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07 October 2014 @ 12:33 pm
Computer Failure  
Around the middle of last week my PC at home brought up a warning that an imminent hard drive failure was detected and recommending that i start a backup and then shut down the computer. The affected drive? C. Yay =P

I did do the backup which seemed to succeed but was of such a small size that it clearly didn't contain everything important on that drive. So i started copying folders off of C and onto E. (I have three hard drives, each 1 TB.) I did that off and on for thursday and friday evening. Of course i did not shut the computer down because i was worried, given that the problem was the C drive, that once i shut it down i might never be able to get it back up again.

I finished copying all the regular data over friday night and started looking into how to do a full system backup. It turned out i couldn't do that because the backup size would be larger than the space available on the E drive. It basically wanted to back up everything on C. So first i deleted all the data folders i'd just copied over. Then i went through Steam uninstalling a lot of the larger games that i haven't played a lot of.

Early saturday morning i finally finished clearing out enough stuff that the system backup would supposedly fit on the 290 GB i had free on E. So i started the backup, and after awhile the computer blue-screened and shut down.

I tried starting it up again. It displayed a hard drive error. I tried rebooting. It booted up and got to what ought to have been the login screen but instead displayed a black screen with a mouse on it. After sitting there for quite awhile it crashed. I rebooted. This time it gave me a message about not having been shut down properly and gave me the option to start in Safe Mode. (Note to self, i need to find the key combo to force a Safe Mode start.) It actually booted up!

The first thing i noticed was that the E drive had about 10 GB left. Did the system backup finish before the crash? Or did it reserve the space first but crash before it finished the copy? I thought maybe if i started the Backup and Restore dialog maybe it would tell me if the backup was valid or not. Unfortunately either Backup and Restore is not a valid option in Safe Mode or that portion of the hard drive has been toasted, because although i could find the option in the start menu nothing happened when i tried to run it. So i tried rebooting again hoping that maybe now that it had successfully started in safe mode a more regular mode would work. No such luck.

I got busy with weekend activities at that point, but i'm thinking of trying to start in Safe Mode again so i can try individually copying game save files out of the relevant spots in Program Folders.

And now i need to figure out how to go about repairs. About a month ago i started thinking about the possibility of getting a new computer. This was spurred by my computer "coincidentally" detecting some bad disk sectors and needing to go through a disk check. At the time i decided i would wait until next year when Windows 10 comes out and see if it really fixes enough of the issues with Windows 8 to be worth upgrading from 10. Now however i have to reconsider.

Other options include getting a single replacement drive, either a Seagate (which is the kind that is failing out from under me right now, though after 4 years of use) or a Western Digital (which cost almost twice as much.) Or get two large drives which i can use to back up all the data i currently have (due to the concern that since i got three identical drives the other two might be about to start going downhill as well.) Or perform a "minor" upgrade and get a solid state drive for the boot drive and one or two other drives for storage. Or the aforementioned whole new computer.

So i went onto PCs for Everyones (the site where i got the computer from 4 years ago) and looked at the options and did some initial pricing, for both parts and a _very_ basic outlining of a new computer. (PCs for Everyone gives you a lot of options on a lot of initial configurations, final pricing on that could go up or down.)

Poll #1984720 What Shall We Do With A Dead Computer?

The Best Option

Live without a computer for about a year (ha ha, fat chance.) (Free)
Get 1 or more new hard drives ($70 - 360)
Get 1 or more new hard drives and a solid state drive ($140 extra)
Get a new computer now and upgrade to Windows 10 later (if it seems worthwhile) ($1900-$2000)

Good Options

Live without a computer for about a year (ha ha, fat chance.) (Free)
Get 1 or more new hard drives ($70 - 360)
Get 1 or more new hard drives and a solid state drive ($140 extra)
Get a new computer now and upgrade to Windows 10 later (if it seems worthwhile) ($1900-$2000)

If going with new hard drives, what should it be?

Single 1 TB Seagate Drive ($70)
Single 1 TB Western Digital Drive ($100)
Single 2 TB Seagate Drive ($100)
Single 2 TB Western Digital Drive ($180)
Two 2 TB Seagate Drives ($200)
Two 2 TB Western Digital Drives ($360)

What Shall We Do With a Catnipped Kitty?

Blow some bubbles and watch him chase them
Touch him on the back and watch him jump high
Pry him off your bleeding shoulders
Put him in his cat bed till he's sober
Put him there again when he jumps out

Or to put it shortly, i could spent $70 at a bare minimum and hope to limp along another year, $200-360 if i want to make sure i can back up everything i have right now, $500 to back up all the data and switch to solid state for the boot drive, or ~$2000 for an all new computer.

If anyone is curious, these are the two possible configurations i've come up with for a potential new computer so far:

Chaos Never Blinkssithjawa on October 7th, 2014 07:48 pm (UTC)
what do you even do on your computer mine bitcoin?

but seriously do I have a really low concept of what people need for memory/processor on computers these days? I have a 6 year old computer that cost $400 new. It has 4 GB of RAM and a pretty mid range video card. I can run even new games at medium settings or higher (most on high or ultra settings), and when I do have problems, it's due to RAM. One reason I haven't upgraded is because my impression is that if I spent the same amount now, I'd get about the same level of hardware. The other is if I doubled my RAM up to 8 GB I'd be able to do basically anything I could reasonably want to do.

It just doesn't seem like stuff's gotten better or like older stuff's gotten cheaper. The only thing new is reasonable-size SSDs have gotten affordable.

