When your hard disk fails

A very timely reminder from John Naughton in the Observer. You rely on your hard disk to store your photos, your music collection, your address book and quite a lot of essential personal data. What are you going to do when (not if) your hard disk fails?

… about three years ago, millions of such ‘ordinary’ users began buying digital still- and video-cameras and MP3 players. And all of a sudden, their hard drives began filling up with images, movies and music that really mattered to their owners because they documented their lives.

… For the average user, backing up 80Gb of data is not a trivial task – it’s the equivalent of 120 CDs or 17 DVDs. Which is why I suspect that much of this precious personal information – all those photographs, movies and music collections – has been wholly entrusted to electromechanical devices that are certain to fail.

And I raise the matter now because some of the disks holding this stuff are coming to the end of their service life. If I’m right, the next few years are going to see a lot of anguish from computer users who have suddenly realised that hard disk failure involves more than just inconvenience and loss of face.

This is already happening. I have heard of computer repair stores where people turn up in tears with failed hard disks having lost all their wedding photographs, or pictures of their children growing up, because a hard disk has gone south. Sometimes the data can be restored, often it cannot.

(My solution to this is that I have an additional two external hard disks, each of which makes a nightly full backup of my data. I’m working on the assumption that they will not all fail at the same time.)

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