Hard drive probably on the way out. Might need answers fast.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been getting an increased number of scary messages when I boot my computer about corrupted sectors and whatnot. I keep fairly good backups of my more important stuff (1 on a 16gb SD card, 1 on a smallish external drive, most relatively important stuff has further CD copies and are on my Gmail account). I have obviously been making sure these are both current since this started.

I’m not generally super confident with computers but it seems fairly obvious to me that my hard drive is about to crap out on me. My irreplaceable stuff is pretty well covered but I’d quite like to save my system set-up and steam downloads etc.

  1. How simply can I back my hard drive up, ideally with a minimum of messing around with scary configuring stuff or rebooting repeatedly. I’m not too worried about keeping an up to date mirror, so can I do things as easily as just plugging a bigger external drive in a USB slot and copying the contents of my main drive?

  2. When the main drive goes, what do I do with my backup. Do I just tell the computer to boot from the external drive?

  3. The problems that I’m seeing are all occurring at boot up, I’ve not seen any problems when it’s running so my inclination is to leave things switched on. The thought occurs however that the drive could be slowly degrading while it’s on and this is just more obvious on reboot.

If it’s relevant the computer is a Dell studio 540, it appears to have a separate recovery drive (different drive letter), but I believe that this is a partition on the main drive.

The recovery partition is on the same hard drive and if the drive dies you can’t recover your original installed system using Dell’s system restore.

That’s what I was assuming. Or will this cause me problems in making a separate backup on another drive?

To be clear, when I was referring to backups on a smaller external it’s a completely separate drive, but it isn’t big enough to hold everything on my main drive. I’m not (quite) clueless enough to try and respond to a drive failure by backing up my data to a separate partition on the same drive :-p.

Buy a new HDD, mirror the existing drive to it using Acronis or similar, recovery partition and all, then remove the old HDD and store in a safe place.

Can I do that with an external drive?

Any guess as to whether I am better leaving the computer on or off?

Yes. Get yourself one of these.

Not without checking the Event Viewer.

BTW there’s actually malware that falsely says that your HDD is failing. Check the Event Viewer, System log and make sure that there are entries in red with a source of disk.

I would just put a new added drive in there as a slave drive and clone the old to the new. Then change the new one to to the master and remove the old one for good. Done. Backup is good, but where do you go from their? Clone it now and everything will be identical and working fine.

I was referring to this, and not any backups you make.

I just checked the event log, there are a lot of recent red disk “hard disk 0 has bad block” entries.

There are also a few critical Kernel-power entries that read “The last sleep transition was unsuccessful. This error could be caused if the system stopped responding, failed, or lost power during the sleep transition.”

My issue is that my level of knowledge about this stuff is really weak, I don’t know how to go about cloning the drives. Do I do that with the “windows easy transfer” utility? or can I just copy paste? Can I expect issues with not being able to copy programs that are running?

I think when they say clone they mean cloning software like HDClone. (If you google that you should find it pretty quick.) Not sure if it lets you do a bootable iso though. (Guess you could try a ubuntu iso and some linux cloning software.) I did use HDClone to clone a drive and it was fairly straightforward. (But I did the cloning on a second PC and pulled the drive out of the first one, made a image and then put the image on a new drive.)

XXClone is great if you have Windows XP. This will take care of making the hard drive you clone to bootable.

Ok, I’ll try and do that then.

If you never hear from me again it probably didn’t work :smiley:

A few of the disk events I was seeing didn’t seem to be associated with boot up, am I correct in thinking that this might indicate I’m better off switching this thing off until I’ve bought a drive?

The drive is failing so the less you use it the better. Shut it down and not put it to sleep or hibernate either.

When I bought a new hard drive five or so years ago, it came with a CD with a utility that let me copy my old drive to the new drive. Afterwards, it booted from the new drive just like if it was the old one. Don’t they include that any more?

I find xxclone is easier to use.

It’s switched off now (I’m posting from another machine, I know that someone was going to ask).

Is there any time issue while it switched off? Do I have time to order something online or should I dash out to PC World today?

use windows easy file transfer to back up settings and/or data. its free and good in the system tools folder

It’s off so the wear is stopped until next power up.

Two things.

No matter what, if your disk is giving any signs of failure do not delay about getting rid of it. It won’t get better. You risk a bad block or other failure corrupting something in a manner that is very hard to recover from. Any backups taken from a failing disk may contain corrupt data, and any backup regime that potentially overwrites a previously good primary backup with suspect data is asking for trouble of the worst kind.

Two. It is hard to make any predictions about what will happen to a failing disk as the nature of failures can vary dramatically. A drive electronics failure has a very different prognosis to a head or media failure. Some disks simply fail to ever start up again. Disks are so cheap, and data so valuable that there is no reason to ever skimp. In a desktop there is nowadays little reason not to set up mirrored disk from day one, and to run a proper backup and archive regime to an external drive(s).