Mac Tip #188/23-Mar-2005
Look in the top right corner of your screen. Provided there’s nothing covering it up you’ll see a hard drive icon, probably called Macintosh HD. The hard drive in your computer is the filing cabinet. It’s where all your files and folders and applications are stored.
It uses magnetism to change the polarity of particles
A hard drive (or hard disc) is a circular platter made of a hard material coated with magnetic media. It’s sealed inside an enclosure which protects it from hair and dust etc. Generally ‘a’ hard drive is actually several platters. They spin at about 5,000 revolutions per minute.
A special ‘head’ floats just above the surface, less than a hair’s breadth away. It uses magnetism to change the polarity of particles as the disc spins beneath it and thereby stores your data.
20 minutes to load in the programs
This is all quite miraculous and a far cry from my first computer in 1982 where I had to store the programs I wrote and the one game I’d bought on a cassette tape. It would take some 10 or 20 minutes to load in the programs from the tape, after a prolonged period of fast forwarding and rewinding to find the correct spot.
It started to sound like a jet airplane
On 16 March I was happily working away in my usual fashion when my Powerbook started misbehaving. It became very slow and was just generally being a bit odd so I ran some routine maintenance tasks and restarted.
A few minutes later it started to sound like a jet airplane and I can’t say exactly what happened next, except that within moments my computer wouldn’t work at all. I couldn’t start it up in the usual way and when I started it from the Install CD I couldn’t access the hard drive.
Sometimes equipment just fails …
I’ll spare you the prolonged troubleshooting; the key point is that barely 10 months since I bought this computer the hard drive had failed and taken all my data with it.
Well, not really, as I had backed up less than 48 hours before and I was able to eventually grab the work from the interim before handing my Powerbook over to the technicians for 4 days.
I now have a fresh clean hard drive, replaced under warranty. No real loss, except for the time spent in troubleshooting, taking the machine in for repair and collecting it, time spent setting up a (much slower) backup machine, transferring data, getting organised all over again and finally setting up this machine again.
No single device was big enough
One problem was that no single device was big enough to hold my entire hard drive so I had bits of information scattered across my iPod, another computer and various CDs.
My newest acquisition is a 200 Gigabyte external hard drive which will be dedicated to backups. I found a good price on a Pleiades 3.5″ USB2.0+Firewire 200GB 8M Cache external harddrive for NZ$350.
Take Control of Mac OS X Backups
For a good and instructional book on Macintosh Backups I urge you to buy (US$10):
- Take Control of Mac OS X Backups, by Joe Kissell
- PDF format, 103 pages, 780K download
- Initial publication date: December 2, 2004
- Version 1.1 revision date: February 4, 2005
- Price: US$10 (Free 34-page sample available)
And for us Kiwis — with the exchange rate so high that US$10 is less than NZ$14. That’s a book anyone can afford.
Lose only a few hours work
With a good recent backup you can lose only a few hours work instead of days or weeks work. And if you use your computer ‘only’ for pleasure and not for business, ask yourself how you’d get on if you suddenly lost all your e-mail addresses, your photos, your web page bookmarks and so on.
Stop reading now and go back up your data.