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 Post subject: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:39 pm 
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Location: Toronto, Canada
Hit a potentially serious hitch last night and this morning. My secondary hard drive on my main TwistyPuzzles PC is failing big time. I'm not sure if it's the HD itself or something else, but after a few minutes of attempting to access the HD, time outs and other nasty errors start showing up in the Windows event log, and soon afterwards the drive mapping is dropped. I did a chkdsk on reboot, and again the drive was only available for about half the scan then became "unreadable" or somesuch.

It's got the entire TwistyPuzzles history on it, thousands of unused photographs for the database which may or may not be backed up, and a big new batch of unbacked up code including a new version of the collection manager which I was planning to release this coming weekend (not to mention all my family photos, and who knows what all else). My insufficient backups have been a growing niggle in the back of my mind for months, but if you have a computer you probably know how that goes. Backing up your computer is an easy thing to put off. For some reason my CD/DVD burner recently lost it's ability to successfully burn DVDs, and I didn't like the idea of burning dozens of CDs to backup my stuff. So I bought a new DVD burner, and it's been sitting around in the box for a month. So I have no one to blame but myself if I lose anything. I replaced the burner this morning while making sure the cables were all snug, but too little too late.

Anyway, it may not even be the hard disk. It could be the motherboard (hard disk controller?), the cable, or whatnot... it's a three year old computer that's basically been running for three years straight. There is only one IDE plug on the motherboard, but I've got a another older semi-functional PC and another IDE cable, so I'll be trying to access the drive from that configuration next. If that works, it may mean my motherboard is on it's last legs and it may be time for a new computer. Although it may also mean I should just swich to SATA (three spare plugs) and give up on IDE.

I admit that buying a new desktop would be fun, but a mixed blessing given that I just dropped $600+ on a low end programming laptop. Buying a SATA drive and patching up the old machine would still cost a few hundred and would feel more like work than play.

Sandy


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 Post subject: Re: Progress on Site Updates
PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 6:43 pm 
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If this does end up costing a new drive, I'm sure quite a few of us can throw in some dollars on paypal. Let us know, Sandy if this is the case.

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 Post subject: Re: Progress on Site Updates
PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:40 am 
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I have an unfortunately long history of shouldering the load on my own. Thanks for calling me out. My PayPal account is the same e-mail address found in "Contact Me" on in the site menu... should anyone be moved to use it.

It's the drive, unfortunately. I had a secondary drive on my older computer, so I swapped the two. The problems swapped computers, which eliminated the motherboard and the cable from the list of possibilities, leaving just the hard drive unit. I also switched it from being a master to a slave, which didn't make any difference. Since it seems to work for a few minutes before it konks out, I'm going to pick up a replacement internal hard drive and attempt to copy everything before it quits forever. With my lesson learned (hopefully for good this time) I'll also be picking up an external hard drive to act as an automatic nightly backup unit.

If my attempts to copy the data fail, does anyone have any experience to share about data recovery services? Even better, in the Toronto area? And how much do they charge? I won't let go of all this data without a fight.

Sandy


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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 11:49 am 
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I have no idea of the recovery services in Toronto area, but I do have an idea of how they do it. Most of the time it's the circuitry that fails. So they need either repair it or replace with one from absolutely identical hard drive (or the one that is compatible). If you bought your hard drives separately from the PC, you might even have another one that is identical. Anyway, you could probably prolong the active life of the hard drive when you turn it on by using an ice pack as most probably it shuts off when it's heated. Just don't hit the drive with cold at once, do it gradually through a towel. Remove the drive from the PC and lay it next to the PC with an ice pack. Well, hope this helps some.

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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:18 pm 
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I second the motion that it may be a thermal issue with the hard drive, especially if it works for a while before quitting. As I write this I have one of my own hard drives in an external enclosure sitting in my freezer.

Just be aware of the potential for condensation.

