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TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 10:00 am

The Tech Report and Macrium Software are teaming up to give away five Macrium Reflect v6 Workstation licenses for personal use (each a $69.95 value). To enter, share your best story of data loss and recovery with us. Your tale can be as simple as the loss and recovery of a personal hard drive, or as grand as that time you saved the day when the SAN at your multinational employer melted down. Above all, your story needs to be an entertaining one, and it needs to be related to data recovery in some way.


Your story should be an original work, and it should hew to the truth as much as possible. We will be verifying the originality of entries using a variety of methods. While we won't be awarding extra points for grammar and spelling, you should be aware that proofing your entry will make it more readable and therefore more likely to be read in its entirety. There are no points for speed in this contest, so take your time.

This thread is for contest entries only. If you have questions about the rules or any other aspect of the contest, please post them in the comments thread on our contest article.

Our thanks to Macrium for making this giveaway possible. Be sure to follow @MacriumReflect on Twitter and Macrium's Facebook page for the company's latest news and updates.

Contest regulations
This contest is open to all TR readers with a forum account and a valid email address.

Only one entry is allowed per person.

By submitting an entry for the contest, you grant TR a non-exclusive license to publish and promote your work on our front page as part of the promotion for this contest. TR's use of your entry may include, but is not limited to, appearances in news posts that promote further contest entries or promotions of the winning entries at the conclusion of the contest. In short: you're allowing us to post your work on our front page, and it'll be associated with your TR forum handle. If you don't agree with these terms, don't enter the contest.

We will be accepting giveaway entries until noon Central Time on Wednesday, April 27, 2015, at which point this thread will be locked. TR staffers will then confer and select five winners from among all eligible entries. The winners will be announced on the site no later than Friday, April 29, 2015, and they will also be notified via private message in the forums. The winners must claim their prizes within 72 hours, or they will forfeit their prizes and we will name new winners.

We reserve the right to disqualify an entry for any reason, at any time. The staff of The Tech Report and their immediate families may not enter the giveaway and are not eligible to win.

No purchase is necessary to win. This giveaway is void where prohibited by law. TR and Macrium cannot be held liable for any taxes on the prizes, damage caused by using the prizes with other products, or health issues such as repetitive strain injury, eye strain, or chemical addictions that may result from prolonged use of the prizes.
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 1:11 pm

This is not so much a failing/failed drive story. A programmer came to me saying their laptop was dreadfully slow and I could tell they just loaded the computer up with trash. The easiest thing was for me to re-image the computer with a clean OS and be good to go. I backed up 150ish GB's of data expecting that to be all of it since I checked his profile and the usual hiding places. I tell him it's ready to be picked up the next day. He comes down and starts yelling at me about where his years of data went. I tell him it's all their and clearly his desktop of trash was back and all of his profile stuff. He then is like "Did you not check the C:TEMP folder where I store all of my stuff!?". At this point I was so confused into why anyone would be stupid enough to ditch anything in the Temp folder. His boss is yelling at my boss and it was a whole lot of stress for me. I guess not only did he save work stuff to the Temp folder but all of his personal family pictures and what not. Sadly after the dust settled and a year or two went by I had to replace his wifes computer since it was old. I of course checked the C: Temp folder on her machine and there was all of her data hiding out in neat folders. She too was a programmer....
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 1:16 pm

No crap, there I was...

One of my users had me swap out an old computer that had been used for computing postage. I got the new one set up how he liked it, verified with him that everything was there, then he wanted to put the old one back into service in another role. I asked him no less than three times "are you sure there's no data on here that I need to save?". He assured me there was not ("no, it doesn't matter that the database is empty"), and I was fool enough to believe him.

Because it was as slow as a very slow thing indeed, I wiped and reinstalled, then put it into its new job and all seemed copacetic. A couple days later, my then-boss comes storming in demanding to know what had happened to this guy's data, and why couldn't he charge departments for postage used over the past month?

Me: ... [drops everything and runs over]

It turned out that the user in question was clueless and only knew how to use his program; he had no idea what data was stored or where, that it sent data monthly out to another database for charging postage, or indeed that it wasn't backed up at all. You might reasonably argue that IT should handle these things, but nobody in my whole gorram department knew about this thing, and it had been in production for the best part of a decade. This has since been fixed, believe you me.

No amount of disk scanning would resurrect the MS SQL Server Express database; it had been overwritten as part of the reinstall. I was in the doghouse with my boss and his boss, the user threw me under the bus and denied that I'd asked about saving data, and instead of getting my story straight with my boss first I decided to concentrate on trying to save the data. There was something like $10k in question from postage that month, and I narrowly averted being written up.

Procedure was changed then and there to treat users like lying liars who lie: everyone's hard drive gets imaged before we do anything.
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 1:31 pm

Back 1996 or 1997, I was working at a small computer shop that is no longer in business. Back then most computers were white horizontal cases with the monitor on top (the monitor AC cable connected to the power supply).

I was attempting to shoehorn an extra 40 pin IDE drive (two total) (do not remember the size, but it would have been measured in Megabytes, I'm pretty sure it was a Western Digital Drive), into a case with two CD-ROM drives (I think it had 3 bays). Since the drives share the same IDE Cable, physically mounting the drives was difficult and we "modified" (hacked into) the case. Sliding in the old drive (with OS, CAD Software and data) I scrapped the bottom of the PCB on a sharp edge of the cutout we created and it did not work. Examining the drive I found that a single trace was damaged. I carefully scrapped the protective finish off that trace, cut up an IDE cable, tinned the ends, and soldered it directly to the trace, bridging the scrape (about 1/2 inch long). Drive worked like a champ!
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 1:47 pm

I had a RAID 5 array (first problem) connected to an ASUS AMD motherboard using motherboard RAID (second problem) and didn't have a full backup of everything (third problem). In my zeal to upgrade the performance of this computer, which was a dual-purpose file server and Handbrake video conversion box, I wanted to upgrade to a Penom II X6 1090T to take advantage of a great 6-core processor at the time (couldn't beat price per core).

