up the tech value of an ounce of prevention
Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business
March 18-24, 2008; issue 960
High Tech Office column
In my home office,
computer disasters often seem to happen in twos. A few issues ago, I
wrote about how my Mac had stopped working – a problem that was
relatively easily solved using Apple’s new Time Machine backup utility.
Within a week, though, my Windows XP desktop system started running
slower and slower. Sometimes operations would just grind to a halt,
requiring a restart.
These sorts of issues can be problematic.
Hardware or software? If hardware, the faulty component might be the
relatively cheap and easy to replace power supply. Or the motherboard
that connects all the various components. Inconsistent voltage from old
household wiring causes more computer problems than is generally
recognized. In my case, though, it turned out that the hard drive was
failing. I popped in a new hard drive, reinstalled XP, and the computer
ran as fast and reliably as the day it was new.
By then, though,
it was too late to back up the data on the old drive. A Google search
for “hard drive recovery software” brought up links for a variety of
products – typical price around $50. Most let you download them and
give them a trial run to see what they might recover if you bought
them. But none of the test runs looked promising.
On the page of
Google hits, however, was an ad for a Vancouver-based data recovery
service. I’d heard that such services were expensive, but could often
successfully recover data from crashed or damaged hard drives. Data
Recovery Pro, with offices in Burrard Street’s Marine Building,
promised free estimates, so I dropped off the drive.
A followup call
discussed what sort, and how much data I hoped to recover, and quoted
me a price. I was asked to provide a new working drive at least as
large as the crashed one. Apparently they disassemble the
non-functioning drive as part of the process of recovering the data.
week later (I didn’t need rush service), I got back both drives. I was
pleasantly surprised. The new drive had a folder on it with my name.
Inside it was what seemed to be the entire contents of the original
drive: all files with the original names, as neatly organized in
folders as they had been. And while I had been warned to expect to find
the old drive in pieces, it had been reassembled and apparently was
back up and running with all the data accessible on it as well.
plugged the new drive into my external case, and copied all the data
files back onto the computer. It’s chugging away happily, and now has
all the data back.
And hopefully I’ve had an expensive reminder.
Hard drives fail. Data Recovery Pro recovered my data far more
successfully than I would have imagined. But it was time consuming and
External hard drives in the 320- to 500-gigabyte
range are widely available for under $200. They easily plug into a USB
port, requiring no fancy installation (though you don’t want to use the
slow USB 1.1 ports on older systems); more sophisticated models include
an Ethernet port for connection on a network, allowing them to be used
to backup several workstations. Many come with backup software; if not,
google Cobian Backup. There are flavours for all common Windows
versions, it works well and it’s free.
Did your mother say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of
cure? Your mother was right. •