.com] and ordered it via FedEx with overnight delivery. I had been expecting it to arrive on Friday, but it actually arrived on Monday.

Lesson five: Don’t pay the added cost for FEDEX overnight when there is a big snowstorm in the mid-west.

I got home from work and there was the new hard drive, all shinny and new. I figured in would take an hour, tops, to get it installed and running.

Lesson six: Nothing involved with computer repair takes an hour. Nothing.

I opened up the G5 and started to pull out the upper drive. After pressing the clips on the side and pulling the drive forward I noticed that it hits the top of the tower’s body. It won’t come out? Do I pry it out? After sweating this out for about and hour and a half, I realized something: To take out Drive “A” you must first remove Drive “B”.

Lesson seven: If you have both drive bays full in an original G5 Mac tower enclosure, you must pull out the lower drive FIRST to get the upper drive out. (A problem fixed with the new Intel-based Apple MacPro desktops.)

After that, using Super Duper, getting the new drive up and running was a breeze.

I hope you got something out of reading this story that will help you if you are faced with a similar problem.

I leave you with this:

You NEED to back up your hard drive. I was lucky and got 99% of my stuff back. Think about the thousands of photos and the family movies on that drive. How would you feel if you lost them today forever?

It’s not “IF” your hard drive will fail, it’s “WHEN”

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