mysterious case of DR’s HDD: breathe and reboot

Do you remember the stories when computer engineer advices you to store all the important files on the partition D, and the partition C is for the Program files? Well, forget about it. The hard drive on my laptop is dead. In a seconds. No data saved. On both partitions. “But HOW?”, my friend screamed out this morning.

I have been using laptop computers for over a decade. Simply, my dynamic life style, frequent travels and the change of living and working places since the end of the 90’s determined that I will be using laptops. I had them many and experienced different malfunctions, software errors, but never so far had any major problems with hard discs, major enough to have complete crash and lost of data. I heard that  such situations usually happen on weekends when technicians are not working. Now I believe in that.

Yesterday morning I had this message on the screen: PXE-E61: Media test failure, check cable. PXE-M0F: Existing Broadcom PXE ROM. I couldn’t start up the system, manipulate HDD from BIOS, find out what happened since I have relatively new laptop that is known for the excellent performance, durability, features. I tweeted out and facebooked on my ac.account the news and asked for help. I got some assumptions. Today, someone who happen to be computer engineer tried to boot my laptop from bios using Linux/Ubuntu, but failed. BIOS showed zero hard drive. Our fear became the worst case scenario that happened in really not desirable time in the project flow.

I haven’t back-up data in the last 25 days, at least. I haven’t saved my important files in the Dropbox either. I haven’t used the USB flash to back up my current work and projects I am working on, now. I lost them all in the seconds. We went to the computer service and the official technician immediately got me back in their working offices, opened the laptop, tested the hard drive on something few times, detected and announced it is dead. No help. No data extract. Nothing. They had to replace it with new one. I couldn’t say I was upset as much as I was shocked with the fact it actually happened without the reason and the fact that I am a good user, have the great laptop, and good life karma. We don’t know why did it happen. Neither the technician. He said in his twenty years of fixing computers sometimes things happen without the reason. In between what have happened today, I tweeted mostly and many of you have contacted me, and called me, even long distance. I am appreciating any of reaction of yours, kind words, support and help. That matters.

What I have lost is all data I’ve been working in the last 3, 4 weeks on the design of projects’ protocol, then research recent doc’s, e-Articles (that I can resume though). I also lost the TREE design on the mindmap, app files, all the relevant bookmarks (over 24 000!) for work and research that I will never be able to find or resume, many GB’s of photography (only 1/50  you can see on Flickr), over 300 GB of music (those around me know that music is “must” when I work), etc. I have less than 90 hrs to send the relevant documents before the deadline and I am writing this blog post while I download simultaneously eleven programs and services I may need, that I can think of at the moment, as I lost also the list of the existing programs in the previous life of this laptop.  I don’t even think about emails I lost in Thunderbird (please if anyone knows how to / if possible/ to bring back all the emails from different accounts, even those non existing, email me).  Some of you suggested there are disk doctors who can extract data, but I assume it costs a lot, and my technician told me that probably folks from Taiwan, who manufactured HDD, could retrieve the data.

But then, I believe that this event and data crash, and the new HDD will lead to newer and better things, more inspiring thoughts and productive ideas for the current and future projects. I perceive it as some kind of wonderful test. Test of the machine and test in life, and the relations with others. I didn’t tell you that I was writing a lot in my Moleskine notebooks in the last 24hrs. And there is more hard work for me in the next few hours. Nothing is lost, everything is on breathe and reboot.

My dear friend Simon Baddeley just sent me this quote that I will end my machine/data rumbling with:

“Sir Isaac Newton had on his table a pile of papers upon which were written calculations that had taken him twenty years to make. One evening, he left the room for a few minutes, and when he came back he found that his little dog “Diamond” had overturned a candle and set fire to the precious papers, of which nothing was left but a heap of ashes.
““O Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest the damage thou hast done”.

Updated: I got Serendipity moment today. The technician “fixed”, by good chance, my, as I thought previously broken touch pad, by simply unlocking it with two keys. Goodness me, I spent months at OUCS, with Oxford engineers who couldn’t solve the mystery of not working touch pad advising to buy wifi mouse as the procedure of hardware touch pad fixing would last a month or two. In less than two hours, technician du jour showed me how it works now. Oi!


  1. I’m so so so sorry, hope there is a way to get your data back. You should try with those Taiwan folks. Ha? I’m using Mozy(.com) for backing up all my files and it works just fine.

    Good luck dear Danica, fingers crossed :O

  2. Danica says:

    Danijel, thank you for kind words, but this is similar to Dropbox. Unfortunately, didn’t backed it up on time…

  3. I know, I’m also using Dropbox (Basic edition) but just for the smaller and temporary things. Mozy is cool because it’s unlimited for just $4.95 a month. But never mind, I’m not even trying to promote them or something, just saying how it works in my case.

    Good luck one more time and thank you a lot for following me on Twitter, appreciate it :*

  4. Simon Phipps says:

    If the disk can be made to respond at all on a PC (i.e. the BIOS shows a disk is present), a geek with a copy of SpinRight might be able to recover some of the data – SpinRight does not rely on any operating system to mediate the disk. Big “if” though – all the evidence suggests it won’t work.

    Sorry not to have any magic this time. Need a new wand.

  5. Lilly says:

    Oh dear, so sorry to hear about your HDD crash! Just shows we so easily forget how dependent we are on the ‘hidden’ devices. Amazing how much of our lives is ‘stored electronically.

    I have just bought another computer and as a first act copied all data from my laptop to it!

    I am glad you are being philosophical about it all. may be clear-out will make your next stage of work much more focused and based on what you know now rather than reflecting the journey that brought you to this point.

    All the very best and keep on writing.

  6. Lukatoyboy says:

    Bear with you. Store online, backup, just copy and copy and burn and burn. At least you’ll have something…

  7. Danica says:

    Simon, as I wrote in the post BIOS didn’t show the signs of HDD, and the technician announced it is dead after testing it on some external machine. I don’t see how the data could be recovered from the dead piece of hardware.

    Lily, thank you for your nice wishes. Not sure that being philosophic (in life) now helps, but it seems I’m slowly getting back where I should be.
    Writing and projects will need some time to be resumed. Sigh. Nice feeling starting with everything new though.
    Don’t forget to back up!

    Luka – we all say that to ourselves but sometimes it just slip away, and things just happen. Day 2 installing + browsing data from a month ago, yes.

  8. Bogdan says:

    Dear Danica,

    Sorry to hear for your HDD failure. That is something everybody involved with digital technologies must face with. Digital Preservation is getting in importance rapidly, as digital content expands, and as your personal example showed.

    Our library suffered major blow a month ago, when hosting company somehow erased our online content (over 5 gigs). We managed to retrieve 95% of it, but lost days and weeks of our time, putting aside our current duties. So I know what is your situation and how you feel.

    It is quite “impossible” to manage regular backups of our everyday work, as many use their laptops as a full-working-office. Not to mention working on a laptop, home and office desktop at the same time, as in my case. It is a nightmare! Maybe you should place as much of your work online – for the start use Gmail or some other service for messaging – in that way HDD failures will not affect your correspondence (that is, for the time that online service exists).

    Keep on going! I’m sure that you will manage this situation also.

  9. Danica says:

    Thank you Bogdan for encouraging words.
    I’m sorry your library had data crash – that IS the huge loss for the library material. Maybe a dedicated server for backing up on daily basis would help in the future.

    For individuals, I agree with you, it is difficult since there is a working flow on something and you usually keep on hibernation until the next day…Gmail, Dropbox…

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