Common Sense Reminders for Hard Drive Rebels

Pssst… listen. I have some killer, cool goods here, particularly if you enjoy a more risky bit of living. Some of the stuff I have to offer may seem, at first glance, too common sensical — stuff you think you already know — and you may think you can disregard it. But maybe that’s because you’ve never experienced a technological tragedy before. Maybe you’ve never felt that particular pang in your gut when a hard drive fails, knowing you’ve failed to exercise due diligence in your backup routine… or perhaps you haven’t yet witnessed the sudden seizure of a system right in the middle of a particularly painful productive programming party. (That is what a day spent programming is like, right? A party?) Maybe you’ve been blessed with luck all of your life. That’s good for you, but sooner or later your luck is going to run out. You know why? Because there’s no such thing as luck. Luck is just an illusion, a mirage. Nobody actually believes luck exists… unless they’re purposely negligent.

And you’re not negligent, are you? Are you? Of course you are… because you are a hard drive rebel!

Backup: Onsite, Offsite, and Cloud

Rebel Without a DriveI mean, you back up your day’s work to at least one other device in addition to your workstation’s hard drive, don’t you? Of course you don’t — you live without concern for those mundane matters! You ignore the advice of legions of experienced system admins and IT certification study guides, choosing to back up only when you feel like doing so. You don’t take the time at the end of your workday to plug in an external drive and transfer a copy of all those videos it took you all afternoon to edit. And you certainly don’t store that backup drive somewhere safe, like an entirely different geographical location miles away from your office. You don’t have time to do that — what kind of life would that afford you? You have things to do outside of work. You don’t have an extra 30 minutes in your workday to drive a backup to your bank’s safe deposit box. Physically moving your backup to an offsite location is an unrealistic addition to your busy schedule.

And you know what? I get that, I really do. It’s not just the rebellious among us who feel that way. For years most of us have chosen to spend our free time doing fun stuff, like jumping on our motorcycles after work and riding up the coast (in Second Life, usually) rather than spend more of our workday transferring our day’s work to an offsite location.

Fortunately, we’re not living in the Dark Ages anymore — we’ve got cloud storage these days. So you don’t have to drive to an offsite location to store your backup; you can simply set up your workstation to automagically back up your work to the cloud when you leave work. If you were a cautious individual, you would wait while your day’s work uploads to the cloud, just to ensure the integrity of the backup. But you’re a rebel; you’ll just assume there were no problems with the transfer. Who needs to double check things anymore? Kinda takes the fun out of things, don’t it? Especially when there are other ways to spend your time. And who cares if you lose your work, anyway? You don’t mind spending another day duplicating all of your work. It’ll simply be another day of pay. The boss might not see things the same way as you, but who’s she to get on your case, anyway?

Defragmenting

By the way, when’s the last time you defragmented your drive? Been a while? Now, there’s a prime opportunity for you to to wreak havoc with your system. Defragging’s actually supposed to make your drive perform better — make it more optimized. But you know what? Once in a blue moon it can actually muck up your system. Yeah, it’s a rare occurrence — okay, it’s incredibly rare — but it can happen, and that’s what makes it a slightly thrilling task to execute. It’s not as fun as playing around with your system’s registry — there’s a lot of potential danger to be found in that activity — but defragging a drive can instill just enough anxiety in us rebels to make running the utility worthwhile. You can also increase the risk of damage by defragging your drive every day — though, to be perfectly honest, the notion that that can wear out your hard drive faster is currently under considerable debate.

That said, if you have a disk based on flash memory, defragging is a real kick because it’s not necessary at all! Unlike hard drives, solid state drives don’t have moving parts, so they don’t benefit from the optimizations produced by defragmentation. In fact, defragging an SSD is actually likely to wear it out faster. It can’t get any better than this for those of us living dangerously. So make sure to defrag your solid state drive as often as possible.

One thing you mustn’t do, however, is back up your drive before you defragment it. If you back up your drive before you defrag it, you leave yourself with a way to recover if the defragment operation screws up your drive. Kind of takes all the sting of the risk out of the equation, doesn’t it? So make sure not to back up your drive before you defrag it, wild one that you are. (That also goes for any utility you may use to optimize or repair your drive, by the way.)

Upgrades and Updates

Macs used to be so dangerously sexy; whenever you upgraded your system software, you put your system at risk of corruption. These days, Macs keep a daily (hourly, if you set it up that way) backup of your system that you can revert to if anything goes wrong during a software update or system upgrade. Time Machine? Man, that’s weak. Macs are for wussies. With Windows, you can still hope for a bunch of things to go wrong during a daily update (though I have to admit that I’m still waiting for something to go wrong as a result of one of the updates). I have my Windows operating system set to perform its update while I’m sleeping, making sure not to back up my operating system on a regular basis. I’m hoping that one of these days the update will fail, and I’ll have nothing to fall back on but my own charisma. I’m a bad ass, see? and I sleep better knowing that something can go wrong one of these early morning hours as my computer is reaching for Microsoft’s server to grab the latest security update. And my bad ass self will find a way to get the system running again when I want it to. Never mind the fact that I’ll be spending precious motorcycle riding hours restoring my system from scratch; I’ll worry about that when the time comes.

Let me know what other risky routines you regularly avoid. I love being reminded of how much I can keep my computing platform on the edge.

The image of James Dean above is a work in the public domain, discovered on Wikipedia.

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  • Katherine Moss

    You are very much a rebell, but I like it.  And speaking fo failed updates, Woody Leonheard from Infoworld says that those belonging to .NET fail all of the time, though I’ve never noticed an issue on the server over here. 

  • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

    It takes a lot of dedication to be as negligent as I am with my drives, but it’s entirely doable!

    I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced a .NET update failure, or any real failure due to a Microsoft update. Rebooting my laptop right now I find a LWS.exe failure, though. Appears to have something to do with Logitech…my webcam drivers or my registry. Yeehawwwwwwwwww!