Which I guess means put me down as a vote for new HDD and an SSD? I hear the best configuration is an SSD as your system drive and then a nice big secondary drive for storage.
Chaos Never Blinkssithjawa on October 7th, 2014 07:55 pm (UTC)
Do you actually have 3-6 terabytes of data (not including 20-30 gig games that you probably wouldn't reinstall on a new system because you're done playing them)?
DonAithnen: Movies: Tron Legacydonaithnen on October 7th, 2014 08:01 pm (UTC)
I switched to the E drive when the D drive was practically full, and after transferring the stuff from C, E is now entirely. (Though 270 megs of that is the possibly faulty system backup that i won't need later.)

So although i could probably trim that down some by finding duplicates of stuff and such i definitely have about 2 GB of stuff if all i do is a simple copy. (Yes, i am a data hoarder =P)
Chaos Never Blinkssithjawa on October 7th, 2014 09:00 pm (UTC)
In that case I'd argue for a pair of WD 2-TB drives. If you had less I might suggest mirroring two 1-TB drives and maybe you could settle for Seagate.

Dunno if you need the SSD system drive. It'll certainly speed some things up. I'm a huge fan of SSDs for portable computers, I don't care as much in a desktop but they do speed up boot times.

If you were big on FPS/MMO/adventure games with lots of area transitions, I'd definitely recommend an SSD (and installing some of the games to it) to speed up loading times between areas, but that's a great big Who Cares with strategy games, and that seems to be 90% of what you're playing/planning on playing right now.
DonAithnen: Historydonaithnen on October 7th, 2014 07:58 pm (UTC)
Play games mostly :)

Admittedly these days they've been mostly low-power games rather than the latest high-powered FPS games, but i do like to play the occasional Civ5 or X-Com (and probably upcoming Beyond Earth) which require a bit more in the way of hardware.

I also have this fantasy that someday i'll actually get around to making an AMV (not that i really have the talent or skills to do so, hence the fantasy bit) so it would be nice if it was at least theoretically capably of decent video editing.
Chaos Never Blinkssithjawa on October 7th, 2014 08:50 pm (UTC)
My computer runs Source Filmmaker quite functionally and I've done some video editing without difficulty. People've been doing video editing for years so I'd say that "I need better hardware so I can edit in 1080p" qualifies more as an *excuse* than a *reason* ;)

I don't play Civ, but if your current system runs civ5, I'd say wait to buy a new computer until there's actually something that you can't run on your current one. There's always a chance that we'll make hardware breakthroughs between now and when you'll next really miss having a faster CPU, and I'm just not impressed with the improvements in the past few years in anything except HDDs (which you can transfer over to a new computer anyway)
Avaniavani on October 7th, 2014 11:49 pm (UTC)
Seagate drives have been getting a pretty bad rap recently: https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hard-drive-reliability-update-september-2014/
DonAithnendonaithnen on October 8th, 2014 08:03 pm (UTC)
Well i'm certainly not inclined to argue with that conclusion right at the moment, although all three of mine made it into the fourth year before any died.
jon_leonardjon_leonard on October 8th, 2014 01:04 am (UTC)
The HD prices seem a little high: Do you have any special requirements for them (ultra-low-power, laptop size, etc.)? I peeked at Amazon, and they seem to offer WD drives more cheaply than that; the sweet spot if I were buying is probably the 3 TB "green" drive at $107. (Larger and cheaper than what you list in the poll -- a data hoarder might buy a bunch of the 6 TB drives.). A lot of this does depend on what you're doing with the computer, of course. For my usage habits, I'm much more inclined to buy a lot of RAM than to go with a flash disk, but again, it depends on the software and workload: Seeks are expensive, especially on 4 TB and larger drives, and you can't realistically fit modern workloads in RAM.
Beth Leonardbeth_leonard on October 8th, 2014 04:07 am (UTC)
Jon's votes in the above poll count more than mine; he takes care of our computers. That said, Windows boxes at Costco are $400 and up, and for the effort of fixing one that's having hardware failures, getting a new one seems like an attractive option to me. Of course, the most hardware-intense game I play is Minecraft, and that on a 6 year old macintosh.

Good luck!
Beth Leonardbeth_leonard on October 8th, 2014 04:08 am (UTC)
I should also state that I have quite a few WD hard drives, and haven't had one fail in recent memory. (Knock on wood.)

DonAithnendonaithnen on October 8th, 2014 08:06 pm (UTC)
No special requirements. I was looking at that site because that's where i got the computer from. I don't have any particular reason to avoid larger drives, but i am a little worried about seek times on the larger ones, and i am very glad that i didn't originally have a single 3 TB drive that was failing all at once.

Shopping around is probably a good idea, although i'd like to avoid giving Amazon any money if at all possible.

jon_leonardjon_leonard on October 8th, 2014 09:02 pm (UTC)
Looking at the (somewhat unclear) datasheets, the larger drives appear to be, if anything, a little faster than the smaller ones. My point was more that if you use your hard drives a lot, then a pair of 3 TB drives will be twice as fast as a 6 TB drive, because you can read/write/seek on both drives at the same time -- and as drives get bigger, seek time is increasingly the limiting factor. (In much the same way that CPU-to-memory latency matters more as CPUs get faster, even if memory is no slower than it ever was.) If you don't spend a lot of time waiting for your HDs, then it doesn't matter that much.

Also, picking Amazon for price comparison wasn't a specific endorsement of Amazon (or against), it was just a convenient way to do a quick price comparison.