In the process of upgrading, I had to remove and re-attach the Thermaltake 120mm Big Typhoon CPU Cooler (so heavy!). Unfortunately, my screwdriver slipped oh-so-slightly and nicked the backside of the motherboard, somehow damaging one of the traces and rendered the system unbootable.

After replacing the motherboard with an identical model (at my own cost), I thought maybe I'd be lucky and be able to restore the RAID array. I didn't act fast enough during first boot to set the array to RAID instead of AHCI or IDE (can't remember which was default) and so Windows found all these new drives it wanted to try to initialize! ... Bad Windows! Bad!

I managed to shut it down quickly, but I think the damage was already done. Even after replicating the BIOS settings for the RAID array, it still wouldn't recognize the array. I did try some RAID recovery tools, but once you realize that the possible combinations of those 6 drives in the array (6 factorial) is 720, you quickly lose hope.

Finally, I gave up even trying to restore the RAID and just recovered what I could. The worst part was that I had formatted and sold the miniDV tape (and camcorder that went with it) that we used to record our wedding ceremony. Yeah. And since I hadn't gotten around to editing the footage yet and had no backups anywhere else, that footage was lost forever. I don't think my wife will ever fully forgive me for that one.

So kids, the moral of the story is: ALWAYS HAVE BACKUPS! (and backups of your backups)

I now have both a local disk-based backup of everything in addition to cloud-based. And I invested in a decent Intel/LSI RAID card with a RAID 6 array to at least minimize my chances of data loss due to errant screwdrivers. But yeah, data loss can be pretty awful.
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 1:48 pm

Your bargaining posture is highly dubious.
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 1:53 pm

Oh boy oh boy I've got two!

#1 - At my previous company, a law firm was a client of ours, and I was brought a PC from a lawyer who left in a rather dramatic fashion. They said they couldn't get it to boot. Sure enough, a successful POST, but no system disk found. I busted out either Hiren's Boot CD or Microscope and took a look at the boot sector. I found "0123456789ABCDEF0123456789ABCDEF..." over and over - an obvious attempt at data destruction. I created a new boot sector and the system booted right up. We got on to his desktop and found some freshly installed data destroyer hard drive wiping tool sitting on the desktop. The attorney thought he was covering his tracks, but only wiped out the boot sector and recovery partition. All the data was there, including nearly a gig of porn, and incriminating emails where he was attempting to poach clients of the law firm to start his own, as well as attempting to bring other attorneys and office personnel with him.

I left the company before I heard the results of his disbarment proceedings.

#2 - Also at my previous company, a different client was having Citrix Xen hypervisor issues . After several hours of failed troubleshooting attempts, I was going to attempt to rebuild a fresh Xen install on a 4GB USB stick. I put the installer disc in the CD drive and booted my laptop along with the USB stick. I was anticipating that it would ask for the destination of the install. Instead, it just got going. I thought all was well as the light was blinking every now and then. That's when I noticed that the available drive space was over 100GB. Yep, I was overwriting my own SSD. Immediately hit the power button to minimize the damage. Far too late. Nothing critical was on the drive except for the entirety of my wedding plan database. Luckily the installer didn't zero out the drive before the install. Once I got home, I pulled the drive and did a raw recovery to get that database. Reinstalled Windows and got the DB restored without further incident, just a blow to my pride.
Chaos reigns within. Reflect, repent, and reboot. Order shall return.
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:05 pm

My worst, my first week at my current job we had an unexpected NTFS corruption that completely hosed our SAN storing our Exchange databases. It wiped them out completely, so we do the logical thing and head towards our backups. This is when we discover that the admin I was replacing was not backing up anything correctly, and we had only 1 weeks of incremental backups of exchange, and no full backups. Fun times! We ended up having to go to each user's system, copy their OST file, convert it to a PST, and import it back into Exchange. This broke everything in everyone's calendars, so all new meeting invites had to be sent out, and it caused major problems for about 18 months afterwards.

My best was when we got partially hit by some Ransomware at my organization. Due to a mistake in our AV setup, the executable got quarantined, but it had already started running in the background. Ended up with 160,000+ files locked on our primary file server. 17 years worth of files on our biggest conference, and everything related to our largest money making conference, all gone. I had just sent my backup tapes offsite, so called the driver to bring them back, and about 12 hours later, had everything restored. Had to do hundreds of folder comparisons to save time by not restoring ever file, but it was worth it.

So in the time between these two stories, I had spent countless hours advocating for proper backups, rebuilding the entire system from the ground up, spending about $150k on new hardware, software, and tapes, and was able to get everything back the next disaster we suffered. Proved the money spent was well worth it, that backups were critical, and most importantly, made it much easier to ask for about $250k to take our backups to the next level in terms of speed and reliability! :D
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:23 pm

1. One night I'm getting off shift at ~2AM and the region is having web problems. This has been an issue for the last quarter. So I say I will reboot the SQL server on my way out (this has been the fix all quarter).
I like the SQL server, mainly because it is the only server in the MDF that is not my problem, as hardware guy it was nice to have anything taken off my plate.
Well on reboot it doesn't come back up. So I call the main web guy and tell him that the SQL server is toast and ask if he wants me to get the rebuild going before I leave.
All the web guy does is keep repeating "Please let the backups be good, let the backups be good, let the backups be good, let the backups be good, let the backups be good, let the backups be good, let the backups be good, let the backups be good, let the backups be good, let the backups be good, let the backups be good, let the backups be good, let the backups be good,..."
I interrupt him to ask if there have been problems with the backups.
Why yes there have been.
Long story short: my worthless boss knew back ups had been failing for a quarter and had done nothing and not mentioned it to me. End result most of the Midwest lost their SQL data. He kept his job, I'm not sure who he back stabbed to do that.

2. Tried to walk a used through a restore when their main server died.
Me: So it says there is nothing on the tape.
User: Nope.
Me: OK can you try yesterday's tape?
User: We only have one tape.
Me: Uh oh.. Can you flip back the lid and see if there is any dust or scratches on the tape?
User: It is clear with some smudges.
Me: the backup tape is clear?..

