Hard Drive Dead

Oh man, I am pissed. I know I should have been backing up my hard drive all along, but I’ve got remarkably good luck with computers. But John B and Carl convinced me to reinstall Windows using XP Corporate edition in English, since the language support is all there anyway. I also wanted Office XP. I also wanted to reformat my hard drive and get off of the FAT32 file system. So I had to back everything up.

Well, wouldn’t you know it… right when I’m starting to back everything up, the hard drive dies. I’m not a hardware expert, but hard drives have these little thingies inside them that spin around at very high speeds. They must spin. It seems some of mine have fused together. So instead of doing its job, my hard drive makes a sad clicking noise, and my CPU fails to recognize any hard drive at all.

Besides losing my entire addressbook AGAIN, I’ve lost a bunch of pictures, which really bums me. I can try to recover data from the crashed HD, but I’ve been advised not to get my hopes up too high.

I had to take Carl back to the computer market today to swap out his motherboard for a working one. My original plan was to buy a new hard drive immediately, but I had a fateful telephone conversation with my girlfriend last night.

Why is it that girls pretend to be strangers to logic most of their lives, blithely prancing about their affairs of shopping and gossip, but then can cruelly whip it out at the opportune moment and spear a vulnerable man with it?

“Why don’t you wait until after you move to Shanghai to buy a new hard drive? That way if anything goes wrong, it’s a lot easier to return it?”

I can’t argue with that. So I’ll be without a computer for a while. The final move is scheduled for January 4th.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. john, something similar happened to me a few weeks ago. lots of clicking from the HD and it didn’t recognize the HD. sadly, i loaded the cpu into a cab and a wad of cash in my pocket and went to the electronics market with visions of a new hard drive + spending muai to rescue would could be rescued from the dead HD. (i got 15 years of data and 13 years teaching material on there!)
    at the e-market, i went straight to one of the 4 booths there (among scores) that won’t try to “do the foreigner f**k”.

    she (yeah, 3 of the 4 are women) took a quick look and told me the fan had died (doh!) but no harm to the HD. they installed a new system fan and, for extra measure, added a new fan to the video card. 15 kuai all up.

    i was so happy, i took the extra cash over to one of the other guys i trust and ended up buying a used ibm 750 laptop (japanese version) which is now networked to my still-functioning desktop and allows me to carry ALL of my lessons with me wherever I go (rather than my USB which can only store some + music).

    i can easily imagine that one of the touts at the electronics market told you “the hard drive is fused” and you need to buy a new one.

    on the other hand, i know john B. knows his stuff and probably checked it out for you. so maybe you have a different problem. but it might be worth it to check if installing a new 10 kuai fan does the trick.

    if you need to know which places you can trust there, e-mail me.

  2. Generally the clicking sound that John’s hard drive is making is caused by either a platter failure or a reader head getting parked in the wrong place and being unable to unpark itself (and thus unable to find the home track during POST). Either way is bad news.

    If it is a platter failure it really can fuse to other platters, I’ve seen it. A tiny thin piece of metal-covered plastic hits another piece of the same at 7200RPMs bad things happen :). Head failures are more common, and often you can (temporarily) unstick them by smacking the hard drive around a little bit (but not too much), but that didn’t work. I’ve also heard some things about putting a drive in the freezer overnight (in a plastic bag) and running it cold, but that doesn’t sound like a good idea.

    The moral of the story, of course, is to back up your stuff, but that’s easier said than done 🙂

  3. as i said: “i know john B. knows his stuff”. i’ll shut up now.

  4. Great suggestion from SC. Does she know of a trustworthy shop — or “booth”, as Chuck calls them — were you can get a new HD? Maybe Shelly has some suggestions. Better yet,maybe your new employer has someone or a company that they deal w/ who would not only provide a reliable job but also a better price. 🙂

  5. My 13.5 IBM hard drive was full of MP3’s I had downloaded during the Napster beta days before it got sued the hell out of and then bought up by Samsung (the Napster you see today that is competing with a dozen other online companies). Within two years of use, it died. My first.

    This is back when 13.5 GB hard drives were some of the largest consumer hard drives available. It was sad to lose all my MP3’s – (some irreplaceable) but the situation gave birth to a new hard drive (80 GB) and more music.

    Backing up 40 gb is kind of a tremendous task because a lot of the contents need to be organized first before they’re even useful.

