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Recovering from a hard drive or hard disk failure

About 3 months ago I bought myself a nice new Dell machine - an XPS Generation 4 machine if you're interested. It's a very nice computer and I was very happy with it. There was only one slight concern - every now and then when I rebooted, it would take a few seconds longer than I thought it should to get me back into Windows. Sometimes a program would also take a few seconds longer to load than I felt it should. However, I dismissed it as probably nothing. I prefer desktops, but you might prefer a laptop, and the details below are appropriate for both kinds of machine, but if you're looking for cheap laptops you may want to try that sponsored link.

Not too long ago we had a bad storm, and the power went out for a few seconds, and then came back on again, and the pc rebooted. I tried to get into a program to continue working, but the whole thing froze on me. When I rebooted it took over 6 minutes to bring up my desktop wallpaper, and another 10 minutes after that to bring up the icons. I tried to get into Word, but it took 45 minutes before the program opened and even then I couldn't load any of my files.

This was not good news. I rebooted and went into the diagnostics and setup programs and ran some tests. They all came back with one message 'Sorry mate, but your hard disk is no more. Get yourself a new one.' I rang up Dell Customer Support and they confirmed it - the hard drive was fried. They arranged for someone to come out the next day with a replacement. Not only was the machine still under warranty but I'd also paid extra for next day on site support. Tip One: Get next day support. It costs, but it's worth it - how long can you afford to be without your pc?

Engineer arrived and after the usual cup of tea he installed the new drive and then said 'Have you got your install discs available?' I said 'What if I haven't?' and he said 'Then we have a problem.' Luckily (or sensibly!) I keep all the discs in their own little box, properly labelled. Tip Two: Keep everything to hand and well labelled. It's a two minute job, but can save you hours of searching later if you need them.

I let the engineer do all the basic re-install of the operating system and software, while I kept an eye on exactly what he was doing. He left with a cheery 'All you have to do now is put everything back!' This, of course, is where we have the problem - what did I have to put back? The short answer of course was 'everything else!' The first thing I did was get back on the Internet; this was easy, since I have a BT Voyager router, so I just plugged the pc back in, clicked on Explorer and there was the net again. The first thing I did was download Firefox again, and reinstall my favourite extensions, which took a while, but wasn't exactly hard. Next thing was to get all my bookmarks back. Luckily I had copies saved in two places: Backflip, and My Bookmarks so it was just a question of importing and setting them back up again. Once more, no big deal. I missed a few of the more recent ones, but anything important I've saved as Furled pages or I made mention of them in my Weblog. Tip Three: Keep backup copies of favourites or bookmarks. They're one thing you'll almost always forget to do, but you'll really miss them if you don't!

Having got that sorted, I then need to turn to other important files. All my presentations were backed up on my webspace, so it was just a matter of loading my FTP package Filezilla and grabbing them again. Most of them I already had anyway, since I store them on my USB memory stick, just in case I need them. Tip Four: Get a memory stick and copy the really important stuff onto it. They're not expensive and have a lot of space, so it's worthwhile.

Most of my other files were backed up onto an external hard drive. This was particularly useful since all I had to do was plug it into my laptop and carry on working. I did however lose some files, since I hadn't backed them up for a few days. Tip Five: remember to back up regularly! Find cheap hard drive deals on the best computer brands.

The thing that probably took the longest was just to reinstall all the different packages that I use. Collecting them again wasn't too much of a problem, since I had them on disc (see tip two) or I had the install files backed up onto the external drive, so I didn't need to wander around the net trying to find them again. Tip Six: keep installation programs safe; if they're taking up space archive them, but don't throw them away.

Of course, there was some stuff that I didn't back up, most importantly of which was my email. Consequently, if you're expecting a reply from me and don't get it, this is the reason! I just forgot the email; it's something that I work with all the time, and I just missed the obvious! Tip Seven: Don't miss the obvious. Check what you're doing during the day, and if there's something you use a lot, make sure you've backed it up. Do not let familiarity breed contempt.

However, having said that, I do use my Gmail account quite a lot, so I still had access to some of my mail there.

I had also forgotten to back up a couple of games that I was playing, but that wasn't a big deal and just meant that I could start all over again.

So, all in all, it was a nuisance that the drive died, but it could have been much worse than it was. It's a pain to keep backing things up, but it's even more of a pain not to. Tip Eight: If your hard drive died this minute - how much of a problem would it be. Spend a few moments now working that out, and then take immediate steps to ensure that if the unthinkable happens, it's no more than a nuisance, rather than a full blow disaster.

Finally, if you are looking for a resource to use, consider taking a look at my sponsors site: Data and hard drive recovery utilities for when your hard drive crashes.

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