Long story short they had run the same backup tape forever and after forever the magnetic stuff was gone leaving a clear tape. Since this happened to me I have met other people who have seen users/sites do this exact same thing.

3. Walking a user through playing musical drives in a failed RAID array. .
Well after an hour of musical drives the server came back up. This was conveniently 15 min before a tech walked through their door because one of my coworkers paged them out 2 hours earlier instead of trying to fix this problem. This coworker of course didn't mention it while I was talking about what I was trying to fix... Any way, I had the tech "2 dead drives in a RAID 5 means 100% loss" swap 1 dead drive and then another dead drive and finally the 3rd bad drive "Not today it doesn't!!!!". 3 dead in a RAID 5 and I got everything back.
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:26 pm

Sunday, 3:40PM. I receive an alert text from a managed client's UPS in the server rack "On Battery". Around 18 minutes later I receive a second alert "UPS batteries discharged". Two minutes later I receive a third alert "UPS batteries discharging". "Good", I thought, "apcd shutdown the file server.. I bet I'll get a phone call tomorrow around 8AM..."

Monday 8:15AM, I'm drinking coffee awaiting the inevitable phone call because it always happens. A power outage, shuts down the server, and I have to instruct another temp employee to go to the server room, and press the "amber" power button. Another half hour passes and no phone call is received. "Good, must've figured it out" I think to myself.

Around 2PM my phone rings "Hello, this is ChubbyHorse with Data Barn, how can I help you?"
"Yes, the power went out yesterday but the file server is down". I repeat the rehearsed how to guide to press the power button to them.
"Thank you SO VERY much!!!" they say. "You're very welcome; have a wonderful Monday" I say back. ... and that was the end of that. Or so I thought.

Tuesday, 3:12PM my phone rings; it's my client "Um, yeah, the file server is down again"
"It is? What is it doing?" I ask.
"It's stuck rebooting.. and it keeps saying press F1 to continue or F2 to accept data loss".
"Oh that's not good; I'll be right out."
I arrived at their office, and checked in, and was soon escorted to the server room where I met my victim. After a little poking around, I confirmed the system had a hard drive failure; but was curious why it was acting the way it was. 8 drive raid 6 with online spare I shouldn't have this issue. More digging around, and you guessed it, three drives failed. The E400 raid controller didn't have enough drives to continue, and after looking through the system logs, the last drive failed during rebuild too. "Well, this is going to be a late evening rebuilding this server and reloading the data" I thought.
That's when I noticed the external HDD I installed was missing. I asked where it went, and was told one of the office employee's took it because the owner wanted one for his computer, and figured this one wasn't doing much sitting plugged into the server. *face palm* What about the errors that were getting emailed to you guys?
Well a former office employee knew just enough to be dangerous with Linux, and, well, long story short, took the back up drive on the server, and re-purposed it. Got tired of the errors getting emailed of the failing backup so they deleted the script file. Then got tired of getting an email from cron (Linux task scheduler) stating it couldn't find a file every night; so they disabled the xinetd daemon to stop cron; which killed the SMART monitor program, and the off-site sync program. They later, found the "google drive" stuff all old, and so the deleted it so the old data wouldn't get used by accident.
*My heart stopped*
500GB of financial, SOPs, pictures, contracts, CAD drawings, audits. Gone.

"There is nothing I can do for you" I said.
"So it's all gone?"

They were not happy office employees; nor was the owner happy. I thought for a minute they were going to go office space on the poor old Proliant. I even had a bit of remorse for them because I was there for a day and a half setting the server back up, and getting QuickBooks to play nice again, and oh boy the commentary I heard. I ended up only charging for a 1/4 of my time because I couldn't add more insult to injury. Thought, I think they blamed me however because I was the tech guy who installed everything once upon a time and I never got called back after a follow up call the following week.
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:36 pm

About 20 years ago I was a network/desktop tech for a company in Lansing.

They had a hardware raid array of scsi drives for the novell file server.

One day the alarm goes off stating there is pending drive failure or failed drive.

I went and told the manager and he just grabbed a spare drive from from the spares drawer and handed it to me and told me to just swap out the drive.
Knowing enough to be dangerous I said "while the server is up?!"
He said "Sure! It's a hot swap array!" And reached over, pulled the drive from the array. "See, the server is up!"
So I swapped the drive in the caddy handed it back to him and he just pushed it back in, locked it and then the server goes down!
You shoulda seen the look on his face! :D

Turns out it was not just the drive going bad but the power supply as well.
Firing up the new drive was more than it could handle and it finally blew. The cooling fan was stuck.

The server never booted back up after swapping out the power supply (toasted mainboard) but the raid array found a new home in a new server. The data was restored from tape and we only lost a couple hundred meg of non-critical data.
I wish to see things not as they are but as they should be.

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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:50 pm

Company and product names have been removed :)
My job is a bit of a mixed bag and I deal with everything to do with the ERP system here, from hardware all the way up to the database and running the application.
This happened almost 15 years ago now. The company I work for had just moved from stand alone disk arrays to SAN technology for our ERP system.
We had been running the SAN for months for our Development and test systems and had no issues.
We had a big weekend migration to move the Live system to the SAN and things started well. We did the migration via full backup and restore.
Everything went flawless and seamless. We managed to go Sunday - Friday without issues. At this point half our team left on vacation to go back woods camping via portaging (lucky basterd).

