The Day My Hard Drive Died


Halloween has arrived and along with it, one of the most horrifying things that can happen to anyone, tech-wise.

My external hard drive was corrupted.

It had been working fine that afternoon, but when I plugged it in at night… the disk wouldn’t read. A message popped up saying that the hard drive was corrupted and unreadable.

I don’t back up my stuff, and although I do have some things stored online, like in my email or Google Drive, most of my valuable information is kept on that external hard drive. When I think back on the last time I backed everything up, it was probably either 3 or 8 months ago. A lot can change in a month, like new photos and new documents. And this is the last few weeks leading up to the end of semester, where most of my assignments are due.



I freaked out.


Not sure which egg described my feelings the best. I felt like I was in a saucepan myself, slowly burning inside.

I still don’t have much idea of how that happened. It wasn’t exposed to water or magnetic sources. I suppose it was an ongoing depreciation, the slow wearing and tearing that inevitably happens after some time. And I know that it happens to all gadgets, but it still comes as a shock whenever it actually does happen to you.

I ran around like a headless chicken attempting to solve the problem, messaging friends and family, looking on the Internet for advice from random sources, anything that might just work. I sent it off to a data recovery service, fearing my inadequacy at handling technological gadgets would lead to something irreversible.

I got it back today, and thank god, everything was recovered. No corrupted images, no corrupted files, and everything I need was available once again.

It took sleepless nights, lots of worry and unnecessary stress for what I should have looked out for. The slow signs of wear and tear were there, like the hard drive taking a long time to load and shut down but to be honest, I hadn’t noticed them for what they were till it was too late.

head bang

Why yes, don’t mind if I do.

But when it comes to hindsight, our vision is perfect. It’s so easy to look back and realise the underlying problems you overlooked but it’s not so easy to do that for the present.

My hard drive dying on me has only happened twice in my life, and the first time was far worse. When it happened about 8 years ago, I could barely save anything. Work gone down the drain, music wiped away and pictures only existing in my head now (and with a bad memory, I doubt I can remember much of it).

The most frustrating thing of all was that my submitted assignments were gone. Not that they were absolutely fantastic, but they were a strong part of my memories. My first brochure. My first poster. My first business marketing plan. Till now, I’ve never been able to recover them.

hard drive

Maybe the solution is just to have loads of hard drives? Stock up when a sale is on.

It’s sort of different this time round though, and it’s made me realise how we’re starting to depend on different systems to back up our data. 8 years ago,  everything was in my hard drive and computer. If one died on me, everything died there. It was a precarious relationship.

This time round, I had things stored here and there. Emails that stored data, and even if they were sent mail, I could still retrieve the data I sent out to other people. Google Drive and Dropbox both store an extraordinarily large amount of data even if you didn’t upgrade to a paid premium version. If you’re using a Mac, chances are you probably use iCloud or the backup time machine.

Flickr is free for you to store photos, among other photo-sharing websites. I had some of my creative stories stored in drafts in my WordPress blogs (I write creative flash fiction at literarynarrative, if that suits your fancy). And at the very least, there was always Facebook or Instagram to retrieve some photos. There are so many ways to store information now, so that if your phone / laptop / computer / hard drive dies, there’s generally some way to retrieve some data so that it wasn’t a lost cause.

Luckily I’ve started writing twitter fiction / micro fiction and storing them on Twitter, so now I will almost always have access to them. No hard drive required.

But… we always think that the Internet is indestructible. That it can never be shut down, because if one small part of it was shut down by force or governmental control, another webpage will pop up again.

But servers crash. Websites go down, whether because of updates, or a hacking, or general maintenance. I know there have been several times when I couldn’t access Google Drive, which is sort of laughable because Google is such a huge company, somehow you’d expect them to always be available.


I guess even Google needs a time out.

So even though we can depend less on hard drives, which do have a certain lifespan of 2 years or so, depending more on these various websites might just be detrimental too. Because you never know when you might not be able to get Internet. Or when a server might crash, leaving you just as helpless as I was when my one and only external hard drive was corrupted.

Better than a hard drive, that lasts for about two years, you say. That’s true, and I guess the safest way is to just make sure you have backup copies. And probably backup copies of your backup copies. (You could probably have backup copies of your backup-backup copies, then leave them in a new and different location… but maybe that’s too much.)

Because you just never know when something might happen.

Have you backed up your data lately? Ever had a moment when your laptop or hard disk died on you? 

– Fari Wu

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