Learning a Hard Lesson – Catastrophic Hard Drive Failure

Happy Friday, everyone!

How was your week? Mine started off like this:

“Let me show you this hilarious clip I saw on facebook,” I said to my 19yo daughter. I brought over my Lenovo Thinkpad laptop and lifted the lid. The normal Lenovo sign in red popped up on the normal black background. We waited. And waited. I did a hard shut off and closed the lid, waited a few seconds and reopened. With the same results. Crap.

My hubby wasn’t home, so I started texting him with lots of panicky exclamation points. But he is very IT savvy, so I didn’t completely freak out.

When he got home, he took the back off and removed the battery and replaced it, read all the complaints online and tried every trick mentioned. Yet only the red Lenovo letters on black would appear. They are forever etched into my memory, those stark letters of my non-responsive laptop.

Tearfully, I made an appointment with the Geek Squad at Best Buy for the next day, and hubby took off work to take us, me cradling my 13-month old computer (the warranty expired at 12 months).

Fast forward 30 minutes after arriving, and I’m crouched on the floor, trying not to cry or throw up as the Geek says there’s nothing he can do without sending it off for 3 months for data retrieval. The Hard Drive failed, as in died. With no warning and no trauma.

Hubby helped me to the truck and drove us to Undead Electronics for a second opinion. The computer doc there was optimistic, but after working on it for two days, trying every trick and download he knew, he called the time of death. My sweet laptop was dead, the hard drive completely fried. <clears throat and takes a deep breath>.

“Heather, don’t you back up your work?”

Yes, but not enough. I have jump drives where I periodically save the latest copy of the books on which I’m working and the final versions. There are other old files on it, but most of my new work, blog posts, the marketing graphics I created, FB party scripts, etc are not something I usually back up. I know! I know! Yes, I should have backed it all up!

Big sigh… So, today we started rebuilding my new non-Lenovo laptop (goodbye $1000 for a new Dell). I’ve lost so much in time and data files. I’ve lost the week of work I’d already typed on my new book, this week of rebuilding the basics and then another week to re-write the chapters that went up in cyber smoke. I’ve lost the Word versions of the last four books I wrote and my mailing list for sending readers post cards. I will spend hours re-downloading the marketing material I created on Canva and pictures from my phone that I took over the last 13 months. My files (which we salvaged from an old Dell computer I used to have) are in shambles and out of date. It will take hours to organize, and each hole I see will turn the knife in my gut.

I’ve learned a VERY hard lesson, and hope my little walk through technology Hell this week will encourage you to make certain that your files (ALL of them) are being backed up on a regular basis, not just when you remember (like me). My hubby is now looking for an automated system, which will backup my entire computer on a daily basis. We are still trying to figure out the best/least expensive way to do that.

There are cloud subscriptions, google docs, large jump drives, and external hard drives.

This is where I need to learn from all of you. If you use a back up system (and YOU ALL SHOULD), please tell us what you use and if you find it easy. Are you happy with it? Has it saved you the mental turmoil that I’m currently enduring? Is it expensive?

Let’s get the conversation going here today, so that our fellow authors don’t find themselves crying on the floor at Best Buy.

27 responses to “Learning a Hard Lesson – Catastrophic Hard Drive Failure”

  1. Cynthia Huscroft says:

    Oh my, Heather! I feel your pain but on a much smaller scale. Lesson learned here when I lost a 10 page paper I was working on & tweaking for an entire semester.

    As for me, I, too, save to a jump drive, email myself (to two separate accounts) various documents and pictures that I deem to be “Things I Need” and also use Google docs. I do back up & make a recovery disk but not nearly often enough.

    Thanks for the warning & good luck with recovering all the data!

    • Heather McCollum says:

      Oh gosh, Cynthia! That does sound painful. Even 10 pages – if you’ve been tweaking it, making it perfect, and then to lose it… It’s the time and energy put into it, not the length.
      Yes, back up often. And remember to back up pictures. I forgot to back up my pictures for the last 13 months. Luckily some are on my phone still.

  2. Feeling queasy on your behalf right now. I am so sorry.

    The story I’m currently querying, this years GH entry? Yeah, lost it in May.
    My Mac spazzed and didn’t save it to the thumb drive at the end of a writing sprint.
    Hmm, irritating, but not the end of the world. That was just a day’s work. Except, when I opened the thumb drive the next day, the file was there, but empty. Ditto the file saved on my Mac, because hey, not a total slacker. I saved it to two mediums, right?

    Had I been smart and uploaded a copy to the cloud or emailed one to myself, also something I knew to do? Nope. Not since February, 200 pages earlier.

    I tried every online trick I could find. Called and begged every IT/tech savvy friend, and our department guy. No luck.
    I swore. I cried. I was ready to chuck every craft book and dream in the trash, because it seemed so devastating.

    Ultimately, I found a recovery specialist. By some stroke of cosmic grace, he also wrote poetry and actually *understood* my angst, giving me a steep discount. It took over a month, only recovered 70% of the ms, and was still $$$ (every penny of which he earned).

    Lesson learned. A monthly/yearly subscription to an automatic backup service costs, but not as much as recovery or rewriting.

    • Heather McCollum says:

      Oh gosh, Janet! So sorry! Do you use a subscription? We are thinking about Carbonite.

      So glad you got 70% back, but 30% lost still hurts so very much!

      • IDrive, Acronis, and Carbonite, in that order, were the recovery guy’s recommendations. I went with IDrive, because it covers an unlimited number of devices instead of just one, and sometimes I switch between laptops and iPads, or even notes on my phone.

        • Heather McCollum says:

          Thanks so much, Janet! I will pass these recommendations on to my hubby, who is shopping around for me.

    • Cynthia Huscroft says:

      Feeling your pain, too, Janet. I remember when this happened & when much of it was finally recovered!!

  3. Diana Layne says:

    Been right there with ya, sister. Mine, too, was only 13 months old, an HP, and I had backup, something Darynda had recommended, IDR what it was right now. No, I didn’t use it again because I lost everything I’d had on WriteWay Pro, which I didn’t know I had to back up each individual file on that. Fortunately, I’d emailed myself copies of my WIPs too. But it was a PITA. I DID have the extended warranty from Best Buy so the Geek Squad took my broken computer and fixed it and it lasted 5 more years, this time giving me warning before it died so I made sure to have everything backed up. Ok, we’re writers, we get busy and forget! Major hugs!

    • Heather McCollum says:

      Thanks for sharing, Diana! Darynda posted too so I see what she uses.
      I’m so sorry you lost data too! It really is a kick in the gut. Sounds like you have things backed up well though.

  4. Oh my word, that is terrifying, Heather! I’m so sorry! And I’m officially adding a second back-up harddrive to my shopping list becuase you can NEVER be too careful.

    So sorry for all your lost time. That is a hard lesson.

  5. Tamara Hogan says:

    Heather, my heart dropped to my stomach when I read about your computer problems on Facebook last week. I haven’t had a HD flat-out die on me, but I HAVE been temporarily unable to access my hard drive due to a) a dead fan, and b) a bad video card. My backups were a couple of weeks out of date, of course, which caused not a small amount of panic!

    I use a thumb drive to back up manuscripts (every day), and an external drive for compiled books, graphics, other documents, email, and audio files (my iTunes library is officially out of control) on about a weekly basis. I don’t use cloud storage. I live in a rural area, and internet access isn’t always reliable. Also, I’m old-school. I want local control of my files.

    I’m so sorry you have to do so much re-work. 🙁

    • Heather McCollum says:

      Thanks, Tamara. It’s been rough.
      Yeah – I don’t like the idea of my work out there in the cloud, but I don’t know if that’s just because I wasn’t raised with that type of technology (ie. I’m getting old!). I want something that back ups nightly though, so I’m considering it. My hubby will have to figure out which is the best for us. I’m so technology knowledge-deficient.

  6. Darynda Jones says:

    Oh goodness, Heather! I have so been there. My laptop was stolen and I only lost 19k words of my ms at that time, but that almost killed me. It was on a book that was already late. I almost gave up. Threw in the towel right then and there.

    But, like you, it was a valuable lesson learned. I now have ALL of my work in Dropbox and my computer automatically backs up to Mozy, so I’m double covered. I love Dropbox because I can work on my stuff anywhere on anything.

    Some people think, “No! All your work is out there! It could get hacked into!”