Saturday morning all our warnings and alerts started going off. Did a database scan an all of a sudden we had bad blocks coming out of nowhere.
We went crazy trying to analyze and find a fix, we use Oracle and keep all of our db logs so we guarded those and the old disk system with our lives.
We attempted a restore, during the restore we hit bug in the backup/restore software (found out later it was a known bug fixed in the next version) and the restore was going to run 28 hours instead of the 3-4 it should have.
Middle of the restore errors started cropping up like crazy again about 3:30am. Middle of the night I had to make a call to abort and start over about 19 hours into the restore.
Next restore completed but the database had bad blocks, even though we knew the backup we took was good.
We ended up reviving the decommissioned hardware and were able to get things limping along around Thursday (outage of 6 days for the company) with no data loss (just lost productivity by 80% of the work force factories, office and shipping)
During this time the vendor sent high level resources on site (clue there they knew something was up) to support us during the recovery attempts.
I was working about 20 hour days during this time with one other co-worker to attempt the restores and fixes, my time working alone was the overnight shift.
When this issue hit I had been visiting family who gave me a sofa to take home and it was in the rear of my van, during this entire week I slept on that sofa... in the back of my van as I was too tired to drive the 10 minutes home.
To make this even more entertaining they were widening the highway that runs between home and work and pile driving every day 9am-9pm, and I could here it clearly at either place.

Turns out the issue we hit was a firmware bug on the SAN that in certain cases a volume could be created that had doubly allocated blocks (two disk locations that would write to the same physical location). It was a rare bug but one that was known to the vendor and was actively being fixed.
I barely remember that week from the lack of sleep and constant work.

In the end there was compensation from the vendor in the form of free hardware (nearly doubled the size of that SAN), licenses and I am assuming cash as the VP Finance was pleased with the settlement.
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:40 pm

One time some years ago I was doing some drywall sanding in an adjacent room to where my computer was. I took every precaution by taping plastic sheeting over the doorway to prevent drywall dust from going everywhere. Later I was on my PC and that's when I noticed my secondary hard drive which was filled with my music collection was suddenly not being shown. Plaster dust had still managed to make its way in and the damage was done.
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 4:19 pm

Company was a service bureau for 1200 clients. Had one production server. All production data was stored on a 12-drive raid-6 (data, transaction logs, work files, source code, everything) and backed up to removable SATA drives. Over a day, most of the largest files were updated by client. So client #1 might be updated at 7am, and not touched for the rest of the day. Total production files: around 300G. Changed files were backed up every half-hour all day to the removable drive. After 'close of business' procedures were run, one last refresh of changed file, today's drive would be pulled and replaced with tomorrow's drive.

[Short Version]
Operator forgot to swap Wed backup so never took off-site. The Thursday 'prep' scripts complained about Wed drive, operator forced continue. On Thur, requested the day-end backup and scripts AGAIN complained about Wed drive. So operator figured "I got this" and manually 'FIXED' the drive -- command prompt, navigate to backup drive, DEL *.* /s/q!! Hour later, retried backup, script failed because 'drive identification file' not found. Operator opened ANOTHER command prompt, forgot to navigate to removable drive. A DIR still showed 'tons' of files left (ignore missing label file), operator assumed DEL didn't 'work' the first time and tried it again!!

You guessed it! Operator forgot to navigate to backup drive!! So, Operator ruined Wed backup (overwrite), Destroyed Thursday's running backup copy (first delete) AND nuked ALL production data (second DEL). Oh, and the dozens of pages of procedures at eye-level within arms reach to resolve every error message he received? They mentioned a command prompt or a DEL command ZERO times!

They had to restore Tuesday's backup, break into all the 'ShredIT' boxes and manually data enter every transaction from Wed and Thur!! It required a full staff of people through the night, that didn't finish until noon Friday. To the best of their knowledge, none of their clients ever found out!
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 4:47 pm

Here's my disaster recovery story from many years ago. As you might expect it involved a RAID 0 array volume. Enjoy:

I can't believe I tried this. And it worked!

My Abit Hot Rod Pro 100 (EIDE RAID) controller began acting up after I had flashed it with the latest BIOS from HighPoint Technologies. Like a lot of Abit's motherboards, this card uses the HPT 370 chip. I flashed it to version 1.03b in advance of installing Windows2000 and installing the "SCSI" driver at the F6 prompt at the beginning. Well, I never got to install Windows2000. After flashing, I couldn't boot to my hard drives. The Hot Rod found them when I turned on the computer, but after that nothing happened. I couldn't even boot to a floppy unless I unplugged the hard drives from the Hot Rod first. Okay, something was wrong with the flash. Try again. Same thing. Okay, flash back to the previous version. Now, the Hot Rod can't even find the hard drives. In fact, I can't even boot with the card installed because it never stops looking for the drives, even when there aren't any plugged in! I can't even get into the Hot Rod's setup menu because it has to detect the drives first.

Now if the combination of the two flashes have really screwed up the Hot Rod, how am I going to fix it? I decided I needed to flash it to a very early BIOS. This time I went to Abit's site and got the BIOS image from there instead of HighPoint. Yeah, may that was the problem, but I've used HighPoint's in the past and besides, Abit's were usually not as recent. At this point, I just wanted my drives back.

Now how did I flash the early BIOS when my PC wouldn't even boot with the Hot Rod installed? Well, I began thinking about how you can fix a bad motherboard flash by using a second identical motherboard. You first boot up with the good BIOS chip. Then, you replace the good chip with the bad one while the power is still on. Finally, you reflash the bad BIOS chip. The reason this works is because, once the motherboard boots up, the BIOS isn't used again, at least not much for this purpose. So I pulled ALL of my other cards out of my P3V4X (P3-550E @ 850), leaving just the floppy drive hooked up. Using a boot disk with the early Hot Rod BIOS I powered up my PC. Okay so far. Now for the scary part. I inserted my Hot Rod into one of the PCI slots while the computer was on! No sparks or smoke so far. I started the flash program, but when I had to tell it to begin, my keyboard no longer worked. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! So I got out an old utility called Anykey to help me out. This program reads a text file as keystrokes and then feeds them to the computer. So I created a text file that would start the flash program and give to it the keystroke needed to start the actual flash procedure. I took out the Hot Rod and rebooted once more to floppy. After putting the Hot Rod back in, I started the Anykey script. SUCCESS!!!!

