I break the final taboo


Today I transgressed. I broke the ultimate taboo – the one we’ve always been told never to even think about. It’s a sorry tale – and yet in its way a heroic story too. This is how it all happened. (sfx: clock hands spinning in reverse – newspaper headlines zoom into view – picture dissolves in wavy lines).

A year ago, realising how vulnerable my data was, I invested in a Samsung M3 One Terabyte external drive for backups. (Actually, like the majority of such drives, it’s a Seagate drive). I had carefully kept all the hard drives from my previous PCs – all the way back to my IBM AT in 1987.  I put all that historic data onto my new drive together with all the pictures from my Nikon memory cards and those from my Panasonic compact, together with the manuscripts of more than a dozen books.  540 Gigabytes in all.

Everything worked beautifully and I took periodic backups from my laptop. Or rather everything worked beautifully until . . . . . I dropped the feckin’ thing a couple of weeks back and it stopped working.  The light came on but there was nobody home and 30 years worth of data was suddenly inaccessible.

I consulted commercial data recovery services and found that it was going to cost me somewhere around £400 – £700. In desperation I opened the plastic casing with trembling fingers and looked inside. The connector seemed fine.I investigated replacing the printed circuit board but this seemed fraught with complexities including having to change the firmware.

At last I sat down, poured myself a stiff drink and faced facts. My drive was f*cked and so was I. I was trapped. There was no way out – and even if there was, it was a one-way ticket to the bottom of the bay.  Then suddenly a bluebird settled on my window sill and chirped “What have you got to lose?  Open the sucker.”

So I did.

Yes, that’s right. You must never, ever open a disk drive outside of a clean room.  The tiniest dust particles, even just a micron in diameter, can fatally jam the reading heads and it will never work again. Breaking the seals will invalidate the warranty and men in black will come round and neuralyse you for even thinking about it.

But my bluebird was right.  What had I got to lose?  So, I bought the right tork screwdriver and took the back off. Inside the drive was a red wire and a green wire – but which one should I cut?  No – only kidding. There were no wires, but the reading head had stuck halfway across the platter. I gently eased it back into its rest, re-sealed the drive cover and switched on.

And bugger me – it worked. I’ve got back all my files and I’m now in the process of transferring them to a new external drive. Except this time, it’s a Solid State Drive.

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2 Replies to “I break the final taboo”

  1. What? Transferring them all to another drive? Some people don’t learn from their mistakes! 😉

  2. richard@richardmilton.co.uk says:

    Good point, Andrew – but I have learned my lesson – my files are now backed up on a solid state drive.

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