You know that sinking feeling you get when you think all your data has gone? Letters, spreadsheets, photos, work files, pictures, journals, short stories, emails. Even your novel, if you were writing one there. (Mine is about 500 words long and scrawled on a scrap of paper!)
Actually you don’t want to think about it at all. The thought nibbles round the edges of your mind…. “that picture I did of the flowers in the rainy garden… I was so keen to get it backed up. That’s gone. The picture of the little girl in the wood that took me days. And my electronic journal, for goodness sake — my every thought and activity from 2001 to 2004!”
There’s a fluttering feeling of panic when you start to think about spreadsheets and things, but you push them to the back of your mind. You don’t want to think about the really bad stuff till you have to. Or rather you won’t dwell on the really bad stuff, which comes sniffing round your slippers anyway.
So you do something else and tell yourself the data will all be there for when you want it. You go to sleep in a dejected frame of mind, and wake up pale and tragic.
It happened a while back and I didn’t really want to talk about it. I never talk much about the really depressing things.
I couldn’t store much on my Mac, so a lot of stuff was stored on my external hard drive, which was three times bigger than the Mac.
You realize what a bad idea it is, though, so you order a second external hard drive, even bigger than the first one. The idea is that it will back up everything that’s on the computer AND the first hard drive.
Your huge new drive arrives on your doorstep, and before you can even do anything about setting it up, you try to get something off your old external drive, and it’s not responding! The icon has disappeared off the Mac’s desktop.
Aargh, not yet! Not yet!
I looked online and tried removing all the cables and putting them back in after booting up the Mac… no use.
You can imagine how sick I felt about that. If you look at the picture at the foot of this blog post, I’d lost the master files for most of these and hundreds more. Each one is a full size desktop wallpaper; some took me days (using a mouse, not a graphics tablet)… and they’re just a drop in the ocean of what I’ve worked on. I was trying not to list them in my mind. Yes I was aware the flowers and the girl had gone. The pink glittery one had survived the chop, thankfully… sheer chance it wasn’t on the failed drive. I didn’t want to remember the planets, the dark jewels… oh gosh, the jewels! I must have spent weeks on those.
Then there was a ray of hope… DiskWarrior. It only works on Macs, rebuilding the directory, but it can save failed external hard drives too. I sent off for that, choosing the cheapskate delivery option (free!) which meant I had to bite my nails for about a week. I didn’t mind that, as I wanted to live in hope rather than be crushed all too soon. In fact, when it arrived, I put it off… had coffee, dusted my desk, backed up everything to the new hard drive, tidied folders, repaired permissions with Disk Utility, etc! Anything rather than actually try to access the failed drive.
Finally I could put it off no longer, and put the old disk drive on. The LED flickered helplessly, going nowhere. I set DiskWarrior to work, and after a longish silence, suddenly the failed drive’s LED steadied. It was as though a mailed fist had seized it and dragged it to a halt. That was the strangest feeling… the nearest I’ve ever come to feeling that software has a physical presence.
I held my breath, and after a little while, DiskWarrior said the drive was in such a state it couldn’t be rebuilt, but if I hurried, I might be able to get some of my data off. Recommended that I do it now. (You visualized a muscle-bound armour-clad knight holding a heavy gate open, saying “Come on now! Frogs, ladies and children first! All PDFs and spreadsheets to the back and wait your turn!”)
Oh yeah, all my stuff was there… the flower garden, the girl in the wood, my racing frogs, my journals, spreadsheets, fractals, horrible poetry… everything! Nothing seemed to be corrupted, though some backed-up PC files with long titles had strange garbled titles now. My cursor wandered longingly towards my graphics folder, but I decided the written data was more vital, and took that off first. It took a while to back it all up, but I put some on the PC as well as on the new drive (just in case the new one decided to fail the next day!) It’s just as well I did have the new drive there, because there wouldn’t have been room on the Mac itself for all of that stuff.
BUT now I was back to square one. I had all my data… and ONE working external hard drive! It was supposed to be two.
I bought a ubercheap one this time… much slower and simpler than the other two. There was no back-up software with it, but the software that came with the other one does the job. I reformatted it to suit the Mac (otherwise DiskWarrior wouldn’t be able to read it). I had in mind that maybe a cheap drive would chug along for years while the classier ones were failing right and left.
So now I have two external hard drives running… backing up the same data. The more expensive one is a bit… erm… I mean, it’s brand new, but keeps refusing to show up on the desktop. Taking the cables off and plugging them in again sorts it out, but gosh! I don’t have that problem with my little cheapie one. It’s always there. Slow and steady.
Maybe I should name my next frog that.
Click picture to enlarge (it’s about 100kb).