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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2009 9:22 am 
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Location: Toronto, Canada
I bought a replacement 250GB internal SATA II and a 1TB external last night. When I tried to get it all running, it turned out I needed a power adapter for the internal, as my power supply doesn't have a power plug that'll fit into the slimmer SATA II drive. I decided that internal to internal would be the best way to attempt the backup, so I didn't get very far last night. However, I did take a moment to copy the website scripts. That's a relief since it means the week of spare time that I spent on the new CM will not be lost and I can continue programming from where I left off while I work on restoring the rest of the data. Lots of twisty stuff still has to be recovered (the new design, all those unused puzzle photos, etc... the whole 7 year archive), as well as all my family photos and other personal stuff.

Thanks for the tips guys. I've got a gel pack that'll do the trick with minimal condensation. I'll let you know how it goes. I've got some available time coming up this weekend, so I'd really like to have this hardware issue resolved before then so I can focus on programming.

Sandy


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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:50 pm 
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I am humbled by the outpouring of generosity. Thank you everyone. You have covered the costs of the two new hard drives at this point. I will thank you each personally over ther weekend, after I get what remains of my computer back into the swing of things.

The old hard drive wouldn't mount in Windows again. It sounds like it is spinning, although it emits the loudest noise in the entire computer, and sometimes makes disconcerting little crunchy noises. It is being recognized in the BIOS, and once Windows XP wanted to do a CHKDSK on the drive's second partition during bootup (it got about 90% through the second step of the scan before the drive became "unreadable"), but it doesn't show up in Windows anymore. I tried many things including icepacks, tilting it and turning it upside down, knocking it a little, booting to the command prompt, and so on. I am now pursuing two options in parallell: finding an identical drive to replacing the circuit board and contacting data recovery companies for cost estimates.

There are about a dozen drives currently for sale on eBay which match the model number, but it remains to be seen if the curcuit board matches. I have asked each of them to send me the details. I surprised to find that many sellers still say they will only ship to the US, but I presume there is someone on here willing to be a middle-person to redirect a package from the seller to me, so I'm including those auctions in my search. Replacing the circuit board is a long shot, but it's easy and it's cheap. If it can be done quickly, I want to try it before going the data recovery route.

I have the website code, thank goodness, and there seems to be nothing else I can try to ressurrect the drive for now, so it's back to programming tonight. I'd like to get that new CM online this weekend. Oh, and I guess I'll get my external backup system running tonight too. Setting up an automatic nightly backup of less than a meg of text file scripts onto a 1TB external drive seems like overkill, but it sure beats being under prepared, and I have no doubt the Twisty archive will return to it's former glory before too long, and make much better use of the backup system I'm putting in place.

Sandy


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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 11:24 pm 
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Location: Orange County, CA, USA
Scraping is the worst sound you can hear. Loudness can mean a dying bearing but likely no surface damage. Crunchy sounds can mean the read heads are having problems moving but also not likely damaging the surface. Data recovery services will likely be very expensive if any surface damage has occurred. I doubt that a swapped circuit board will resurrect your dead drive but it's worth a shot.

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 Post subject: Re: Progress on Site Updates
PostPosted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 11:46 pm 
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Location: Palerang Shire, NSW, Australia
Taylor wrote:
Sounds like it's time to do a fundraiser or start charging for membership.


That was a top idea, Taylor.

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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2009 1:54 pm 
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Location: Oregon, USA
One last suggestion: if you've got the drive installed in an external bay, try it in several orientations. Stand it on edge or on end.

I once had an IBM 80GB DeskStar that started making loud metallic scraping noises with a stange bell-like reverberation. Whenever I switched it on, the drive would make these noises for about 10 seconds then shut itself off. I put the drive in an external bay so I could switch it on-and-off without affecting the computer, and just by luck I discovered that if I stood the drive vertically on its left edge it would run normally for about 10 minutes before suddenly stopping with a loud 'clack'. Bit-by-bit I managed to copy the data off the drive, letting it rest for an hour between each attempt. Ultimately I recovered everything except a few sectors in one particular file.

This is a real long shot, but it worked for me once. And it shouldn't cost anything to give it a try.

(Hope.)

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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2009 5:19 pm 
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I was wondering if there was such a thing. That might work, because during bootup sometimes Windows starts a CHKDSK on the drive, and it actually works for about 5 minutes or so. If I skip the scan, the drive disappears at some point before Windows is fully up and running. I wonder if might get 5 minutes out of the drive if I can delay the mounting until after Windows boot up?

