Dead Netbook

My netbook seems to have died – well at least it looks like the hard drive has died. It starts to load windows and gets so far and then just stops and stays on a nice screen with nothing useful except a mouse cursor that moves around.

I thought, oh no – another re-install due to coruption (i’d tried the startup repairs and none of that had worked neither had safe mode that crashed in same place) so a Re-Install. That’ll be easy – I have a ghost image of the netbook.

I ghosted it last time I re-installed and update windows and other software. I removed all the “freebies” you get like trial AV & Office software and installed a free AV (Avast) and Open Office as well as a few other apps. Ghosted it using “Symantec/Norton Ghost” – its an old copy – it booted from 3 floppy disks originally (now bootable usb) but just works.

To restore should have been a simple 20 minute job, it didn’t work. Ghost wouldn’t even load which was odd but I thought, oh well lets chkdsk the drive.

So I did the full “chkdsk c: /r” to check the drive. That took a while, I guess it would have taken forever really as it got to stage 4/5 and froze. It stayed on 0% for over 14 hours at which time I stopped it, rebooted and tried again. It froze again implying major faults on the drive. My inital hint was the hundreds of error lines where it couldn’t read parts of the drive and finding orphan files all over, so yes – a deaded drive.

Backing up

Its really important to backup, and people previously have said that I am paranoid about losing stuff. My routine may be a little over the top sometimes but at times like this it really pays.

My backup routine consists of a daily backup of all documents and work to an external HDD, aswell as uploaded to personal web space over 2 servers located in different parts of the world. Once a month, DVD/Blu-Ray Disks are burned of the backups and stored in a safe in an offsite location (These backups contain all work and sometimes ghost images of the system). My documents are also saved in Dropbox, and anything I want to keep private I password protect (to a point)

Documents and general settings were safe. I don’t use my netbook for anything major – just usually thoughts and web/email stuff. I use IMAP for email so everything is stored on the server and Dropbox for documents which is shared on other PCs. I also copied my pidgin & firefox profiles into my dropbox there by syncing them elsewhere so nothing was lost.

Useful Backup Tools

SyncBack – Useful to auto backup to external drives and online, as well as automatically make archival copies of stuff. I use the SE edition (which is paid for) but the free version works well.

Ghost [Amazon Affiliate link] – Great to make a copy of your system as it is on a set day. If anything goes wrong you can usually have a system up and running in about an hour.

Dropbox – a set of about 2GB of disk space to auto sync documents and work, and share with friends if wanted. Great for collaboration work or just to share an idea.

Web Disk Space

You can get webspace almost everywhere but a lot of them will complain and is against there terms of service for you to use their space as storage for non-web based things or even as an FTP server. I’ve found the following to be good.

Allows loads of space and their servers seem quite fast. I once got one script slightly wrong and it transferred over 200GB of data to their servers – No complaints or comments sent to me. I once ran a PHP script to make thumbnails of all my photos I’d uploaded and it was done quite quickly. I’d ran the same elsewhere and it had taken about an eighth of the time here.
Costs: Around $60 a year or £37 after exchange rates and you get a domain name too (which is helpful and usually around $10/£8)

Great support but not a lot of space. Good as a starter set – Not tried the scripts here. But I’ve been with them since 2003 and in that time there has only been around 4 times of downtime that affected me and none of that in the past few years.
Costs: Between £4 and £8 per month (£48 to £96) also free domain name

I know some of the people that run this company. They spoke about it when we were in college together and soon after they started it up. I’ve been with them since early 2003 and they have been helpful to me whenever I’ve needed it. Occasionally I’ve really messed up DNS Records and they’ve put them to how I’ve needed them and explained what had happened. Which has been a blessing in the learning curve.
Costs: Depends on the account you want. A basic hosting account will cost around £54 a year – I use the reseller account that gives me more space and control and costs near to £24 per month.

If you want a full control area, you could go down the VPS route but they don’t usually come with backups of the space with it. If interested, a good one is:

* Linode – Linux Based where you can put whatever you want on (within their terms of service) and it will just live there. Comes with a good chunk of space for the smallest package. Costs around $20/£13 a month

Next… Replacing the Hard Drive in the Netbook