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Monday, October 18, 2010

Saving Private Hard Disk

Today I am going to talk about something which gives us nightmares. Yes, even with the most sophisticated preparation, it is still bound to happen sooner or later - Hard Disk Failure. Let start this a few weeks back. While slipstreaming a XP Disc, I found that my hard disk was particularly slow. In fact, it even stalled at some point. I know I had a WD Green HDD which is not really state of the art in terms of speed, but I should not be expecting the HDD to stall anyway.

So, I check my SMART statistic via my Hard Disk Sentinel. While this program doesn't fix anything, it does tell you what happened on your HDD on the hardware level. In this case, I see a huge number of bad clusters detected and there had been a lot of relocation as a results. This is a good tell tale sign the HDD is going to fail or at least you will lose data if you do nothing about it.

If you are interested in getting Hard Disk Sentinel, it can be purchased here:

Now, I am going to talk about 2 tools which I have in mind. They are :

  1. Spinrite 6 ( )
  2. HDD Regenerator 1.7.1 ( )
Spinrit 6 is the latest version, but for HDD Regenerator, there is a 2011 version which actually works in Windows. Since I did not have that, I have to fall back to the good old DOS version 1.7.1. The main differences for these programs are as follows:
  1. Spinrite can process ONLY your data area and leave those empty spaces alone. This is good enough if you want to recover the data and go RMA / Exchange the HDD.
  2. HDD Regenerator processes ALL of the HDD area including empty spaces. This is good if you plan to KEEP the HDD since checking the empty space will preempt any possible failure in the future in those area.
I prepared for the worst and go for option 2 anyway although it took much much more time. Also considering that HDD Regenerator saved my ass once in:

HDD Regenrator will take a considerable time, but here is where paying for a Raptor pays out. The RAW speed of your HDD is what counts here. It is also rare that HDD Regenrator cannot read out and relocated the data unless the HDD is really gone BAD in a very bad way. In which case, you should savage whatever you have and RMA the HDD. 

Needless to say, the HDD was saved, and the bad cluster counted also return to normal as checked in SMART. It could be just magnetic retention problem. But I guess I was lucky. But in this case, maybe using Spinrite would had saved me some time. 

I would know many readers will think that it is really expensive considering they cost about USD$80-100 raw. And I also know that there are many so called "cracked" editions of these software floating around. You know that I do not encourage piracy and I won't here. Think about this. It is your data which matters. Will you trust a "cracked" version of the program which may have a chance that it is damaged or even worsed trojanized. Instead of saving your data, it can corrupts it or send it out somewhere. I think I will not take the risk even if it is slim. When it comes to data, I will deem it as priceless, so USD$100 is nothing compared to it. Well, if you really want to be cheap about it, you can share it with a friend or even better, buy a different one each so that you can compare. 

These tools are life saver when shit happens. And all we can hope is that day does come (too often).

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