Backup that drive!, you never know when your system will say bye-bye

Just this past week, I experienced something that I think could have been avoided by just applying some common backup practices. A friend of mine told me that he was having some problems with his computer, that it was very slow and that he was getting some “pop ups” messages. I told him, “bring it in”, “I can take a look at it”. After scanning his hard drive, it was reported that his hard drive had around 900 viruses and spyware. I immediately told him that it would be better to restore his computer to the factory state.  Since his computer had a restore partition, it was going to be easy and quick.

I proceeded to follow my restoration procedure which includes the following basic steps:

  1. Perform a full backup using Shadow Protect. This is a complete image of the hard drive that can be used to restore the drive to its current state if something goes wrong. This backup can also be mounted which allows individual files or folders to be copied from one place to another. The computer backup file or image file was saved on a Seagate FreeAgent Go 500 GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive ST905003FAA2E1-RK (Black). In addition to the Shadow Protect file, I decided that I needed another copy of the important files, and decided to use Windows internal backup utility to backup the My documents, My Pictures and My Music folders. These three (3) folders were saved once again on the Seagate FreeAgent Go 500 GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive ST905003FAA2E1-RK (Black).
  2. Proceeded to restore from the hard drive restoration partition. Since this was XP home, and was a 3 years old computer, I had to go over multiple updates to make it current using Windows own update utility.
  3. Once the computer had all the Windows updates, I proceeded to install Microsoft Security Essentials, which is my favorite Anti-Virus software. Once I updated the definitions, I felt comfortable using Internet Explorer to get my next utility.
  4. Downloaded PC Decrapifier, which is a tool that looks at all the software installed in the computer and allows the user to remove unwanted software.
  5. Now that the computer has been updated and has the latest virus definitions, is time to get all the documents that need to go back in the computer (pictures, documents, music etc.) This is accomplished by mounting the backup performed by Shadow Protect and copying the files to another folder. This is were everything fell apart. The Seagate FreeAgent Go 500 GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive ST905003FAA2E1-RK (Black)used to save the backup of the computer started making a clicking noise. As a result, I was not able to copy any of the files from the backup. During my second attempt, I noticed that Windows was not even recognizing the drive. In other words, I was in trouble.

After many unsuccessful attempts to get the data off the drive, I decided to take the external drive to a local computer repair store that claimed to even have a “clean room’ to perform data recovery. After paying a diagnostic fee, I was told what I knew, that the hard drive had a physical problem and it needed to be fixed. The price for that data recovery procedure was between $800 and $3,000. An by the way,  there was no way to ensure that the data recovery was going to be successful.

Lessons learned…. Do not rely on a single external drive. Hard drives fail, we all know that. If I had used Mozy, my favorite off-site backup solution, I would not be writing this post.