Here's one at a local store for only about $28. This definitely sounds like something worth trying before resorting to the expensive data recovery route. Thanks for the idea!

Sandy


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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 2:40 pm 
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That sounds promising enough that I'll share a few other things I've learned from recovering data from bad drives. I've had at least seven drives fail in the last 20 years, and only one was totally unrecoverable.

  • If the drive spins up and you can read the root directory then at least some folders will probably be recoverable.
  • Some OS's might be able to read the drive when others can't. I had two drives where Windows 95/98/Me recognized the disk but couldn't read any files. But Windows NT/2K/XP could.
  • If you do get the drive running, don't just blindly copy the whole volume. Prioritize! Try to copy the most precious, irreplaceable files first.
  • Very often there are specific files or folders that cause the drive to shut down if you try to access them. If the drive suddenly stops working make note of what was the last file or folder you tried to read, and avoid that file/folder on your next attempt.


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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 7:58 pm 
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Great tips, thanks! I wasn't able to get the enclosure today... my wife had the car until after the shop closed. Tomorrow, likely.

Sandy


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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:23 pm 
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Got the enclosure today... no difference. Just the same as before, the drive spins, crunches a lot, doesn't mount. Windows recognizes that a USB device is plugged in, installs drivers, and once even announced the hard drive model number... but before any devices show up in Explorer, the system slows down to crawl and the same old hard drive errors start showing up in the Windows Event Log. The $30 isn't totally wasted: the store has a 30-day return policy with a 15% restocking fee.

I'll keep trying it a few times a day until the drive goes off to data recovery. I'll start calling them tomorrow. That none of those places lists their prices on the internet makes me very wary. Feels a bit "Y2Kish". They probably won't give me any quotes over the phone either. I'll probably have to invest days or weeks in having them evaluate it before I'll even get a quote. Getting data off these drives is probably pretty easy if you have the right setup. It IS just magnetic media.

Hmmm... I can see from reading the above that I'm getting a little frustrated with this process. Partially due, I'm sure, to me discovering more and more things from my daily computer usage routines that are currently "lost" on that drive. It's time to remind myself that I've created this situation, not the hard drive, not the data recovery labs, not my wife, nor bum luck. I heard my inner voice expressing concern, and I saw some early warning signs from Windows, but I ignored them all.

Back to programming for the evening. It's way more fun than this hardware stuff!

Sandy


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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:09 pm 
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This is probably going to sound very stupid, but is there someone on the forum you could send the drive to to get the information?
Our hard drive of 16 years just died and had to be replaced. My husband was able to collect the data. I can't offer his skills because he just about divorced me over translation/typing services recently.
It's worth asking before you send it off for some unknown price.

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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Tue Mar 17, 2009 9:44 am 
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I've done data recovery before, but I wouldn't want to be responsible for this. Imagine the angry puzzlers if I screwed it up. :shock:

Best to be sent to a professional data recovery company. FWIW, I lost 500gigs of info from a hard drive earlier this year. I had the exact same issues and response from the drives- internal or external.


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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2009 1:45 pm 
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It's hard to quote prices for data recovery because the problem can be minor or a major and it can't be determined without an engineer actually getting a hold of the part in question. If you think in terms of billable hours for repair you're looking at a minimum of one hour to do an initial assessment, maybe two hours to go through the "easy" troubleshooting steps, another several to try the more challenging ones, and that's even before you've cracked open the drive enclosure. Even at a cheap $60 an hour you're looking at hundreds of dollars minimum.

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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:20 am 
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Hmm. Give XXClone or Acronis True Image a shot, at first. True Image should be run from a boot cd. Make that boot cd from the program itself ;-) If you are using vista, then probably you cannot make it all the way with XXClone. And you'd need a boot manager software to complete the job in any case. So i'd go for Acronis. There are ways of getting it for free ;-)

Per

PS! You could always make your old system disk a secondary disk (on another system). You should be able to save most of your "precious" that way ...

