• The death of a hard drive

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    ON SECURITY By Susan Bradley I got a call. “Susan? Can you help me with my laptop? It won’t boot up, and it’s making a weird noise.” “Sure,” I said to
    [See the full post at: The death of a hard drive]

    Susan Bradley Patch Lady/Prudent patcher

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    • #2586509

      Think a current backup might have helped, or at least reduced the pain?

      Absolutely, beyond any shadow of a doubt.

      Always create a fresh drive image before making system changes/Windows updates; you may need to start over!
      We were all once "Average Users". We all have our own reasons for doing the things that we do with our systems, we don't need anyone's approval, and we don't all have to do the same things.

    • #2586492

      A good reminder (again!) Susan for people to backup. I wonder how much that data recovery analysis cost?

      Ever since I had hard drives (after floppies – 1980s?). I’ve always partition my hard drive from C: to I: and beyond and have always assigned classes of data to specific drives, typically

      • C: OS, D: temp & swap, E: ref (downloaded stuff), F: apps (when I get a choice where to install), G: audio/visual; H: active data; I: downloaded s/w, J: -, and on a 2nd disk:
      • K: backup, and now on a 3rd and 4th disks
      • M: backup, N: backup, O: backup, P: backup and finally,
      • L: CD/DVD

      These all have different automatic backup cycles with H: active data being  backed up daily over the lunch period. I’m now thinking of moving to continuous backups for this data. Others are weekly and monthly and some manual like C: before Windows Update.

      On the current main PC the C: and F: drives have been moved to SSD – wow, what a difference!

      One current weakness is that only once a week I decant the backups to external disks. I did try a NAS but it was so slow. Maybe time to invest in a NAS again.

      Another weakness is that some programs store user configuration data in C:\users\account name and this can be overlooked, so now I include these folders in a file backup cycle. Loosing user configuration data is a pain to recreate in highly customisable programs though the betters ones have an internal backup function to save this data.

      I use disk imaging software to backup the partition and I can easily mount the image file and see the backup files in the same folder structure and copy any file I may of made a mess of in editing. Disk imaging is very quick using incremental and differential backups (e.g. daily) but reverting to full image backup regularly (e.g. weekly) so as not to be too reliant on multiple files. I also segment the backup images to a max of 5GB to avoid massive files (phobia from the past when big files seem to get corrupted more easily). 5GB chunks are better for decanting as this process can hang sometimes.

      I’ve used a number of imaging packages over the years, good and bad, some starting good but going bad). It’s essential to have confidence in backup software. Currently I have bought and use Macrium Reflect. There is 30 day trial version. Macrium does file backup as well as image (partition) backup. An excellent product.

      [all the above is on Windows PCs]

      I run a number Linux microprocessors (Raspberry Pi) and I’ve yet to find imaging software that backups while the OS is running. But Linux is more consistent in putting all data (I believe), including configuration data, into the Home directory. So on some Pi’s I have partition the drive and put the  Home on a separate partition. So I can use file backup.

      • #2586529

        You don’t pay unless you have them do the conversion. It would have been $900

        Susan Bradley Patch Lady/Prudent patcher

        2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2586631

        For Linux, a separate Home Partition, as well as a separate Boot Partition are often used by experienced users.

        For Windows, I don’t have a lot of data in any user or Admin. account, so I just take all the data (folders) which can be copied in a standard copy-paste, and make copies directly to external media on a regular basis. Hard drive and even SSD real estate is getting cheaper by the day, so there’s no reason in the modern world, not to have curent copies of important data on hand on external drives or other locations (including the Cloud, as OneDrive does). Data transfers over cables and networks, and even to and from the Cloud, are so fast for most people today that this also should not be a reason to be without current data backups.

        In Windows, system backups are also getting easier to make and save, and they are pretty easy to restore. On a modern PC or laptop, restoration is pretty quick, but even if it isn’t, I’d rather let a restore operation run overnight than to habve to reinstall and rebuils a Widnows installatioon and all its drivers, software and data.

        For Linux, especially with the separate Home and Boot partitions, it’s often easier and quicker just to reinstall the OS and the software. With centralized software repos, all you need to back up regularly, with other data, are the markings for the installed packages.

        Backups also should include downloaded email messages. People often forget to do this, and they sometimes pay the price.

