3 years of lost work (and a music collection) boil down to six DVD's

When my hard drive miserably failed a few weeks ago, what happened? Did I get it fixed? Was the data recovered? Had I learned my lesson?
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

It took me only one second to accidentally kick the main power cord out of the back of my computer, mid-stretch, killing my hard drive on cataclysmic proportions. I had backed up my machine, but through my own sheer stupidity and incompetence, all the files and the system restore image were all on the same partition as I only had one hard drive.

Epic fail.

Through the power of social media and blogging, many of you attempted to throw me a life raft to pull me from the ever sinking ship of my university degree. One man and his company pulled through, offering me a full hard drive recovery by shipping it to one of their labs.


Each time I had moved machines over the last few years, reinstalled or upgraded operating system, I'd simply selected the same folders from the various locations and banged them on a DVD or two. Even though I had started a fresh with a new machine or operating system, I had the same old junk that I'd always had; stuff ranging back from years ago but never had the heart to delete, just in case.

I had a music collection, a bunch of videos and all the usual stuff you would expect of a student. Yet, I had my entire degree notes, seminar write-ups, lecture notes, exam preparations and research in a few folders scattered across my hard drive. I was also due to give a lecture in the coming week on my university campus, of which the PowerPoint I had prepared had been lost in the data genocide.

Some files had been uploaded to SkyDrive, some had been sent to and fro over email, and some had been stored in the cloud when I started playing with Live Mesh a year or so ago. But no matter how hard I looked, I couldn't get the complete set together.

A kind gentleman in North America got in touch from Fields Data Recovery, and explained the process to me. The thought of having to send my hard drive across the Atlantic sunk my heart further as that would take precious time, time I hadn't really got. Instead, he asked me to ship the drive to one of the worldwide field offices - in Wales - the other side of the UK. It would get there in less than 24 hours should I send it via recorded delivery.

A week later, a small package arrives and my next door neighbour knocks on my door and delivers it, as I was out most of the day. In there was my dead hard drive, and six DVD's - full to the brim of my files, my data, my degree work, my operating system and my years of junk that I had collected over my computing lifetime.


It turned out that a common firmware fault appearing in the newer Maxtor and Seagate drives meant that once the power outage occurred, the firmware was not able to re-initialise itself causing the lack of access to the data. They had managed to repair the actual disk, so the drive was working again, but as a result of the issue still being a likelihood of returning, I opted to buy a whole new hard drive instead.

No invoice came. I enquired about this as frankly it concerned me, but the gentleman at the other end of the email had out of the kindness of his own heart, after reading my blog for many months, gave me the service for free - a one off, through exception circumstances. Consider this my disclosure.

I have no obligation to write about the company - because my policy is to never plug a product. There are far more things to do with this blog and readership than to promote products which will never gain ground in the wider world. But as an act of kindness on my behalf, I'll throw in a generous plug in their direction as to show mutual professional affection.

So while in some ways, it is slightly depressing to know that everything I have worked for over the years boils down to half a dozen DVD's, similarly to a will which reduces your entire life to a few sheets of paper, I'm beyond glad to have my work back.

And I promise to backup to an external hard drive every week.

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