I have just used Acronis True Image to upgrade my wife's dual boot laptop with a larger system disk. Works wonderful. Clone the disk to the new disk (put the new disk in external USB cabinet). Then swap disks when the job is done.

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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 2:40 pm 
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katsmom, someone did offer on the forum, maques. Unfortunately, he's in Hungary, and I was uncomfortable with shipping the drive there.

flambore, you say you "lost" 500gigs. Were any attempts made to recover it? ... actually, if the answer is "yes, but they failed", I don't want to hear about it!

perfredlund, both of those programs requires a working drive. Software isn't going to solve this issue, although it may prevent the issue from recurring in the future. Believe me, I'll be looking very carefully at my backup systems after this, and putting something a LOT more solid in place. The external backup drive I bought is a good start and would have prevented the current situation, but it doesn't give me any off-site backups.

After some careful consideration, I have decided to go with a local data recovery shop. I'll be dropping it off this afternoon. If the data is recoverable, apparently they'll have an answer for me within a week. Wish me luck!

Sandy


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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 1:58 pm 
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I contacted them today to find out why they hadn't been in touch yet. Turns out they sent the e-mail to the wrong address. They claim to have recovered the data. I asked them for more information, but they were unable to provide details. Some things were rather confusing. English was not her first language. My faith was already low, but is getting lower. But they have my drive already... presumably in pieces.

Despite all the warning signs, I seemed to have two choices: abandon my drive or choose to trust them and send off the payment. I hesitantly sent them the amount: $666.75. That's just great. As if I needed another warning sign.

Cross your fingers as you envision this outcome with me: A brand new drive packed with all my old data arriving safely at my house within the next few days.

Sandy


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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 9:13 pm 
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I've swapped discs from harddrives before (It's hard, it's frustrating, and you can't make a sing mistake, pretty much) and the results have varied. Really, it can work. But if the disc, not the drive, is the problem, there's not much to do about it.

Not without spending A LOT of money.

I'm going to PTI for IT classes (network admin & network security) and there is a data recovery center there. They have a rebuild lab and a recovery lab.

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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2009 10:30 pm 
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The package was waiting for me when I got home this evening. I opened it up and plugged it into the computer with a mixture of hope and dread. That's about when the celebrating began! It looks like I got all the data back! I seem to have the entire TwistyPuzzles.com archive, all those puzzle pictures, my family photos, and a million other little personal files that I've been missing. I'd prepared myself for the worst outcome, but I got the best!

This probably wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for you guys chipping in to cover the costs. Thank you, thank you, thank you! My wife has also expressed gratitude to you guys for helping us save our family photos.

Thanks also to 1stDataRecovery.com. To anyone searching forums for experiences with data recovery services (which is exactly what I did a month ago), 1stDataRecovery.com did their job very well and for a fraction of the price of their competitors. Their Canadian customer service was a little questionable, but they definitely got the job done, and I couldn't have hoped for a better result. I'll be going straight back to them if I ever have the need to recover another hard drive again... which I won't because I've learned my lesson for ever and ever.

YEAH! So, back on the horse then! Give me a day or two to get things back in order. Then I'll start sending out the unedited images archives as well as releasing a batch of new code updates.

Sandy


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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 12:17 am 
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Glad to hear this, Sandy. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 12:33 am 
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Yes, very good news! Especially on the family shots. I backup more often now. Ain't like in the good old days when we had photo paper.

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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 12:55 am 
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This is brilliant news! Now I need to finally organise those puzzle prices from the Excel file!

:oops:


Pantazis

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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 3:56 pm 
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Congratulations. That must be quite relieving... :D

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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 4:14 pm 
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Sorry for the bump, but I thought this was pretty appropriate. Toms Hardware had a good article on the minute details that are required to recover data on a harddrive. I have a much better appreciation for the amount of money it costs now:

http://www.tomshardware.com/picturestor ... avers.html

enjoy

-d


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 Post subject: Re: Hardware Problems
PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 5:32 am 
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Related to the Tom's Hardware link: Youtube user SuperFlyFlippingA has a couple of series of videos on data recovery. They are a good watch, even to get a general idea of how hard disks work. He also runs MyHardDriveDied.com.


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