I was sure I was screwed. I know this was a VERY long read, but my wife doesn't get what an ordeal this afternoon was. I know a lot of you will. I'm so glad and proud of my solution! And to top it off, not a single byte was lost!
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 5:07 pm

I had 4 drives in a RAID-5 in a Linux based media center. Great box, about 5TB of total storage, kept all my movies and such, had it configured to record TV, used it as a NAS for my Windows machines, all kinds of spiffy stuff. One time had to replace a drive that died, and... it worked. Replaced the drive, rebuilt the array, got cocky. Problem with lots of drives is that they generate a lot of heat, and if a fan dies, well, that heat just stays there. Wasn't a drive that failed next, but that's the only thing I had set to warn me. By the time I figured that the drives were having problems, it was too late. All of them had cooked themselves to death or nearly so, so there was no rebuild possible, no recovery, all the hundreds of hours I'd spent ripping my DVDs and Blu-Rays to disk were... gone. Like so much dust in the wind. Or dust in the case, as it were. Fortunately I kept my actually crucial documents and most pictures of the kids and such properly backed up, so I only permanently lost a few things, mostly videos of the kids when they were young :( And video of the wedding to the previous wife, but that's not a big loss ;)
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 6:00 pm

This will be long and (hopefully) fun, so brace yourself:

I was tasked with standing up a system at work that was a very weird design.

The hardware:
3 "master" nodes, running GPFS in a weird diskless setup, fiber channel cards for disk access
18 "storage" nodes, running standard LSI RAID6 with 45 4 TB drives across 5 arrays of 8 drives, 5 hot spares.

These 18 storage nodes exported the disks via LIO FC exports (which we learned was unstable under uneven disk load).

The GPFS filesystem was storing both data and metadata on these disks, separated by failure groups at the storage node level (so there were 18 failure groups).

One morning, I was asked to come take a look at the system that had been running for 6 months with essentially no real problems once we worked out a few kinks. Mind you, this is a 1.8 PB system, so it was no small quantity of data to play games with. It was supposed to be longer term storage, but not archive, so it wasn't backed up (unless enterprising users stored in both places).

I discovered in short order that not only did something go wrong, it went wrong in the past, and we hadn't caught it. The LSI cards had gone crazy in a few of the storage nodes and mixed up what drives belonged to which arrays. This realization came after we also had a bought of disks die, so rebuilds were happening pretty much constantly thanks to a bad JBOD design that fried disks on the rear side.

Now we're in somewhat panic mode - for a week or two we'd be replacing drives, having them rebuild, and thinking things were okay...yet we'd been mixing up drives.

GPFS was very not happy at this point. So, we break out the logs, track back what drives were kicked out of arrays when, and pieced together the which drives were suspect.

The next trick was figuring out which drives belonged to which arrays, since they were allowed to migrate around the enclosure. Here, a lazy user saved our day. His data was uncompressed dumps of Twitter feeds. We painstakingly ran through every raw disk, aligned the data with the RAID stripes, and managed to get the system back into a state where the data from the week prior was mostly intact. So, from a 1.8 PB total loss to only losing the data from the prior few weeks (it took a few weeks to get this working again) plus the unlucky few files that were mangled where the rebuilds stomped the real data.

This is why I now spend a ludicrous amount of time making sure data loss doesn't happen. :)
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 6:19 pm

A long time ago, within the confines of this galaxy, an aspiring computer nerd entered his first year of engineering school. He had not yet acquired the screen handle "ludi," but he had mastered the DOS command line and become reasonably dangerous on Windows 3.1. Now the time had come: he had his first broadband Internet connection, his first desktop computer, and his first copy of Windows 95.

It wasn't just any copy of Windows 95. This was the original upgrade edition on floppy disk, neatly sliced like a loaf of American Cheese. A basic installation of Windows 3.1 from its own six disks, followed by a Windows 95 upgrade on its successive fifteen disks, followed by a couple essential security patches downloaded and archived to their own disks, required more than half a day and doting attention. Some disks even had to be inserted more than once, out of sequence, for reasons only INSTALL.EXE could understand.

Now, one might think such a precious commodity would be defended against all incursions from shifty software and meritless meddling, but this computer was not so lucky. Young ludi was curious and naiive, and he dredged the fledgling bowels of the World Wide Web for all manner of shareware and freeware utilities that might enhance this powerful yet relatively spartan operating system. After all, this was stil the golden age of the Internet, well before every HTTP had aquired an 'S,' and the first fungal rootkit had not yet pushed its cap up from the digital dung. How much danger could be posed by, for example, a system tray program that waits for the PrintScreen button, then courteously offers a basic array of sorting and editing options? Young ludi was about to find out.

Since the OS was subjected to the above and many similar experiments, a 500MB hard drive tended to fill up. Also, Release 1 of Microsoft's hybrid 32-bit OS was not noted for its stability, and even minor changes could provoke major mood swings. Hence, our protagonist was meticulous about removing unused software and cleaning the registry. And one day, he decided the printscreen utility needed to go. So he deleted it. And only then did he notice an entry for the program in the Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs applet, and attempt to uninstall it.

What happened next was never fully revealed by available forensics, but some speculate the uninstall utility, upon finding its assigned target missing, realized it had no further purpose in life and emptied its weapons into the crowded forum of the File Allocation Table. Or, maybe Windows decided to cut itself. In any case, the uninstaller crashed and the system became wildly unstable. Any attempts to continue using it produced an increasingly bizarre spread of "Can't find, Can't locate, Just can't even." But since Windows 95 sometimes had random snits of this sort, presaging Tumblr by more than ten years, the system was given the standard Windows troubleshooting tool: a flick of the power switch.

The absence of the bootup logo screen suggested the illness was not purged. Then the system vomited its lunch with a string of text errors and gibberish, and settled for a command prompt. Huh? "" [Enter]. " File not found."


An attempt to generate various directory listings revealed the scope of the blast radius: more than half of the file location entries on the disk were damaged, some visible with garbled names while others were vaporized so thoroughly that not even corrupted fragments remained. My Documents had not been spared. Many empty coffins would be buried that night.

