Why a hard drive replacement can be bad news

Why a hard drive replacement can be bad news …

With the Easter break now some weeks behind us I’m just catching up on a backlog of work. It seems to be a truism that electrical things go wrong after a holiday when you turn them back on – especially hard drives it seems.

This Easter was no exception with a stream of calls coming in on the Tuesday after the break. One fault in particular is pretty typical, the customer turned his machine on when he came into work and it refused to boot offering the dreaded blue screen of death. He correctly guessed the hard drive had failed (probably something to do with the noise like a bag of spanners emanating from the box) and arranged for us to look at it. What happened next shows up where customer expectation can be badly out of sync with reality! The machine was just one of many on a corporate network. It was a pretty standard Hewlett Packard PC running Windows 7 and Office 2010. It didn’t need any data restoring as this was all on the corporate network. The only thing they asked us to do once it was physically fixed was to install office.

Sounds easy right?

Well, this is where the fun starts. Nearly all proprietary systems (think Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba) install their own flavour of Windows. If you haven’t got (or didn’t create) the original rescue disk then that copy of Windows 7 you have lying around isn’t going to work. The key is tied directly to the make of the PC and if the manufacturer doesn’t offer a download (we’re talking Windows 7 here) then you’re going to have to buy a copy of Windows 7. Not great or cheap! In this case we actually had the precise rescue disk – the customer got lucky. Half an hour later or so the machine was factory reset.

Remember when you bought that PC with Office installed (older version only) – did you keep the licence key? You didn’t? Well, you can’t buy Office 2010 any more so you’ve got another expense coming your way. We also see a lot of clients that simply can’t make the move to a newer version of Office because of training or compatibility. This could be a disaster – and all of this because of a simple hard drive failure. In our case this wasn’t a problem, we’d sold them office 2010 some years ago and kept the licence key on record – another bit of luck (or maybe good planning on our part). The last problem is actually the most tedious. Windows Service Pack 1 was released in early 2011. That’s five years ago and there have been a lot of Microsoft updates since then.

Hundreds in fact.

To install these updates literally takes hours with frequent reboots in between. We haven’t counted properly but we reckon on a machine with Office 2010 installed there are over 400 updates to install. If you want your machine back quickly then you are going to have to deal with this and on a slow Internet connection this is not a trivial issue. Otherwise you’ll be waiting a while for your PC back.

  • So the answer – well, you knew this yourselves really – Backups!
  • If your PC has the ability to make a system recovery disk – do it! Now!

Get yourself a USB hard-drive of at least twice the size of your hard drive (to be on the safe side) and setup Windows 7 backup on a weekly schedule to do a full backup. I recommend once a week but ultimately it’s up to you – how much data can you afford to lose?

The key point is that you really do need a backup of the whole machine. Unless you don’t mind losing your data of course . . . . . 


Leave a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *