Losing data from your hard drive is easier than you think. You can delete it, run a magnet over it, drop it from great heights or just have a bad drive from a manufacturer that won’t admit a problem.
Here’s how I lost eight weeks of un-backed up data in about 20 minutes:
1. Start a MacBook, with a Seagate drive with firmware 7.01
2. Ensure Â your MacBook’s sleep indicator light is busted, so you can’t tell when your system is safely asleep
3.Â Work late one night, and be in a hurry to get home
4. Close your MacBook, wait about 15, 20 seconds, and slip it into your bag.
5. Toss it into your car’s trunk
6. Drive home, aboutÂ twenty minutes away
7. Open MacBook, notice it’s not sleeping, in fact it’s shut down
8. Power it up, get flashing question mark folder, and a whining drive.
Sigh. Dead drive, lost data.
When you close the MacBook, it writes out its memory to the drive. After it does that, it goes to sleep and flashes the sleep indicator. At this point, and not before, it’s safe to move the MacBook.Â What I think happened:
Since my sleep indicator was busted, I learned to either squeeze the case to try activating the light or, when that stopped working, waiting until the fans went quiet (about 30 to 45 seconds on average). That fateful evening, I must have not waited long enough, and the system was still awake when I slipped it into my bag, tossed it into my car, and drove home with it bouncing around in my trunk.
Add to that the apparent problems the Seagate firmware 7.01 drives seem to have and, well, dead drive.
Oh, I got a price quotes from two data recovery services. DriveSavers offered $500-$2,700, with an expected price closer to $2,000. Burgess Forensics offered $700-$1,750. I’ll be getting a quote from Seagate also. (I think it’s ironic that the drive manufacturer offers drive recovery services.)
This is the second Seagate firmware 7.01 drive I’ve lost. The first one was several months ago, when I first heard about these problems with this firmware. Being the paranoid type, I started backing up regularly, and sure enough, just a few days after a complete drive backup, the drive died.
Apple disclaims responsibility for data loss, and Seagate hasn’t shared its policy yet (their response to my inquiry was “we can try to recover your data” not “we know this is an issue and we’ll try to recover your data for free“).
I’m still deciding if I should go into debt to recover the data. While there is no single set of data that’s worth $1,800, I lost eight weeks of iChats, blog drafts, OmniFocus entries, music, photos, and, worst of all, the data I don’t even remember I had and lost.
If I knew what I lost, it would be easier. Not knowing makes it much, much harder.
I regret not paying better attention to my backup regime. Six years ago I wrote
[Y]ou might pay as much as $8,000 to get your data back. Far cheaper is a reliable backup. Start by deciding how much work you’re willing to re-create after a data loss, and back up at least that often (I backup twice a day). You don’t have to get elaborate; even copying to a CD-ROM or another hard drive manually will suffice in a pinch.
I take responsibility for not backing up as regularly as I used to. I plan to rectify that by adding a Time Capsule to my network. How protected is your valuable data?Â Â Â
3 thoughts on “How to lose your data in 20 easy minutes”
I was using a Time Capsule to back up my laptop, but due to frequently errors in copying (slowly) over wireless, I started using a tiny, bus-powered 320 GB Western Digital HD to do Time Machine backups. I let my home iMac back up to the Time Capsule.
My father had data loss recently, and I was able to (slowly) pull off all of the important data by bringing the computer up in FireWire disk mode. I copied it to a DVD and mailed it to him, and he just copied it on after buying a new drive.
You could also try Ontrack Data Recovery, one of the only Apple certified data recovery compaines.
You may find it interesting that Quantum (which was acquired by Maxtor, which was itself acquired by Seagate) had an internal debate a decade ago about offering backup services – and how it would look that a disk drive company could seem to be in some way betting on their drives to fail. At the time, I also was involved with an online data backup company and we were negotiating with Quantum to offer the service to their customers (using exclusively Quantum tape drives at the backup server farm). Ultimately, the “don’t remind them that disk drives fail” crowd won. Even more ultimately , of course, Quantum sold its drive manufacturing and kept the tape backup products.
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