The rubble was shoveled thoroughly, and a small number of survivors were rescued to floppy disks. Others could not be resuced at all; they were larger than 1.44 MB, and Young ludi had no alternate means of data archival for that machine. Finally, after admitting the remainder was a hopeless case and an obligatory moment of silence, a boot disk was installed, and the power switch cycled again.

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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 10:11 pm

I'll keep it simple. Have an old drive that has a bunch of my old deployment pictures and what not. I later built two new very compact rigs for a deployment to Japan for myself and a buddy. USPS absolutely destroyed the packages and they got there 3 months later. Monitor box had no monitor in it, etc. They were fully insured, and the post office asked me to open the boxes in front of them detailing the damage - which I did. The response I got from the postmaster general there was that they could not refund my money since I filed the claim 30 days after the ship date, even though it took 90 days to get to its location. Many other people received destroyed or empty packages and the post office did nothing. Fortunately I was able to have a working computer between both packages and some local stores.

Well the only apparent damage to the hard drive was that the SATA connector snapped. Years later, I tried replacing the PCB with another from another drive and it didn't work because of course it requires swapping the bios chip or whatever. I tried swapping it myself and ended up burning the new PCB.

Since then I still have the original hard drive, and PCB, but I lost the bios chip and I still don't have my data =(
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Wed Apr 13, 2016 10:39 pm

madmanmarz wrote:
I'll keep it simple. Have an old drive that has a bunch of my old deployment pictures and what not. I later built two new very compact rigs for a deployment to Japan for myself and a buddy. USPS absolutely destroyed the packages and they got there 3 months later. Monitor box had no monitor in it, etc. They were fully insured, and the post office asked me to open the boxes in front of them detailing the damage - which I did. The response I got from the postmaster general there was that they could not refund my money since I filed the claim 30 days after the ship date, even though it took 90 days to get to its location. Many other people received destroyed or empty packages and the post office did nothing. Fortunately I was able to have a working computer between both packages and some local stores.

Well the only apparent damage to the hard drive was that the SATA connector snapped. Years later, I tried replacing the PCB with another from another drive and it didn't work because of course it requires swapping the bios chip or whatever. I tried swapping it myself and ended up burning the new PCB.

Since then I still have the original hard drive, and PCB, but I lost the bios chip and I still don't have my data =(

This is supposed to be about back ups and data loss, not about shipping and USPS ;)
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Thu Apr 14, 2016 4:10 am

I don't need the software, so just for S&G:

When I was in University (2004-ish) I bought a brand new WD 40GB IDE HDD, one of the firsts in the Country (Chile) and I did not want to install WinXP all over again. I knew of a trick that worked fine and I have used it before, so I just went ahead and copied everything over, including the system directories into the new HDD. I used a friend's computer and copied everything in safe mode.

Here comes the stupid part of all this. It would have worked fine if I would have remembered that I had Norton installed (back then it was good :P), so when the computer was booting for the first time (it actually worked, with a sys c: to make it bootable and partitioned in Linux) it gave me a warning message. One of those "there was a change in your partitions detected, want to roll it back?" that you SHOULD NOT HIT "ok" AND CARRY ON. Well, I just did and poof. I lost ALL of my data. Including University projects and all. To this day, I still remember that and actually take the bloody time to read *everything* that is thrown at me in Windows. I had so much (useless in all fairness) stuff that I loved in that HDD that it really hit me hard. Even more since after copying everything I formatted the other HDDs and got them "ready for other stuff".



PS: Shameless copy paste from the Article, since I can't read... Like this story correctly points out :)
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Thu Apr 14, 2016 8:51 am

April 1, 2015 - Moved in new furniture for my then ~6 month child. You can imagine what might have been stored on my drives. This required that I find new locations for the stuff already in its place. This necessitated that I move a bunch of electronics into temporary locations in the basement until I got things straightened out and figured out where their permanent homes would be. Not a big deal in my mind as I was planning to host a LAN party that weekend and we always setup in the basement. I go ahead and setup computers for the LAN party. I reiterate, every last computer I owned (quite a few at the time) was in the basement.

April 3, 2015 - I get a phone call at ~9:00am from my wife. Long story short, the basement has 12cm of standing water and the breaker tripped. Apparently, between the time I left for work and when she called, we had 10cm if rain drop in a span of only 20 minutes, an electrical event tripped the breaker preventing primary sump pump operations for both wells, and the backup pumps were incapable of handling the volume of incoming water and went offline when the batteries shorted. Putting aside the long drawn out and still ongoing drama with the insurance company, every last computer was damaged by the flood :cry: . Even my gaming laptop was oddly and unfortunately located in it's bag on the ground. A buddy of mine grabbed his trumpet an played Taps over the computer graveyard.

From here I go into full recovery mode. I first had to rebuild a machine to do recovery on. I'll thank a good friend of mine who decided that that was an excellent time to upgrade the HDDs on his NAS to 6TB HGST drives and lent them to me prior to installation for recovery purposes. I started with my custom FreeNAS box that was built into a Thermaltake Xaser III full tower chassis. This older style chassis has the PSU in the top rear instead of the bottom rear. While unfortunate in the sense that there was no way the motherboard wasn't going to get soaked, it was fortunate that the PSU was free and clear meaning less electrical damage to downstream components given there was no capacitor explosions like in the other PSUs. Many of my HDDs were fully submerged, though. I removed the circuit and cleaned them with a non-ionizing solution. I noted that some had parts of the PCB peeling up and solder bulbs that had popped. I was able to reflow the solder on some of these, but the PCB peel was a lost cause.