  6. Yeah, backing up MP3s (and anything else that takes a lot of space) is hard. When DVD burners get more common that’s at least an alternative, but it still takes a few DVDs to hold most people’s music collection.

  7. I’ve had a lot of Western Digital hard drives make the click of death, and had pretty good luck freezing them and smacking them around. However, if the data is really important, there’s an alternative: buy another hard drive, exactly the same, open them up, and swap the platters. It’s time-consuming and expensive, though.

  8. Does the freezing thing work? I’ve heard that, and always took it with a grain of salt, but hey it’s something to try…

  9. But John B and Carl convinced me to reinstall Windows using XP Corporate edition in English, since the language support is all there anyway

    I’ve had terrible experience with Chinese-language support in English versions of XP. Cutting and pasting text between programs often screws up, while character-entry doesn’t work as advertised and the OS lacks support for a lot of essential mainland hardware, such as character-recognition pads.

    Troubleshooting can be a nightmare, mind you.

  10. “Why is it that girls pretend to be strangers to logic most of their lives, blithely prancing about their affairs of shopping and gossip, but then can cruelly whip it out at the opportune moment and spear a vulnerable man with it?”

    as noone else is biting, i guess i’ll be the lone voice of feminine reason to take offense at this intentionally provocative statement…or have you been watching reruns of “clueless” again?

    as for your dearly deaprted hard drive(s):

    my deepest sympathies for your loss. i’ll mention it to josh. many is the hard drive he has rescued for me…well, many being three, i think.

  11. My hard drive died a few months ago, and after messing around and waiting around for weeks before trying to get it fixed, I discoverd I was getting much more work done without a computer of my own, in my house, wasting my time. My advice: un-addict yourself. Kick the digital crack habit. The inconvenience of having to use someone else’s computer kind of compels you to spend your computer time in less useless ways. Like reading Sinosplizzy. Ha Ha 🙂 Sorry for not coming out last night, I accidentally fell asleep early. My body was loving me for it this morning though.

  12. Lenny,

    I’m just going to pretend like that whole comment was a joke so that we can remain friends.

  13. Da Xiangchang Says: January 5, 2004 at 4:11 am

    I’ve never had a hard drive die on me, but I ALWAYS back up the important crap, almost daily. I have an 80-GB hard drive, but only about 1 GB contains really important stuff. On important files–let’s say lesson plans–I have them on my hard drive, on a CD nearby, AND on a CD in the car. And on REALLY important files, I back them up in 3 separate places so there’s NO way I’ll lose them: 1) a CD nearby, 2) the CD in the car, and 3) on-line on my email address. You can never be too careful. Back up your important shit at least once a week, and you’re good to go.

  14. Is the last poster for real?

    We all KNOW what we SHOULD do but who of us does it?!!!
    By the way John “hI”.

    First looked at your sight to get some advice on pronunciation.

  15.   我用中文写不知能不能正确显示。现在你可能已经在上海了吧。新电脑可能也买好了。不知珍贵的数据有没有拯救出来。我1998年买了第一台电脑,并投入学习电脑的热情中,就象我学习英语一样。其间几多酸甜苦辣、悲欢喜愁啊。

  16. Me again, John, and English this time.

    I have sympathy on your fateful decision with your girl friend. Girls are always that way! Can I say “dump” here? ^_^

    If you read my love story, you would be happy, for you have been around with her for some time at least. Me, too sad, I just got crazy about her for 3 months all myself, without even touching her a bit.

    Well, I should not blame her on not accepting my love, but truly I was saddened to death for my sincere, serious, heartfelt emotions that had been set on a wrong person!

    Best of luck

  17. Da Xiangchang Says: January 8, 2004 at 9:04 am


    I’m absolutely for real! 🙂


    Forget the girl–and girls in general. Or rather, only spend 10% of your free time on finding girls. The other 90% should be spent on INCREASINGY YOUR STATUS–i.e., find a way to be rich and hopefully famous. If you don’t have status and you’re not good-looking, you’re fucked when it comes to girls . . . or, at least, the good-looking ones. Why do you think all the laowais get girls in China? It ain’t because of their personalities, let me tell you. So: think of a way to get rich and spend most, if not all, of your waking hours on this goal. That’s the best way to get women to like you!

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