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-   -   Spotting a dying HD before it's too late? (http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7613)

JemyM July 10th, 2009 01:20

Spotting a dying HD before it's too late?
 
I noted that something was wrong when the computer started to freeze at night during the virusscan. To be sure I installed Seagate Tools and ran a "Long Drive Self Test" on all my drives. I my stationary have 2x1tb, 1x1,5tb, 1x250gb and 1x750gb. All but the 250gb one are from Seagate.

Yes. One of my 1tb drives failed, meaning it's dying. Luckily, my cohabit ordered another 1,5tb for her yesterday so she gave it to me. I have spent the entire day backing up and the final file is copying while I am writing this. And yeah, one movie couldn't be copied. Trying to do so gave me a CRC error (Cyclic Redundancy Check). Now when I tested the drive after a format, it still fails, so it's time to send it back to Seagate.

I should consider myself lucky. This time I had enough time to rescue all data, except for that movie which is still available on the net.

But harddrives fail once in awhile, and the media partition contains most of my own personal stuff. Maybe next time I am not so lucky?

This makes me wonder if there's a better way to keep monitoring the drives health, like scanning them weekly for errors? I know of no programs that do so automatically, but in this era there should be a few such applications out there, hopefully at the right price. Data is often priceless.

Moriendor July 10th, 2009 03:17

If I were you I wouldn't waste my time on any of that. It is comparatively rare that a hard drive dies as slowly as yours. Most of the time the head just crashes into the platters as they spin at 7.2K RPM ripping everything to shreds and there is usually absolutely no advance warning of that happening. If you're "lucky" the drive starts making a scratchy noise before a mechanical failure but most of the time mechanical failures happen pretty much out of the blue.

I think you're much better off spending your time thinking about a viable backup solution for all of your data. Since you live with someone else in the same apartment maybe a central Windows Home Server might be an option for the two of you? Or a NAS system with several HDDs (check here for example)? Or just several external (USB 2.0/eSATA) HDDs? There are lots of possibilities.
I'd recommend to explore these options and to not worry about anticipating a failure. No one can possibly know in advance when a head crash is going to happen.

Squeek July 10th, 2009 04:48

Hard drives love it whenever anybody ever decides to try to assess their health. They may seem dependable and even dutiful, happy to complying with every test. But hard drives are only patiently waiting for their best opportunity to strike.

Never trust them — never ever.

zakhal July 10th, 2009 10:12

Theres one good free webbased software that can analyze statistically chances if your hd is dying before it actually dies. Cant remember the name though. I have used it for few years know.

I havent had one failed drive for 6 years. Allthough Ive sold all the old drives that have started to become problematic. I used to take dvd backups of all of my most imporant files but now Ive become too lazy to do that even.

One way to lengthen the life of drive is to lower its performance. There is one program for this too. It will be a percent or two slower but it will last much longer.

Prime Junta July 10th, 2009 10:23

Google published an article on this — they use consumer hard drives for their server farms. Very roughly, the conclusions were:

* There is no way to tell, for any individual drive, if it's about to fail. All conclusions are statistical.
* Statistically, a drive that has survived one year of heavy-duty use is likely to survive to the end of its design lifetime — the defective ones croak within 12 months.
* A drive that has shown even a single SMART anomaly is about 60 times more likely to fail within some fairly short time than a drive that has not shown any. Further SMART anomalies don't add much significant information to this.
* Contrary to conventional wisdom, operating temperature had no significant effect on drive lifetime, unless the stated design parameters were exceeded.

I'm sure you can find the article if you look for it.

Conclusion: don't bother. Instead, take automatic backups hourly/daily/weekly depending on how frequently you generate data that's worth backing up. This has saved my bacon once.

Wulf July 10th, 2009 12:37

Maybe a Raid setup (raid 5) striped disks with parity or (raid 6) striped disks with dual parity might be a solution, though you would lose the capacity of one disk in the process.

JemyM July 10th, 2009 13:37

Atm I have 5tb worth of harddrive space. I doubt that there are a backup solution that is both effective and affordable for a student like me.

hishadow July 10th, 2009 20:08

You could buy a dirt-cheap/used PC, add some disks and 1gbit network, and setup a scheduled backup over the network of the most important things.

I personally don't have anything worth saving that's more than a few gigs, so for that I just use a small usb-powered harddrive. For the really important stuff like documents and programming projects etc which come below 500mb, I use Mercurial (version control software - intended for programming) and upload revisions to an online service (just 1gb storage).

Prime Junta July 10th, 2009 23:43

I second hishadow's suggestion. You don't even need the 1 GB network; most of the time the bottleneck will be with disk I/O even on a 10/100 one. Look around for any ol' retired minitower and bung it full of disks, then install Ubuntu and BackupPC on it, and Bob's your uncle. (BackupPC works with rsync, which means that only new/changed files will be backed up, which means that network I/O will rarely be a problem.)