        -- rc primak

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    • #2586521

      Whenever I have disk drive issues I use Steve Gibson’s SpinRite utility to get my drive in readable shape and then I back it up immediately and install a new drive.  The utility has an option (#2) for a recovery process and an option (#4)  for deep corrections (not for SSDs though).

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      • #2586528

        It would not have helped or fixed anything. The drive was not functional so no software solution could be used.

        Susan Bradley Patch Lady/Prudent patcher

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2586598

        I would suggest backing it up with a disk imaging backup program before doing any attempted disk rescue/repair like Spinrite. I have seen these type of things make it worse about as many times as I have seen them fix things.

        Dell XPS 13/9310, i5-1135G7/16GB, KDE Neon
        XPG Xenia 15, i7-9750H/32GB & GTX1660ti, KDE Neon
        Acer Swift Go 14, i5-1335U/16GB, KDE Neon (and Win 11)

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2586632

        That would not have worked in this case. The “click of death” is often non-recoverable.

        I had this type of hard drive failure happen inside a Comcast DVR a few months ago. Fortunately, even they back up the hard drive to their Cloud DVR these days. But only if you remember periodicallly to “sync” your recordings from the menus in their services.  My DVR gave two interesting beeps before the clicking sounds each time it was trying to reboot. Sometimes computer drives do this too.

        -- rc primak

    • #2586577

      I just revived an old laptop running Win7Pro.

      When I attached an external USB hard drive with my backups on it.

      I got the message that the drive needed to be formatted.

      From the start menu, in the command box, I entered “auto play

      and from the selections, it took me to Control Panel where I disabled auto play.

      I reattached the USB drive, works fine.


      Just recently, I bought a Samsung 2TB SATA SSD, and cloned the internal HDD over to it

      using a USB cable, and Samsung’s clone software.   Once cloned, I replaced the internal HD with the new SSD.   Boots right up now, and makes this old laptop a joy to use.

      After that, I split the C: drive into two partitions C: and E: (the DVD drive was already assigned to D:) and moved all of my data over to the E: drive.


      I have a bunch of programs and scripts that depend on the D: drive.   Using PartitionWizard, it would not let me reassign the DVD drive to say F:.

      Solution: I removed the DVD drive, rebooted, and then PartitionWizard let me reassign E: to D:   I powered down, reinstalled the DVD drive and walla, it now comes up as drive E:   All is good.


      And finally, just bought another 2TB SATA SSD.  I’m now gonna clone the C: drive, which is much smaller now with no data, over to it, so I can have a safe copy that I can boot up with and restore from, if needed.   I hope to upgrade to Win10Pro, and if it works, I’ll clone that to yet another, new an fresh 2TB SATA SSD, once I have all the latest and last Win10 updates done.

      Powerbasic, no software bloat programming for Windows.

      • #2586633

        I make copies of my Windows data to a separate partition or a separate drive inside the PC. This won’t survive a real hardware disaster, but a separate temporary data backup drive will survive a single drive failure. With SSD and HDD per-gigabyte prices coming down lately, it is becoming more convenient to do something like this.

        -- rc primak

      • #2586722

        I’m now gonna clone the C: drive

        I think you are better off making an image backup to an external disk. You can have multiple backups from different machines on a single disk and can restore easily. Saves wasting a good disk “just in case”.

        cheers, Paul

        3 users thanked author for this post.
    • #2586597

      Great article, and yes indeed, backups are essential.
      That said, you mentioned that the user had a MS 365 account. That means they also had a OneDrive account. Why didn’t they keep all their documents & files in OneDrive? That would have certainly helped the recovery.

      • #2586600

        Yes he could have and he did not.  Needless to say he is now along with backing up to a third party cloud backup as well.

        Susan Bradley Patch Lady/Prudent patcher

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2586634

        Businesses often need local copies. Sometimes this is a legal requirement, sometimes it’s in case the Internet is not available or the Cloud Service is unreachable. Rule Number One of Backup — you can never have too much.

        -- rc primak

      • #2586647

        After reading about all of the problems with Onedrive, as described by columnist Fred Langa, I am avoiding any ‘cloud’ backups.   Also, unless you have a fast upload speed, like over 20mbs, these cloud solutions are slow as molasses.   And none have a file/folder comparison/copy tool like BeyondCompare has, but then I’ve not been keeping up with it, so maybe it’s all better now.  For now, I rely on my own physical backups to external media.

