install new hard drive

Hard DriveIt must be October – at least that is my wife’s theory.  You see, it seems every year one of the computers in the house experiences some challenges during the fall time frame.  This year – it was my computer’s turn.  And of all the folks you may read about, I had best be the one taking my medicine about backing up data.

I thought I would recount this to you – not because I’m a glutton for punishment, but rather it is a story of how this can be done.  There are certainly other ways, some a bit more laborious, others a bit easier.  And the steps you may take could be based on the problem or issue you are experiencing.

In my case, all was well.  Purchased this laptop in November of 2011.  I keep it updated and tuned so I can get things done (my wife say too many things, working the machine to death).  Worked on my computer Monday until around 8pm with various items that needed attention (10/8/12).  Woke up Tuesday to start my day and was greeted with interesting messages on the screen.  My attempts to recover were not successful by the time I had to leave for work.  When I returned they were still not headed in a positive direction.

My suspicion was software corruption – at first.  Windows would not start but could get to the rescue screen.  However, not much from the rescue screen was being helpful, and I could hear a high pitched whine from the laptop.  Soon as I heard that I then suspected an eminent hardware failure.  I have been to this rodeo before with a machine or two.

After I had done my due diligence, I called the laptop vendor (I’m now using an HP laptop, this is my first HP after using many Dell’s – and I was not unhappy with Dell, just purchased this on based on price point for comparable computers this time).  While I knew the hard drive had failed, I went through the necessary tests the the agent on the phone, and they were shipping me a new hard drive.

Now I had some time to get fines off, if possible.  Not much was possible, but I was able to retrieve a few files off before the drive completely failed.  I knew any access could be the last time I accessed the files, so I got the most recent copies I could – why?  Because I actually DO back up my files regularly.  The last back up I had was from 10/1, so I had not ‘lost’ much of the work I had done or the files I needed.  I restored from back up with no issues at all – for the files I had backed up.

The new hard drive and restore disks were at my house when I got home from work Thursday (10/11) and before I went to bed the laptop was up and working, just needed to restore all my back up files.  And this went smooth, mostly!

The only areas I had not backed up – or did not back up as frequently as I should have – were my pictures (but all of them that I had not backed up were on the camera SD card, so no issues there) and my music.  When I put the music folder over, I only had about 8,500 songs in iTunes.  That was low by 2,000+ songs.  Now what should I do (other than learn the lesson to back this up a bit more often)?

Here is where a shout out to Music Rescue (from KennettNet) comes in.  I started to look for a solution to get this music off the proprietary iPod so the play lists, track names and all the meta data was in tact.  I know there are ways to hack through this, but none are super clean, and I had put many hours into the 2,000+ tracks that I had not backed up (ripping the CD’s, ensuring information was correct, adding artwork, etc.).  So the question to me was – how much time is this worth for me?

I found the answer – I’d pay the fine folks from Chicksands, Bedfordshire (in the UK) for their work to make my life easier.  For less than the price of 2 CD’s, I’d gain back hours of time doing a bit of rework.  And that was the most difficult part of the restore!

So, this was a success story.  Lost no access, could get to my email via the web, and am back up and running within a day (fully functional and all files needed).  The moral of the story?  It is worth the time and effort to back up your data.  You never can tell when hardware will fail!


As I was working with my computer recently, I noticed I was running–at least in my opinion–a bit low on storage space. What do I mean by storage space? Well, I like to have at a minimum 10% of free space on my hard drive.

When I purchased this computer back in March of 2008, it was quite a deal. It had two hard drives, and each had 160 GB of hard drive storage. So, you would think with 320 GB of total space, I would be hard-pressed to run into a storage issue. Fast forward to 2010. I’ve been fighting storage space issues for quite some time on my D drive. My temporary solution was to move some information off of that drive onto an external storage device. While this worked handily, it was not the end solution I had hoped for. It was obvious to me I needed more storage.

Not only that, what operating system hard drive was also running low. I only had about 25 GB of storage space to spare. That’s getting dangerously close to the 10% threshold that I was alluding to earlier.

Why 10%? I like to keep some headroom on my hard drives because they are used for swap file space and free space for defragmentation. And there was no reason for both of these areas to the lacking on my computer.

You may be running into the same space issues. Without going into detail, I would encourage you to find out what size hard drive you are running and what type of hard drive you have installed. That means, do you have an ATA hard drive, an SATA hard drive, or even an IDE hard drive. Because if we look for new storage, we need to know what type of storage to get (exactly what we want to put in the machine so it fits and works – you wouldn’t put a 2.5” laptop hard drive in a desktop that has space for a 3.5” drive – and heaven help you if you get a 3.2” hard drive for your internal laptop storage!). In my case, I was running SATA hard drives (5400 RPM). I could upgrade to faster access hard drives that were SATA, but decided against this (only because of the age of my computer and the additional cost).

There are many hard drive manufacturers to choose from. Personally, I like Western Digital hard drives. So I started my hunt! As I’ve written before, there are many sites that you could start to research hard drives and other technological pieces and parts. I knew I wanted to upgrade my storage, so I looked for at least two times the storage I have currently. What I found was a pair of 320 GB hard drives that cost $55 each–and that includes shipping (so I paid a little over 0.17 cents per gigabyte for storage)!

So I was well on my way to doubling my storage space. Once the hard drives arrived, my next task was to clone the each hard drive so I lost no information. Western Digital has a very nice set of tools to do just that, and they are free. Using their Acronis software, it was easy to upgrade each of my hard drives. The only snafu I ran into was forgetting to change my power settings on my machine  so it would not go into hibernation after one hour (Note to self, don’t forget that again).

The reason I wrote this post was to encourage you to look at your hard drive space and see if you’re running low on storage as well. To do this, just open the my computer window. Once you have that window open, in the left-hand navigation column click on my computer. Over in the right-hand pane, you should see a listing of hard drives or external storage devices attached to your computer along with their storage capacity space used and available (if that is not there, simply right-click on the drive you are interested in learning more about and select properties). If you are running low on storage, why not go and look for additional storage space today?