I started the recovery process using DD with one of the submerged drives. It actually went rather smoothly recovering everything that drive had to offer. Unfortunately, the next drive was not so lucky. I started getting block errors almost immediately, but they were sparse, sporadic, and inconsistent. Changing the block size for DD allowed me to recover more of the data, but went painfully slow. I decided to use the larger block size, output error block locations to calculate new start points, and run at these start points a smaller block size through the error region. Then it was a "simple" matter of merging the data into a single cohesive image :o . After some frustration in getting the image merged, I mounted the single drive as a zfs volume and it worked :D . That said, while I recovered most of the data on that volume, I didn't get everything. Unfortunately, the mirror drive was a PCB peeler. Then I had the thought, I can replace the PCB with the PCB from the drive I just recovered from. Just swapping the PCB didn't work as I had hoped, but after a little soldering, I was able to get it into a workable state. Predictably, this volume also had block errors, so I repeated the procedure above. When I mounted the new image back into the ZFS mirror configuration it was originally setup in, ZFS began to automagically cross compare and recover the data. So far 100% success.

Then I went for a volume in which neither drive was submerged. One drive wasn't accessible at all and nothing I did changed that. I found discoloration at the power connector and power circuit solder point that indicated a surge event had taken place. Best guess is the surge suppressor (located on the floor) failed at its job once submerged. Who would have thought it. The other drive had more error blocks than the submerged drives by two orders of magnitude. This is when I dropped DD (for that drive) and found DDRescue. Quite a nice recovery method (see documentation), but burnt my bacon that I wasted my time reinventing a small part of that wheel. Nonetheless, between DDRescue and the ZFS file duplication I had active on that volume (lucky) I recovered all but 16.3Kb of data. Two unimportant log files and a thumbnail IIRC. DDRescue was my new best friend for the rest of the NAS recovery effort. Between that and ZFS I lost a grand total of ... 16.3Kb of data. Given that I had the vast majority of my data back up to the NAS, my less successful efforts recovering NTFS and XFS volumes weren't an issue. I did recover a few things though, so I suppose it was worth the effort.

Now for the fun. I took my recovered volumes out of my new file server and put in volumes with the partially recovered data. I then gave my friend back his drives which I promptly put to use. Then I proclaimed victory to my wife and asked her to take a look at network shares to see my good work. She started browsing around and found some good files, but then started finding corrupted files. I told her I must have gotten the wrong copy. I said I'd call my friend while she checked the rest of it out. I came back a minute later and told her that he had already done a secure wipe of the drives. She was hot :evil: . She then immediately went to the baby pictures which were full of artifacts and cutoff pictures. I decided I'd better own up to the deed before she started crying. When I put the real drives back in, everything was cool 8) .
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:16 am

I have two stories.

First, I was working at a client where the backup software ran into a Y2K issue. This was January of 2000. The system would backup successfully then prune the database of the backup since it saw it as being more than 90 days old. As I was working on this over the course of the week, with the customer, application vendor and others(the build version of the software was correct even though it was on the version everyone agreed it should be on to resolve the issue) yet every day it deleted the record of what got backed up.)

While this was happening one of the HD in the RAID 5 array failed. Replacement was ordered and arrived and I spoke to the HW vendor (as this was a brand I was not super familiar with). Engineering told me to update the firmware on the RAID card. Once that was done and healthy I was to shutdown the server and replace the drive. During the boot up it would ask if I wanted to rebuild the array. I confirmed, it rebuilt and booted into an ASCII screen and could not find the BOOTLOADER.


The array was rebuilt alright with a brand new clean RAID array and volume.

I then spent the next 17 hours doing a parallel install, and scanning tapes for hours trying to recover data. The customer was a little mad at first when I told them they were missing the last two days of data. I told them that 17 hours ago they did not have a company.

It all worked out in the end, but talk about worst possible thing that could happen while in the midst of a backup issue.

Second, I was working at a manufacturing plant where a machine way out on the shop floor kept having issues. It would constantly crash and show disk errors. Which I would dutifully scan and check for bad sectors. This happened about half a dozen times. I would have to recover files and what not to get it working each time. I suggested a new hard drive but the company stated to me that the system was brand new and that I was to fix it. Each time I would scan it, discover more bad sectors, mark them unusable and then state my case yet again, they would blame me and deny the request to repair it.

Then one day I was sitting there watching the disk utility run once again when I watched a Hi-lo drive into the space on the other side of the wall. Make some strange noises for a few minutes then drive out again. I turned to one of the users sitting on my side of the wall what that was all about. He turns to me "Oh they were just swapping out the hi-lo battery". Battery? Turns out all the hi-lo's were electric powered. I got up, walked out the entry and turned into the one on the other side of the wall. There was this huge trunk sized battery humming away as it recharged. 480V charging system with a power cable the size of a fire hose. Right up against the hollow cinder block wall that had the system I was working on directly on the other side from it. I had no proof that this was the case but I went back to everyone involved and HIGHLY suggested they move the system away from that wall due to possible electromagnetic interference. I also stated that I would not certify the health of that system and my work until they did so.

Magnetism and magnetic storage devices do not mix.

Strangely enough the system got moved and I never heard about another complaint from those users during any other visit again.
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Thu Apr 14, 2016 1:42 pm

Well reading through these stories this is likely minor in comparison but...

There have been a few interesting cases where I have had to recover data.


The case of the fire damaged hard drive. I don't know how it got put to the flame but thankfully a new a controller board for that revision of the drive was available and it spun back to life like it never had a half melted controller board on it before. The drive was never used again after I got the data off of it.


Ever piss off your sibling? Not just making them made but infuriated with such vitriol that they, for a few minutes, want you to die? This is how a sister explained to me why her sister formatted her laptop. Granted I thought the sister that had formatted the drive was justified, my client admitted to being caught doing something physical with her sister's boyfriend, but she paid well and recovery software and hours spent sifting through 1.7TB of meta data later she got her files back.
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Thu Apr 14, 2016 2:57 pm

I don't recall the details, but years ago I managed to blow away the partition table of my desktop's hard drive, which had maybe a dozen partitions or so.

I used testdisk on a SystemRescueCD livecd to sufficiently build a partition table to access a Fat32 data partition on which I had earlier saved either a sfdisk dump i.e. sfdisk -d /dev/sda > partitiontablebackup or a MBR/partitiontable backup i.e. dd if=/dev/sda of=mbrbackup.bin bs=512 count=1, I forget which. And I was then able to restore the partition table / MBR from there.

