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

You can run chkdsk on your drive, or you can run SMART tests on it. You have to follow the directions from the drive manufacturer for that.

Drives being cheap, go buy a new hard drive.

Then get an external enclosure.

Now you have two choices. You can choose to clone your failing drive to your new drive OR you can reinstall your O/S from scratch on your new drive.

I like to reinstall from scratch on the new drive as you get a clean slate and it’s as if the computer came new from the factory. The registry is clean.

Of course using this method you need to reinstall all your software, your browsers, stuff like MS Office, your antivirus etc, etc

You reinstall your O/S from scratch from either the O/S discs if you put the O/S on it or the recovery disks you made. This will restore the computer to factory settings.

If you want to clone it I like to use EASEUS Todo Backup

This is very easy to use and it’s free. It will clone the entire drive.

Once you clone the drive, I recommend running chkdsk on it. This will correct any errors that may have carried over from the faulty drive.

I have a very small amount of irreplaceable data (less than a gig). A larger amount of medium important data (about 70gig of music/video files of which a few gig is purchased from itunes and thus can’t be re-downloaded). This is covered on my 200gig disk with two rolling backups of the less critical music and a whole bunch of discrete copies of the critical files and purchased music. the itunes music and critical files are also copied on my flash card, and most of the irreplaceable stuff is also on my gmail and a separate encrypted flash card I keep in my wallet as insurance against a fire or particularly ambitious burglary.

Considering that even the irreplaceable stuff would be more of a pain to lose than a huge problem I think my backup routine is, if anything, stupidly over redundant (more as a legacy from when I was actively working on my thesis), but as someone pointed out, it’s very cheap and easy to do, so why not.

However, I do have a lot of steam stuff (probably a few hundred gig) that won’t fit on my 200 gig drive and would be very expensive to re-download, so I want to try and save it if possible.

I’ve bought a larger external drive. I’ll use that to clone my drive (assuming that my drive can be ressurected one more time) and then I’ll purchase another internal drive when I’m slightly less broke. If I can’t figure out how to boot from the external drive I can use the other computer for a few weeks.

I can see that buying another internal drive straight away probably makes more sense for a more IT competent person, but I’m weary about opening the case up and poking around until I’ve already sorted the backup out and it probably makes sense to have the internal and external drive at the end of the day so I can do what was suggested and run a mirrored set up.

Download Dropbox and put your small amount of irreplaceable data there. It can hold 2 gigs max.

My professional advice, if you don’t have proper backups of critical files already, is to NOT power the thing down.
Sometimes drives go, and won’t be bootable again.
In the OP’s original shoes, I’d immediately hook up my USB drive to the PC and copy over all business and finance-related files. Then I’d copy over any irreplaceable sentimental files. [In many cases, that data would fit on a thumb drive.]
THEN, and only then, would I attempt to clone the drive or power the system down for any reason. I always assume my timer to unrecoverable drive failure is measured in minutes.

I had backups of 95% of my critical stuff before I had any problems and I have been keeping up to date backups ever since without overwriting stuff. All of my irreplaceable stuff is well backed-up at this point.

I’m sure we’re all glad to hear that.
You’ve got at least 80% of your peers beat at this point.

Like I said, a PhD thesis is a great way of cultivating excessively paranoid back up practices even for the relatively computer clueless.

Especially when they saw what happened to some students back in the days when everybody seemed to work on their projects from two floppies and a zip disk :eek:.

The problem I find is that online computer advice seems to come in two levels (“Do not expose your computer to naked flames” and “Shut down ports 33 through 69 and rejigger particle buff raid settings in bios”)

Transitioning from one knowledge group to the other seems to involve more wild experimentation with expensive things that I can not afford to break, than I am entirely comfortable with.

I’ve made a clone of the drive now using the Easus todo program and then run checkdisk.

Given that it’s a clone of my entire drive and OS can I assume that it is bootable? or is there anything else I’d need to do with it?

After that is it just a case of changing the boot order in Bios to prioritise external devices?

Do I need to do anything to deactivate the existing drive? I presume it could cause problems if I just leave it to fail.