Cue hard drive failure… Now

Like clockwork, each January means the end of Christmas decorations, the onset of the full desolation of winter, learning the motor-memory of writing a new year and, of course, a sudden, massive hard drive failure. Every year since 2001 it has happened to me, always to my external music drive and always in January.

It’s quite comical, if you have the right sense of humor.

Then it should not have been a surprise to me that, once again, right on schedule, my music drive crashed last night. I was politely updating my iPod, having devised a new experimental listening scheme for the new year. As it would take several minutes to copy the several thousand songs, I decided to have a quick shower.

When I returned, I found my desktop in an unusual state. iTunes was no longer running. Mail and Safari were quit as well. The three FireWire volumes that I normally have mounted (including the music one) were missing and LaunchBar’s command area was active, as if the computer had been restarted.

I had no idea what caused that state of affairs, and still don’t. But I sensed danger, so I decided to do my own restart, which went smoothly enough. Until it was time for the external drives to mount. Two of them did; one of them didn’t and I’ll let you guess which one.

Disk Utility was of no help, failing immediately. It could see the drive, but attempting repair resulted in a message similar to “The underlying task failed on exit.” Whatever the problem was, the drive’s directory looked like it was in bad shape. Fortunately there is a god whose name is DiskWarrior. This diagnostic deity has raised many drives from the dead and after a few minutes, he had raised one more, rescuing my music from binary oblivion.

From there, the iPod update went well, other than about 40 songs that did not make it back from Hades. However, having gotten accustomed to these failures, I’ve become the king of backups. Twice nightly, Synk, the handiest little backup program I know, copies my music volume and other important data to a dedicated backup disk. Some quick drags-and-drops and even those handfuls of missing files were replaced.

Though I still don’t have a clue what caused the malfunction, I gotta say that the experience really wasn’t that bad. Much better than past years. However, despite all my preparations, this is one New Year’s tradition I would rather not repeat.

And even though I didn’t have to make full use of mine, remember that lesson kids: Backup Backup Backup.