The disks do cost money, of course, but less than eventual recovery of your data would. How have you managed to fill 5 TB, by the way? Do you do a lot of video other media stuff?

JemyM July 11th, 2009 00:35

I was thinking yesterday… I have not actually filled 5tb. Several of the disks have plenty of free space, so I have been considering to get my hands on some backup software that mirrors some of the folders to all drives. The stuff that would be irreplaceable to me if the harddrive broke down is actually just a couple of folders.

Moriendor July 11th, 2009 02:13

Quote:

Originally Posted by Prime Junta (Post 1060957880)
I second hishadow's suggestion. You don't even need the 1 GB network; most of the time the bottleneck will be with disk I/O even on a 10/100 one.

Hmmm… you'd need to have a pretty old HDD for such an extremely poor I/O performance :) .
100MBit/s = 12.5MByte/s (theoretical maximum without factoring in any network overhead). Just about any modern hard drive can usually read/write at average speeds a good deal north of 60MByte/s (= 480Mbit/s).
So a 1000Mbit network is pretty much required for NAS if you even want to begin to make use of your hard drive performance.

Also, given the numbers you threw out there (5TB O_O ), JemyM, I'm not sure building your own NAS will cut it. It depends on how much data you need to move back and forth.
Incremental backups should cut down significantly on your traffic but if you still need to move hundreds of GBs around then not only do you need a GBit LAN but also a fairly powerful main system (or a lot of time waiting for transfers to finish ;) … which might not be much of a problem if you do backups at night and don't have a problem with your computer and the NAS running while you're sleeping, of course).

The problem with a lot of pre-configured NAS systems like the ones from Buffalo that I linked to above is the poor overall performance of the systems (they usually have a fairly weak CPU so the full potential of the fast disks and GBit network can not unfold).

For example check this link here for a NAS performance test (then select 1000MBps write performance since if you backup you will be writing to the NAS). As you can see, some of the weaker systems barely make it above the speeds that you get with ext. USB 2.0 disks (~15MB/s).

So you might want to consider carefully how much traffic each incremental backup is going to cause. Just a few GByte? OK. Fine. Then get that old box and stuff it full of HDs and a GBit LAN controller. Or still hundreds of GByte? Then it might be better to think about something a lot more powerful or to drop the NAS idea and just go for eSATA disks where it is not much of a problem to get transfer speeds of 60MB/s.

GothicGothicness July 12th, 2009 14:53

5tb ? I think your solution will be to think what you really need, instead of thinking about a good backup solution. I can hardly imagine someone needing 5tb of personal very important data, unless they are crazy about video or photo editing.

JemyM July 12th, 2009 15:07

Quote:

Originally Posted by GothicGothicness (Post 1060958126)
5tb ? I think your solution will be to think what you really need, instead of thinking about a good backup solution. I can hardly imagine someone needing 5tb of personal very important data, unless they are crazy about video or photo editing.

I tend to store as much as possible digitally. The bulk of my harddrive content consists of collections built up over time that acts like a library that can be searched and browsed. For example, I have a western philosophers ebook collection that I occasionally go into if I hear about a certain philosopher that I need to check up. I also have a massive collection of documentaries on history that I tend to watch when I have nothing better to do.

Most of these collections can be downloaded again via the web so it wouldn't be that much of a loss if the harddrives died, some of the collections can remain untouched for a long time until some sudden idea makes me go back to them.

Then there's of course personal data such as schoolwork, projects etc and they cover much less space.

JemyM July 12th, 2009 15:08

I thought it would be easy to find a free software that simply mirrors some folders on a nightly schedule, but failed.

Moriendor July 12th, 2009 15:42

Quote:

Originally Posted by JemyM (Post 1060958129)
I thought it would be easy to find a free software that simply mirrors some folders on a nightly schedule, but failed.

How's your German, JemyM? :)
There is a really neat tool called DirSync that I'm using myself to keep the backup folder of my secondary HDD and that of my external HDD, well, … in sync. No English version unfortunately but you should be able to figure it out even with rudimentary German skills. It's very easy to use. You create a sync job and just pick a source and a target and set some parameters and that's it.
If that doesn't work out for you then google for "rsync" and/or check out a program called DeltaCopy.

Good luck! :)

JemyM July 12th, 2009 15:59

Quote:

Originally Posted by Moriendor (Post 1060958133)
How's your German, JemyM? :)
There is a really neat tool called DirSync that I'm using myself to keep the backup folder of my secondary HDD and that of my external HDD, well, … in sync. No English version unfortunately but you should be able to figure it out even with rudimentary German skills. It's very easy to use. You create a sync job and just pick a source and a target and set some parameters and that's it.
If that doesn't work out for you then google for "rsync" and/or check out a program called DeltaCopy.

Good luck! :)

My german skills is basically what I learned through playing the german version of HeroQuest and Syndicate. So I know words like "der böse", "gauswerfer" and "auto"…


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