So word to the wise -- yes, make backups, but keep them somewhere safe and independent of the backupee.

[Not in need of the software, but I wanted to share just the same. I like dd and rsnapshot.]
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Thu Apr 14, 2016 4:09 pm

Probably the dumbest thing I did involved using FDISK and force-deleting a partition on a Mac Mini with a homemade Fusion drive (2.5" SSD and 2.5" HDD) in late 2013. Basically, I deleted the last partition on the SSD (which was the flash portion of the OS X drive) instead of the last partition on the HDD (where an older Windows 7 install was, wanted to clean-install Windows 8.1). The way CoreStorage works with Boot Camp is that your CoreStorage volume gets shrunken down to what you choose and Windows can use what's left of the mechanical drive. The hard drive showed up as disk 0 in FDisk and the SSD as disk 1. I had them reversed in my head so I accidentally deleted the SSD.

Macs are incredibly difficult to load an operating system on if they have no optical drive (this was an Ivy Bridge Mac Mini), you have no optical media, and you don't have a flash drive with the operating system already created. The recovery kind of sucked:

* Used my Snow Leopard DVD and the Ivy Bridge Enabler from Tonymacx86 to Hackintosh my i5-3570K system - something I had stopped doing since I got the Mac Mini
* Download Mavericks installer via the Mac App Store and upgrade that system since Snow Leopard didn't recognize my flash drive, guessing due to missing Z77 drivers, but I may have accidentally plugged it into a USB 3.0 port and didn't notice the issue in my panic
* Upgrade that Hackintosh to Mavericks
* Download the Mavericks installer a second time
* Create a USB installer via command line
* Install OS X on the Mac

That was the longest two days of my life. Fortunately, I had just started backing my Mac up with Time Machine and a 2TB Airport Time Capsule. Recovering the actual data wasn't bad at all. Getting the system to a state where it could boot was awful. Ever since then I've kept a relatively updated OS X installer on a USB drive for emergency use.
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Thu Apr 14, 2016 4:44 pm

I get to do the tech support for friends and family. I have a friend that is around 50 years old; nice lady, with a 22 year old daughter. She was complaining that her PC was really slow with lots of pop-ups, the usual, and she could not get into her wedding pictures anymore.

I took it home and plugged it in- and waited. 30 minutes later, when it finally made it to the desktop, we the the message:::

Well, logged into some fourms, and started debugging. Set up the Kapersky CD. 2 days, and 276 trojans later, the PC would at least boot up in under 10 minutes. Still locked.

Next we moved on to Trend Micro remover. Nope
Kapersky Ransomware. Nope.
Talos, nope.
Fox it. Nope

Now day days in, with no progress on the pictures; I did a low tech check- And.....discovered that the pictures file on the PC was 54k. The darn program has not encrypted ANYTHING- it had deleted them all, and just left the names.. (yes, I did check alternate locations to see if stuff had just been moved)

So 5 days, no more wedding pictures. Reformat PC while swearing.
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Thu Apr 14, 2016 5:04 pm

You see, uhm, a friend of mine - you don't know him...uhm, he had this really large porn collection....and know...
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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Fri Apr 15, 2016 1:02 pm

TheMonkeyKing wrote:
You see, uhm, a friend of mine - you don't know him...uhm, he had this really large porn collection....and know...

I wish to see things not as they are but as they should be.

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Re: TR and Macrium's Data Disasters contest entry thread

Sat Apr 16, 2016 8:02 am

This happened in 2011.

I live abroad and had just returned to my home country on vacations after some years. My brother was getting married and I traveled to be with him on this important occasion.

At the time I was alone with my little daughter after experiencing the horrible path of a messy divorce. I was in a shopping mall with my 3 years old and decided to go and look for some nice dresses for her and some of her girlfriends at home. We went inside a store for kids' clothes and there was this super nice lady attending. We were the only customers at that time as it was a slow hour. After some minutes of browsing through dresses I heard her sobbing softly standing at the counter. I came to her and asked if she was ok and she started crying. She told me that something appeared to be wrong with the computer, I could see that she was in a lot of stress. As it was almost time for her lunch break I asked her to take a cup of coffee with me so we could speak more about it, and that maybe I could help her to check the machine afterwards. She told me that her boss was very abusive with her with this kind of things. He always blamed her for the problems with the equipment. She had been working there for some months but needed at least 2 more months to move to a new work she had been already offered in another city. I thought the guy was a jerk for blaming this kind of problems on her but this kind of behavior is not unknown on that city, especially from old business owners that don't understand how things with computers work.

I checked the PC after we came back from lunch and found that the hard disk was making horrible click noises. I opened the case and found that the drive was one of the infamous IBM DeathStar models and was suffering from the click of death. I asked her without too much hope if they had some kind of backup and the answer was that she didn't know. I assumed that there was none and offered to take the hard drive home with me that night and try to get something back from it.

I put the hard drive inside a sealed plastic bag when I came home and put it inside the freezer for an hour as I have seen several hard drives die because of the heat at my home city before. After this I took the drive out, connected it to an available PATA port on my mother's old PC and fired up the power. I was excited to hear the disk's heads spin freely and immediately took a RAW image of the hole disk. I was ready to run one of the programs I used at the time for rescuing lost data but found that nothing had actually got lost, the image contained everything! Some hours after this process the DeathStar was dead again.

The next morning I bought a new disk and restored the image to it. I came back to the store and connected the new disk to the PC and everything worked as expected. She kept the old hard drive and showed it to her boss with a technical report I had written on the case. The guy was impressed that she had solved the problem by herself without contacting him and her last months there were actually ok. I didn't ask for payment for this service but her boss paid me anyway for the hard drive and for my time.

The girl and I kept in touch. Things went quite well between us. Now, 5 years have passed since the rescue mission and we have been happily married for 3 years. If it was not for my knowledge on data rescue I would've never had the chance to remade my life beside this wonderful woman.

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