Sunday, August 22, 2010

Replacing my Hard Drive

Having finished at Stanford, I'm in the process of making my way to Honolulu, Hawaii, where I will start at my new job on September 1st.  "On my way" means, counter-intuitively, traveling eastwards across the mainland towards my one-way flight from Denver.

At the moment I'm sitting back and properly relaxing for the first time in quite a while, especially after a crazy-hectic ending to the school year.  After a 3:30 AM completion of academic requirements on the morning of Friday the 13th, Jericha and I rushed to get our packing done in time for the Sunday noon "get out of our apartments" deadline.  Stanford is happy to have you around, but the day after you're program is over, you'd better get out.

Fitting everything into the car was no easy feat, and in the process I made the dangerous mistake of dropping my laptop.  My exact words were "Well, let's hope the hard drive is ok," before throwing it - or rather shoving it - into the remaining empty space behind the driver's seat.  After a meandering drive down the California coast, including a stopover in Encinitas, we eventually powered through the Arizona heat all the way to Belen, New Mexico where I now sit Enchanted by the Land Thereof.

It turns out that my hard drive was not ok.  Oh, my computer booted fine, but in the midst of some ordinary Internetting, I heard some unseemly clicks and whirs, and everything just froze up.  At first I thought the sounds was coming from the CD drive, caused perhaps a forgotten CD that had become dislodged in transit, but no such luck (and, really, I've put maybe 5 CDs in the drive since I got the computer).  It began to dawn on me that, maybe, this was the hard drive that was acting up, and that maybe I should back everything up and think about how to confront the issue.

Actually, what I really thought was, "Hey, it's probably not really a problem, let's just restart and everything should be fine."  Upon restart, and finding the computer functional again, I thought nothing of it.  Until the thing crashed again a couple hours later.  When even opening the thing up, taking out the drive, blowing on everything, and sticking it back in offered no improvement, I realized it was time to make sure I had a backup, and go to Best Buy and get a new drive.

Fortunately, a replacing a hard drive is much cheaper than replacing a computer, so I was able to get a comparable - indeed, somewhat better - drive for $100.  Replacing it was a snap, and my backed-up Windows 7 image plopped itself comfortably onto the new drive in a matter of minutes.  I did reinstall my Ubuntu rather than restoring it (fresh installations are good now and then), but all in all it took only a couple hours for the entire thing to be up and running again.  And the best thing is, I don't have to go through the arduous process of replacing software or restoring documents, because my external drive and restore CD did their job so well.  Color me surprised.

Growing up, as I did, in the early days of Windows, I was truly shocked that repairing my computer was as easy as it was.  It was certainly easier than installing Windows 7 was in the first place.  It is true that I needed some hardware and software know-how, but not very much.  Almost everything was automated, except for my failed and not particularly vital efforts to change my partition sizes on the new hard drive (a screen in the Ubuntu installer which Jericha said "looks like gibberish").  And now I have a shiny new hard drive which hopefully will last me a tad bit longer than the old one, as long as I remember not to drop the computer.


  1. We'll be telling our grandkids about how when windows crashed we had to go through DOS to diagnose the problem using an absurdly complex system of symbols and incomprehensible menus. Those were the days. Now it takes about 5 minutes to set up a new computer and windows is usually preinstalled.

  2. The worst thing was, because the entire thing was incomprehensible, you were almost guaranteed to make whatever problem you had worse. Especially because they had real viruses back then, which would just wipe your whole C drive if you made a wrong move.