Internal hard drive

Without any warning, my main Mac Pro hard drive crashed yesterday afternoon. The rest of the day was a test of my backup and recovery systems, which I blogged about at the beginning of this year.

Here’s the timeline:

  1. I did a normal restart my Mac after I removing several “startup” software utilities. But instead of restarting, my computer just shut off.
  2. Perhaps I chose “Shut down” by mistake instead of selecting “Restart?” No, repeated attempts to restart my computer resulted in a power off after about a minute. This was not good.
  3. I removed all USB and Firewire cables and restarted. Same result — shut down.
  4. I restarted while holding down Cmd-S. This boots the computer in “single user mode” and lets you enter UNIX terminal commands.
  5. Ran fsck -y (file system check) to analyze and repair the hard drive. I got error messages indicating problems with my main startup hard drive. Unfortunately, fsck was unable to repair these problems.
  6. I attempted to restart from several disk utility CDs without success.
  7. Finally, I was able to restart from my original Snow Leopard DVD, and was able to run Disk Utility in an attempt to repair the startup hard drive. Still no luck!
  8. I then restarted from a secondary internal hard drive by first holding down the Option key during the startup process. The computer seemed to be working okay, so I concluded that the culprit was indeed the hard drive.
  9. I ran my DiskWarrior recovery software. It did its thing in an attempt to rebuild the bad disk directory. The result? Lots of red error messages!  It did, however, recreated a temporary directory and I copied off several important files that I had modified earlier in the morning.
  10. DiskWarrior recommended a full backup and the reformat of the hard drive.
  11. Since I wasn’t sure if there was a physical problem with the drive, i decided not to reformat and reuse — but rather, replace the hard drive.
  12. I drove to Best Buy and purchased a Seagate Barracuda 3.5″ internal 1TB hard drive.
  13. Back in my office, I physically replaced the bad drive with the new unit.
  14. Here’s the true test of my backup system: Since I clone the contents of my main hard drive every evening (using SuperDuper backup software) to a secondary internal drive, I was now had to essentially reverse the process: clone the clone BACK to what would now be my new main hard drive.
  15. This reverse-cloning process took over 4 hours for approximately 700GB worth of data.
  16. After it completed, I reset my Startup Drive to my newly created internal hard drive and replaced the few files I retrieved from the failed hard drive.

I did have to rekey my Office 2011 serial number, but everything else seems to be working okay. Whew!

I subscribe to the often repeated adage: hard drives always fail, you just don’t know when. Make sure you have a smart backup plan BEFORE it happens to YOU.