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How Laundry destroyed my Harddrive

No, I didn't launder my harddrive.

I mainly work from home, so I get the bright idea to do laundry on Thursday.  I did a load of sheets and tossed them in the drier.  However, when I pressed the button nothing happened -- the drier was totally dead.  As renter, the first thing I did was call the landlord -- He's pretty handy, I helped him fix the washing machine when it crapped out last year. 

So the first thing he does before tinkering with the drier is start playing with our entirely unlabeled breaker box.  Flicker.  Blip.  All the computers in the house are now off.  Fine, my super new desktop running Windows XP with NTFS boots up no problem.  But shortly I notice that I have no Internet.  I quickly figured out that my Linux firewall/server doesn't turn on automatically after a power loss.

So a wander into the other room and hit the power button.  The firewall has a keyboard, mouse, and monitor all hooked up but it mostly just sits there and grinds away without anyone touching it.  I immediately notice that the BIOS POST process is very slow.  And after a few minutes I get the dreaded "No bootdisk" error.

This computer used to be my desktop machine.  It's old but slightly less flaky than the desktop machine that it replaced (which was the previous firewall).  It did have an odd problem where occasionally the harddrive would fail to spin up on boot.  However, after hitting the power switch a few times, it would eventually go.

The firewall, being that it runs Linux, doesn't ever need to be rebooted.  So it ran contuniously from the day I set it up (around 9 months ago) to last Friday.  Ultimately, that pesky harddrive problem faded into distant memory.

So, I tried rebooting the machine about 50 times over the next 5 hours but the drive wouldn't budge.  Today, I formally declared it dead and all the data on it gone.  The data it held was my entire source repository, company offsite backups, test databases, and some other stuff.  The offsite backups are no big deal.  The test databases can be repopulated from production.  But the source repository was last backed up when this box went active -- 9 months ago!  Now, I have the current checked-out revision of all the source code for all the projects; so rather than being a horrific loss, it's just the terrible loss of 9 months of revision history.

Why didn't I back it up, you say?  Come on, I'm sure you don't backup everything.  Actually I considered that entire machine to be the backup incase of failure elsewhere.  It _mostly_ contained data that could be reconstructed elsewhere.

So now it's Friday morning and I still have no Internet.  And I somehow have to install Linux on my firewall.  I started at 9:00am and finally got Internet fully working for all computers in the house at 10:30pm.  I won't bore you right now with the details of that -- but whatever could go wrong, did go wrong.


Almost Anonymous
Saturday, August 28, 2004

Dpending on how much that data's worth to you, you could send it off to some drive recovery specialists who will probably be able to get the data back.

James 'Smiler' Farrer
Saturday, August 28, 2004

I've heard that people have had success recovering data from a dead drive by cooling it in the fridge for a while, plugging it in and trying to grab as much as possible.

I've never done it, but I've seen it suggested on this forum.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

This is also speculative:

What does the BIOS POST say about the disk - can it see the sick disk or not? Iff the disk is recognised but it's not coming up because the boot sector is AWOL you *may* get some mileage from this:

0) remove the sick disk drive
1) beg/buy/borrow another suitable disk drive
2) mount it in your dead linux box as primary disk
3) build linux on the new disk
4) power down
5) mount sick disk as slave disk
7) power up and see if you have a hdb.

alternatively mount as slave disk in your windows machine and see what you can with (say) Partition Magic.

If the POST doesn't see the drive, try the freezer.

You've reminded me to copy a backup between our primary and secondary servers ... long overdue. 

Best of luck.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

With old HDDs, it sometimes helps to grip the drive firmly and to energetically "shake" it several times, rotating it strictly around the spindle. Often the "caked" bearings budge and the motor can turn the disc next time.

If that does not help - if the failure is mechanical, special (expensive) services exist that can recover data from such discs.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

You and I, dear Anonymous, had a hell of a Friday. Though we are separated by a continent, the unlucky Friday had us both. While I was applying modifications to a database, I managed to shutdown the database while it was kind of stuck in an update sql. Then I restarted it. Then I tried to modify a trigger. Then the biggest table in it was gone. Damn Interbase. I share the guilt, though, as I should have backed up the database before messing with it. Damn!

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Actually yes, I back up *everything*.

I have a script that runs over my home directories every 8 hours to various hard drives and once a day to another computer on my network.

My wife's home directories are included in a seperate script.  My mysql databases are included in another.  My complete webspace is another.  My source code is another.

Now, see if you can pop that drive into a second system as a slave drive and see what you can pull up in terms of recovery.  You might try putting the drive into another box and booting with Knoppix and see if you can mount the drive and transfer it elsewhere.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

My commiserations. <tongue-in-cheek>Why don't you open up the hard drive and read the data with a really good magnifying glass</tongue-in-cheek>

Not long out of university, in my first job I accidentally did a "del .." instead of "del ." on a Netware networked drive with no "undo delete" feature. The parent directory just happened to be the repository of the company database which I annihilated. My boss was out of the office that day. I asked the sysadmin to restore, but he said he didn't have a backup. I sweated. I was planning on getting sacked. I got nothing done all done I was so sick with worry.

At 6pm the sysadmin poked his head into my office and said "the database is fixed, restored, like new except any changes made today before you deleted it are lost". Turned out the mistkerl** wanted to teach the cocky young new graduate a thing or two about who was really important in the office. It worked!

(* Almost all you will know that this deletes all the contents of the parent directory instead of all the contents of the current directory under MS-DOS. It was a while ago.)

(** Mistkerl is German. Use for a translation.)

Herr Herr
Saturday, August 28, 2004

I would not mechanically rotate the spindle or anything like that.  If the problem is sticktion, where the heads are glued onto the surface of the drive all you'll do is succeed in scraping oxide off steel, along with any data it holds.

If it won't start, send it to a data recovery company, the chances are it won't cost more than around $500.  Your sources are worth that I'd have thought.

Simon Lucy
Sunday, August 29, 2004

Put the HDD in the freezer for 30 minutes.  Then load it back into the machine and hopefully it will boot.  Do you backup.

I kid you not.  This sounds like a joke - it is not.  I've recovered data from 2 hard drives that failed to spin up this way. 

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Do your back...  My typing is bad lately.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

No luck with the freezer trick...  or any other tricks...  ;(

Almost Anonymous
Monday, August 30, 2004

If the freezer trick does not make it spin, tap light to mederately with rubber hamer or drop from about 1m (3ft) onto say telephone directory.

Retry after every drop or 1/2 taps. Abandon after 3 attempts if you want to still take it to the recovery specialists.

Be set up so you can recover your data once it starts spinning e.g. have a master disk ready with ample space.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Battery backup much?

Gilbert the Goatse
Monday, August 30, 2004

Along the same lines as the fridge trick... Buy a can of this cold stuff they sell at radioshack, I forget the name but I bet they'll know what you're talking about.

If cooling it in the fridge works, spraying it with that stuff periodically will let you keep it running for that much longer to grab what's on it.

I am Jack's can of coolant
Monday, August 30, 2004

"How vacuum cleaning my place destroyed my harddrive?"

... well this never happened, not because breakers didn't trip when I turned on the dust sucker, but because I have an UPS (80CD$) ...  and I do backups when necessary ...  and I keep programs on drive C: and data on drive D: ... and I replace my HDDs every 3-4 years.

In the past year I had 3 power outages - each time my computers shutdown gracefully.

Monday, August 30, 2004

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