    You know what? Lose 19k words in the blink of an eye then tell me what’s more worrisome: someone seeing your work or turning your book in so late they almost had to push the release date. Because that ALWAYS wins you Brownie points with your editor.

    I feel for you, babe. Big hugs.

    • Heather McCollum says:

      Darynda! 19,000 words! I would die! I’m so sorry! Thank you for sharing what you do. I’ll definitely look into them.

      And thank you for sharing your tragedy. If you could still keep going after losing 19K words and your laptop, I can definitely suck it up and keep plodding ahead.

  7. Heather, I’m so sorry. My laptop, two laptops, ago, did the same and I was sick. I use thumb drives to backup, plus external HD, plus I email books and other things to myself to two different providers.

    (((HUGS))) dear. I hope you can retrieve some of what you lost.

    • Heather McCollum says:

      Thanks, Autumn! I’m hoping to find something that backs up automatically because I know I won’t remember to do it. Sounds like you’ve done a fantastic job backing yours up!

  8. Heather, I’m so sorry to hear this. My hard drive crashed several years ago. Now I use Carbonite (although I’ve never had to “use” them yet) and I email my wip daily to another provider. Good luck.

  9. Addison Fox says:

    Oh Heather – HUGE (((hugs))) here. I am so so sorry this happened.


  10. Elise Hayes says:

    Oh, Heather, that’s terrible!! Big hugs and good luck with the long (and bitter) road to getting things re-organized and re-created.

    My own adventures in losing material was much less traumatic, but still scarring enough that I put hubby in charge of backing up our data.

    I only lost a single file–a long, long time ago when I was finishing my dissertation. At the time, I was saving my work under a new file name every day, just in case. When I went in one morning to get the previous day’s file, it was empty. Just…empty. It had held 10 hours of work from the preceding day. I was on deadline to finish the diss, working 10 hours days, 7 days per week, and only had about two weeks left before it was due. If I didn’t get it in in time, I would lose the part-time teaching job I’d lined up at Georgetown University.

    Losing the 10 hours of work was crushing, so much so that I lost a day to the emotions of it, plus a day to recreate the lost 10 hours of work. It almost killed me–and that was just one file!!

    So hubby has used a variety of systems over the years to back things up for us automatically. Currently, it’s a cloud account…I’d have to check with him on which one. I’ll try to remember to ask him which system he’s got us on, so that I can add it to what people have shared thus far!

    • Heather McCollum says:

      Oh Elise! I’m so sorry! My stomach turned just reading your account. I’m very lucky that my deadline is months out so I can make up the 3 weeks I’ve lost on the book. The rest(marketing materials, pictures, scripts and blog posts) will have to be made up as I go along.
      Thanks so much for sharing! And I agree – I would be completely scarred from that.

  11. Elise Hayes says:

    Hubby says we currently use IDrive!

  12. Paula Huffman says:

    Oh, Heather! I hate that for you! I once lost a weekend’s worth of work when a laptop failed, but so far, that’s been my worst. Like many others, I email my file to myself every time I close it at the end of the day, and sometimes twice a day. I also save to Dropbox daily. I use a thumb drive, but those can fail and can get viruses just like your computer, as can external hard drives. We’ve had one of those fail, and did loose family pictures. I’m getting ready to buy a new, more compact laptop and then I’m going to get a subscription service. So sorry for your heartbreak!

    • Heather McCollum says:

      Thanks, Paula : ) Sounds like you are doing great things for back up! I’m sorry about the family pictures. That will be the hardest for me to find. Hopefully I can get some from FB and Twitter and my phone.
      Thanks for sharing your strategies!

  13. Alma-Marie says:

    This happened to me recently on my MAC and Apple came up with the bright idea to wipe it clean and we reload everything, well of course I lost most of my writing even after they checked to make sure my books were there, before preceding. Because that’s how fate works! After countless calls I’m at peace and rebuilding and backing up with Dropbox, Google Docs, and external hard drive. A Jump Drive has been suggested too. I’ll pick up one.

  14. Heather McCollum says:

    Last night my hubby downloaded Carbonite for me. It spent all night backing up EVERYTHING on my computer: e-mails, pictures, files, videos…
    I can even access everything from Carbonite on my phone now (I checked to make sure). It’s supposed to back up anything new every night. I’m going to check tomorrow to make sure : )


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