        And if you have lots of files/photos/videos on your phone, you can copy/sync them over to your PC using Beyond Compare 4 and a USB data cable, eazy peazy.   Works great on Android, no idea about iPhone.

        Powerbasic, no software bloat programming for Windows.

        • #2586696

          I don’t consider over 20 mbs ‘fast’.  These days 100 to 200 mbs is slow.  In this case one automated sync to OneDrive would have kept him from recreating a year’s worth of bookkeeping.

          Most of the time tech works.  We report on issues you MAY face, not issues you WILL.  There is a huge difference between the two.

          Susan Bradley Patch Lady/Prudent patcher

          2 users thanked author for this post.
          • #2586915

            My upstream speed is 5 mbit/s. Remote or “cloud” based backup isn’t realistic with speed like that. I’m pretty fanatical about backups, but that kind of backup has never been a possibility for me. For the first 11 years I lived here, that is the fastest one could get terrestrially (and it was only 2 for much of that time).

            I have not looked at satellite stuff.

            My downstream speed is better, at 60 mbit/s. It’s sufficient… not outstanding, but I can stream video that matches the resolution of my highest res display with a lot of  bandwidth to spare, and downloads of large files are not as painful as in the dial-up days, so it still doesn’t strike me as excessive.

            Now fiber (up to gigabit) is finally making its way here, and I will have to figure out what I am going to do with the landline (from the telco, like my 60/5 internet). The cheaper of the two (!) fiber options that appeared at the same time (with separate fiber networks… one is under the street, one is under the alleyway in back) does not have any land line option, and I like paying less.My internet is bundled with the land line, and my guess is that the land line won’t be cheap by itself… and given how limited it is now, it should be cheap.

            As most people probably know, I loathe cell phones and I am sketchy on using them as the main phone. I’m old school, I guess. So thinking about what to do, whether I can keep my land line phone number, etc., what I will do for email (I have always used the stuff from the ISP, which makes it part of the paid service), has got me putting off the move a bunch of times. The ability to contemplate internet based backups for the first time is really my biggest reason for wanting to get the faster connection.


            Dell XPS 13/9310, i5-1135G7/16GB, KDE Neon
            XPG Xenia 15, i7-9750H/32GB & GTX1660ti, KDE Neon
            Acer Swift Go 14, i5-1335U/16GB, KDE Neon (and Win 11)

    • #2586640


      Great article on hard drives.  How about systems that power on, but won’t boot through the BIOS?  System is clearly on, but clicks off before entering BIOS.  Dell M6700 Win7Pro.  Any secret tips you can think of?




      • #2586676

        Both of these thoughts are long shots, but if the machine is DOA, not much to lose.

        1. Even though your using and external power supply, try resetting the battery using the pin hole on the back.  (Unplug the external PS first). If the battery is removable, just remove it for a moment and put it back.  Over the years, this has fixed vexing.
        2. Re-flash the BIOS.  I’ve never done it on a laptop, but my desktop has a rear port recover the BIOS.  Check the Dell website.

        Custom desktop Asus TUF X299 Mark 1 16GB RAM i7-7820X
        4 27" 1080p screens 2 over 2.
        Laptop Clevo/Sager i7-9750H - 17.3" Full HD 1080p 144Hz, 16GB RAM Win 10 Pro 22H2 all

    • #2586687

      After reading about all of the problems with OneDrive, …

      Yes, we have been quite active in reporting about OneDrive, and we will continue to do so. But that’s because OneDrive is integral to Windows and especially Microsoft 365. We can hardly ignore something so fundamental, and we must be critical.

      As I’ve mentioned before, we run our operations with Microsoft 365. OneDrive is a critical component. Notwithstanding its problems and Microsoft’s lethargy with respect to smoothing the very rough corners, we’ve found it invaluable.

    • #2586841

      I have a bunch of programs and scripts that depend on the D: drive. Using PartitionWizard, it would not let me reassign the DVD drive to say F:.

      Good idea to solve the problem, but did you try using Windows Disk Management? I was able to change my DVD drive letter that way.

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