Posts Tagged Highland Echo

Down the Tubes 3: The Death of Kumar

Last week was quite possibly the worst week of my thesis-writing life. On Monday, midway through a ten page update, Kumar, my five year old hard drive, departed from this world. Panicked, I called my networking and computer guru friend Jake, and brought my seriously limping computer to his place, where he confirmed the tell-tale thumping that signaled a broken hard drive reader arm.

Like most of my thesis-writing peers, I find my computer to be an essential part of my life. It has all of my research and all of my progress on it, all of my pictures, Firefox bookmarks, and my music. Fortunately, I’m not (much) of an idiot, and had been backing up my work periodically on an external hard drive (aptly named “Harold”). However, there were those ten precious pages that I’d written, and I was not about to give those up.

When a computer hard drive dies, not all is lost. You can take it to a store like Computers, Etc. off of North Peters Road in Knoxville, and have them run data retrieval on it. Basically, they’ll hook your dead drive up to a new one and try to image, or copy, all of your data onto that new drive. Think of it as taking down your hard drive’s last words before it passes on to the vast Valhalla of computer hardware. Mine struggled in its death throes for a day and a half before it croaked, but I did get my ten pages of thesis back, plus a brand new hard drive (called Kumar II) installed and ready to go. I did have to pay about two hundred fifty dollars for it, but it was worth that peace of mind, if not the parental loan.
Because computers aren’t meant for the long haul, after four or five years they can begin to break down. There are some actions you can take to minimize the massive headache that comes when your computer inevitably dies (usually in the middle of a very important paper).

1.  Back up constantly. Get an external hard drive and back up all of your data to it once a week, or if you’re totally obsessed like I am, once a day. For particularly important documents (like thesis) get a USB/flash drive and save to it often. If I’d been saving like I should have been, I wouldn’t have paid the extra for data retrieval to get my ten pages back.

2.  Keep your computer as healthy as possible. Run virus checks, get a good spyware checker, and defragment periodically. If the finer bits of computer health are confounding, buy your favorite computer guru a massive coffee and see if they’ll help you out. Keeping your computer well-managed will prolong its life.

3.  Shut your computer down correctly. I know, this shouldn’t be this obvious, but it’s so tempting to just hit the big fat power button to turn it off. Not only can you corrupt files you’d been working on, but it can mess with a very important computer component called your .dll library, and even delete important bits from it. Believe me, you don’t want that to happen. So go through the extra five seconds to shut your computer down the right way.

With any luck, you won’t have to go through the ordeal I did. Take care of your computer, and take care of your work, and it’ll make the agonizing death of your hard drive a bit easier to deal with.


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