Posts Tagged ‘#harddrive’

HD revisited

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis June 15th, 2012

High definition, right?  Nope, in this case I’m talkin’ about Hard Drives.  I’ve written posts about the drive shortage, backing up, and solid state drives.  But there’s a whole new fleet of External USB (or networked) drives that deserve a closer look.  Several companies are making drives that you plug in and can access from all over the planet.  Others create their own WiFi network that you can log into from smartphones or your PC.  There are also some very stylish drives that are much smaller these days.  I have clients that will buy several pocket-sized drives and rotate them for offsite backup.   They also have some really tough built HD’s that can withstand a lot of abuse.  This would be perfect for industrial sites or college students :-)    Here’s an article  that shows them in detail (thanks to Marc Saltzman at Digital Crave).

Scrubbing data

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis April 24th, 2012

Did you know that deleted files aren’t REALLY deleted?  Normally, even if you remove a file from the Recycle Bin in Windows, it only removes the first bit of the file, the rest stays intact.  So if you’re getting rid of an old PC, for example, a savvy user can pull up things you intended to delete.  The answer?  File Scrubbing.  This is a method of going through the free space on your drive and re-writing it several times with 1’s and 0’s.  I found a great, free, utility that does this called Summit HDScrubber.  You can get it here.  Of course, you also need to watch out for hidden files, and other stuff.  Before you scrub, remove your Windows account and the data in it.  If you’re just going to throw the PC away, you can always just remove and pound the hard drive with a hammer.  :-)

Hard Drive Shortage

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis February 24th, 2012

For several months now there’s been a major shortage in hard drive production.  Why?  You might think that the earthquake/tsunami in Japan last spring is the cause, but the REALLY big problem for the PC industry comes from Thailand.  Flooding last year shut down all but a handful of factories, and has caused a ripple effect in the production of hard drives (HD’s).  Every PC has one, and the shortage is likely to drive up computer prices in the coming months, in my opinion.  The 3 big HD makers; Western Digital, Toshiba, and Seagate, all have bottlenecks in production because of this natural disaster.  Last summer the prices of drives shot up, in some cases, to triple.  This is the first time in decades that the cost per Gigabyte of storage has gone up, rather than down.  As factories come back online, and the supply begins to match the demand, prices should stabilize.  I remember back in college when a 40 MEGAbyte hard drive was HUGE.  Nowadays a MILLION MEGABYTES (1 Terabyte) is pretty standard.  When you think about it, we really are spoiled…if you compare to 30 years ago, we are using PC’s that are the equivalent of an old Mainframe computer that might have filled an entire room and cost millions of dollars.  Now we can get one for $499.  Helluva deal…

Hard Drives

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis February 23rd, 2012

It makes me giggle when my customers call their computer a “hard drive”.  Your hard drive is a paperback book sized unit INSIDE the PC, and it’s where all the software (and your stuff) is stored.  Laptops have similar, but smaller drives.  One of the most common laptop failures I run across is a failed hard drive, often from vibration.  See, these drives are mechanical and have a tiny little magnetic “head” that moves around constantly across a spinning platter of zeros and ones.  It’s a VERY precise operation, and it doesn’t take much of a bump to damage the head or platters.  Some PC makers have tried to stop this problem by adding accelerometers that can sense when you drop it, and lock the heads in place.  Others make “ruggedized” laptops that have lots of rubber/padding around the drive to dampen vibration.  But the latest, greatest thing out there is called a Solid State Hard Drive.  It’s not mechanical; the storage is all memory chips, with no spinning platters.  They are incredibly fast and NOT sensitive to vibration.  I’ve had a chance to upgrade a few laptops to solid state, and I was VERY impressed.  The only downside is the higher price.  Right now you’ll pay about twice as much for around half the storage if you buy solid state.  This should change over time, and I expect to see a lot more laptops shipping with this feature in the next couple of years.   Next time:  PC prices are going UP…

Failed USB drives

Helpful Hints | Posted by Dennis August 8th, 2011

Inside ViewUSB Hard drives are a great way to back up your stuff, and provide storage space if you run out.  BUT they can be a real nightmare if they fail.  Most of the time, we see a partial failure that causes all kinds of bizarre things to happen.  Sometimes your PC will just run incredibly slow.  Other times it will cause the dreaded Blue Screen of Death.  In any case, if you have strange things happening to your computer, try unplugging these devices first, to make sure that’s not the issue.  If it does fail, you can often open the container and remove the drive inside.  They’re usually just a standard internal drive, and often they’re OK.  If you’re not comfortable doing this, take it to a reputable PC shop if you need your stuff off of it. 


Helpful Hints | Posted by Dennis July 4th, 2011

Screenshot of Acronis True ImageThere’s a way to take a COMPLETE snapshot of your PC’s  hard drive called Imaging.  It allows you to recover the contents, including recovery partitions, boot sectors, and all programs.  I regularly (about once per year) make images of ALL my PC’s on an external USB hard drive, so that if I have a disaster I can quckly get it back to working order.  Then I restore my documents and I’m in good shape.  Creating an image requires that you boot to a disk or other media to free up all the files.  Win 7 has an imaging option, but there are better packages available.  Norton Ghost was pretty good way back when, but my favorite these days is called Acronis True Image.  Note that if you make a bootable disk, you don’t need multiple licenses to image several PC’s.


Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis February 11th, 2011

Fragmentation of your hard drive means the files on it (your software) are split and scattered across a wide area.  That means reading the information will be slower.  If you right-click on your C: drive and choose Properties, you’ll find the defragmenting tool under the Tools section.  Windows 7 schedules this automatically for you.  There are also some third party defraggers that will do even more than the Win version (like scrunching all the EXE files together).  We often have clients that believe that defrag is the cure for any slow PC, and this simply isn’t true.  In fact, it’s WAY overrated as a speed boost.  Yes, if you have a slow drive (like some laptops) or a grossly fragmented drive, it can help a LITTLE.  But most of the time I find some other issue that’s causing a slowdown.

Hard drive failures

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis January 5th, 2011

One of the most common failures on PC’s is a hard drive (HD) crash.  Sometimes it’s the electronics, other times it’s a mechanical failure.  Laptop HD’s fail most often from getting dropped or jarred.  Most consulting firms and IT shops have a limited set of solutions for this, so they may or may NOT be able to get your important files and information when this happens.  BUT the drive can always be sent to a lab for data extraction.  This requires a “clean room” facility, and a rebuild of the drive.  As you might have guessed, this is expensive.  Typical cost starts at $2,000 and can go as high as $10 k.  For these cases we partner with DriveSavers in California.  They have an outstanding reputation and have been in the business for many years.  As usual, check the cost and reputation of any service BEFORE you commit.  If you want to buy a PC that isn’t susceptible to drive failures, you can get one that has a RAID level 1 (mirrored) array.  It keeps a second drive/copy at all times, in case one drive goes bad.  We recommend this for any mission critical PC or server.  (NOTE: Bigger servers have bigger arrays like RAID 5, 7 etc.)