It only takes a single second, some would argue a micro-second, to wipe an entire hard drive. Without the need for electromagnetic pulses or an industrial liquidiser, all it takes is a single spark of electricity to cause havoc with your entire electronic life.
How do I know? Because last night I hit the realisation that I lost everything in a blink of an eye. Here's how, kids.
Two days ago, I was in my home office working on my degree work for the week. Just as I finish writing up a seminar, I stretch my legs, kicking out the all important power cable at the back of my machine. It's not the first time I've done it, so I was annoyed at potentially losing what I had been working on but not particularly fussed.
I restarted the machine and with an element of surprise, the POST took a while longer than per usual and it stopped, not before asking me to insert boot media. At this point, I thought the master boot record used to boot up Windows was corrupted. No big deal, but the Windows 7 disk I needed was in my office on campus - over a mile away, and this was 11pm.
So I trail my way up to campus and get the almighty powerful disk I thought needed to fix my master boot record. Instead of trailing all the way back home, I decided to pull an all-nighter and get some work done. To say that I felt a little delicate the next day would have been a massive understatement.
Once I finally got home, I slam the disk in and with a little persuasion begin Windows setup to recover the drive. After a while it dawned on me that not only can Windows setup not find my drive but neither can BIOS. At this point I realise that I am in deep trouble.
With a spare tower box at my disposal, I unplug the drive and install it into the other machine, swap SATA leads, install it while Windows is running on the other machine - you name it, the combinations were countless.
At this point, it is keen to stress the importance and value of Twitter and my colleagues. With the help of the aptly name @the_pc_doc, our very own Adrian Kingsley-Hughes and a long-time friend, Robert Gale, with Twitter handle @awv named after his very popular "A Welsh View" blog, I was able to troubleshoot these issues in real time. (For those interested: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
Through no will of trying, I have now come to a sound, unfortunate conclusion, that my hard drive is well and truly screwed. My data is fully intact but I have absolutely no way of accessing it. And did I back up my machine? Of course I did - but on a separate partition, and on that hard drive.
There are little bits and bobs floating around on my laptop, my office computer, my university network shared drive, and a bunch of flash drives that I have - as well as a "master backup" which I completed a few weeks ago once I upgraded to Windows 7 RTM on a DVD at home, but I cannot really count on those for absolutely everything.
So my wise words for the day - especially university students like me who spend tens of thousands of pounds/dollars on their university education - in large letters for emphasis on an appropriate level:
GET AN EXTERNAL SOLID-STATE DRIVE AND SET AN AUTOMATIC BACKUP TO EVERY SINGLE WEEK WITHOUT FAIL. NO EXCEPTIONS.
For the time being, I am faced with a bill of up to £750 (roughly $1200) with OnTrack, who specialise in data recovery. If you are a company (preferably in the UK), I am opening the floor up to bribes. It has now reached the point where I am so desperate to get my data back - because most of it entails two years of a degree and countless thousands of pounds getting that what is now mere bits and bytes - and I very much want it back. I have learned my lesson.
So if you want to offer me a discount which would considerably cut my costs in getting my data recovered, then please do get in touch. I'm opening the floor for offers, and the non-financial reward shall be great and not open to anybody else, i.e. service plugging on one of the most popular blog networks on the Internet.
So how long toes it take to wipe three years of work? 1 second. Weapon of choice? An outstretched leg.