Sunday, 10 May 2015

OH, Pooh, part lord knows what...

The PC fell over yesterday, yet again. This time, it was locked into a login loop.

I got out of that by using the Ubuntu thumb drive to get the machine up and running, reformatted the hard drive (AGAIN, already), and got DISKS (a linux GUI-based drive checking package) up to test the hard drive using the S.M.A.R.T. system ("Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology") that modern hard drives tend to come with.

Well, now I know why the PC has been falling over so much. It seems that the hard disk is shagged. The S.M.A.R.T. test (performed overnight), revealed that there are 1142  bad sectors, none of which can be moved or remapped. "Old age" is the listed cause.

There are several words that I used when I read the result, none of them printable - or polite for that matter.

So. I've ordered a replacement drive via, for a shade under 50 quid. A word of advice here: Make sure you know what type of drive your machine uses, if you have t replace it; there are two main types, IDE, and SATA. The two are not interchangeable. Best option? Replace like for like. My machine's a Toshiba C855-29M laptop. Hardware-wise, it's quite a reliable machine (aside from the damned hard drive, of course!) The SMART report noted the type of drive as being a Toshiba MQ01ABD100, so that's what I've ordered.

As to fitting it, well, they're easy enough to swap out, as modern PCs ( both desktop and laptop) tend to be pretty modular inside (for ease of servicing, the so-called disposable society, and all that), so (and not forgetting to ground yourself against the earth bonding so as not to fry the computer with static charge when you touch the insides) a screwdriver here, a bit of careful leverage there, and this machine should be sporting a new hard drive sometime tomorrow (the good thing about Amazon Prime membership is that they can do next-day delivery at no extra cost in most cases).

It's rather interesting, however, that I only found this out under Linux, than under Windoze. And not a little worrying, too, come to think of it. I'd used some excellnt tools under Windoze, including but by no means limited to Performance Monitor, CCleaner, and others, and none of them had reported any problems. It was only when I moved to Linux that I found that (a) the problems were manageable, and (b) discoverable.

So, I think I’ll be sticking with Linux from now on; seems more able to keep on top of things - what I've been able to do over the last 24 hours with relative ease, I would NOT have been able to do under Windows.

I'm still peeved that I have to shell out for a new drive, and that I've lost a weeks-worth of data, but on the positive side, there's now light at the end of the tunnel, and my habit of taking regular back-ups (a habit that EVERYONE who owns a computer should practice) has paid off.

There are a couple of tips I'll hand over to you at this time, one I've touched on already above:

  • Take regular, at LEAST weekly backups of your data;
  • If you like, take a clone image, or ISO, of your hard drive once you've loaded up all your software onto it, and set it up how you like it. It'll make reloading the machine a whole lot easier;
  • Use GMail, or a similar cloud-based email service - you won't loose your emails, calender, contacts, or a whole load of other things, if the machine falls over catastrophically;
  • Back up your browser settings - I use Firefox, and have a cloud-based account with them, and sync with it on a daily basis, so that I don't lose passwords, bookmarks, and so on. It's one hell of a handy safety net, let me tell you;
  • If you use a LOT of passwords online (and this is recommended practice by pretty-much all the respected advisors across the globe), then invest in a password manager; there are many of them out there - some of them are even free, but the brand-name ones are probably a good choice, at least to start with. It's a belt-and-braces approach to data preservation, but with modern life the way it is, better safe than sorry.

So. I'm in a better mood, now that I know what the root (Linux pun, sorry, couldn't help it) cause of the problems I've been experiencing are, and what the solution is.

More once I've swapped out the drive.

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