Guide to Dealing with Hard Disk Failure

Your mac's disk suddenly starts clicking really loudly or grinding and you're suddenly getting IO errors or your system is crashing. What do you do?

  1. Turn off your computer!!
  2. Hold down the power button. you can cease all damage immediately by turning it off. It won't get worse while it's off. Off is safe. If only other life disasters had off buttons that could halt damage.

  3. Panic, get drunk, etc
  4. Call up your ex mother in law. Feel sorry for yourself. Cry. go ahead. Do all of this as often as you want and for as long as you need, but make sure that your computer is off whilst you drink, panic, make a fool of yourself, etc. You're not thinking well while you're freaking out. So take the time to do it, but don't expose your disk to additional risk

  5. Figure out what data is important
  6. You are not going to be able to get an image of the disk. Your disk has errors. You need to figure out what you need to save. Generally, this is your home directory. Make a list of what matters by priority. Yeah, you want everything, but you may need to grab your bookmarks before you grab your 40 gigs of iTunes library. Things like your bookmarks, your apple address book and your apple calendar and in your home directory under Library. You may want to grab that.

  7. find a computer with a lot of free disk space that you can borrow and a firewire cable
  8. boot your computer as a firewire device.
  9. hold down the t key while it boots. A firewire logo should appear on the screen. If it starts clicking and grinding TURN IT OFF by holding down the powerbutton for a few moments. Try repositioning it and try again. You may find it works at a funny angle or on it's side or upside down.

  10. Connect the firewire cable between the good computer and the bad computer and start copying data
  11. Get it by order of importance. When the disk starts clicking and grinding again TURN IT OFF. It may also just slow to crawl. turn it off in that case also.

  12. Let the disk cool down
  13. Let it sit off for a while to cool down. Then try getting more of your data. You can stick it in the fridge to cool faster if you can guarantee that you won't get condensation inside the computer. Anyway, this just cools it down faster. Letting it sit will also cool it. cool is good. cool spins better

  14. Repeat the grabbing and cooling cycle until you get everything or the disk completely dies
  15. Take your computer to the store to get a new disk
  16. If you have apple care, great. If you don't you may want to consider it for next time. Also, ask the store about professional data rerieval, if you need it. Prices usually start around $500 and go up. The guy at the campus store told me the last two disks he sent off each cost $1200. Data was retrievable because the users turned off their computer when they heard loud clicking and grinding noises. Otherwise, disks and grind to death.

  17. formulate a backup policy
  18. Yeah, we're supposed to the them. But we don't. Who knew my disk would actually die? I haven't seen that happen in ages. anyway, you need a backup plan and preferably, one that happens automatically. I don't have answers here, but i think storing things offsite is good. Your data is just as lost by fire or theft as by dead disk. You need backups in a location where local calamity won't destroy them.

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