PLEASE Tell Me You Back Up Regularly – Here’s Why You Can’t Afford Not To

A faint “squeak, squeak, eeerk…. donk” was all I heard, but it was enough to make me break out in sweats with shaky hands and bile rising up in my throat.

Hard Disk’s aren’t supposed to make that sound!

I had no warning whatsoever. My laptop was only 1 year and 2 days old and running like a dream. A reasonably slow dream because I didn’t fork out for the faster processor and more ram, but a good dream all the same.

There I was, innocently watching a movie on Hulu and it all came crashing down. One moment I was engrossed in an exciting action sequence and the next moment I was staring at a blank screen thinking, “Wow, they blew up the whole movie!”

Dead As A Doornail

I tried rebooting – to no avail.

I took the drive out and shook it a little, but that didn’t help.

I tried the old ‘leave it in the freezer overnight’ trick.

No joy.

I hit it with a screwdriver… and then a mojito.

Still nothing.

It was dead. Totally and utterly dead.

Every file, every email, every photo, every home movie, every tax return and every accounts data file were gone.


Well… not completely. There are data recovery specialists who are experts in these situations and after weighing my options, I picked one. Kroll Ontrack. My new best friends.

I Spent a Week in Recovery

Ontrack took care of packaging up my drive and shipping it to their lab where they discovered they had no choice but to dismantle it and physically recover the data from the platters inside.

Unfortunately, either during the brief moments as the disk failed or while I was hitting it with various cocktails, some damage had been done to the platters and so there was some data they couldn’t recover.

Ontrack were wonderful throughout the whole process, keeping me updated as we went along and giving me full details of what they could recover so I could choose whether or not to pay for it. They then sent it back to me on a beautifully packaged external hard drive with idiot proof instructions.

I lost a LOT though. Over a year’s worth of accounts data and customer correspondence have gone, as have hundreds of photo’s, sermon notes, letters and other files.

And the cost?….


Yes, you read that right.

Over Fifteen Hundred Dollars.

It Could Never Happen To Me

I always thought it couldn’t happen to me. I took regular backups (onto another partition on the same drive), my laptop was fairly new (just two day out of warranty, surprise, surprise) and I know the warning signs to look out for. After all, I’ve been a computer engineer for nearly 20 years now.

Unfortuanately, my computer didn’t know that it couldn’t happen to me… and so it did.

Now, many people reading this will have nothing on their computers that they can’t afford to lose… but many, many more would be in the same boat as me. Can’t really afford to fix it but REALLY can’t afford not to!

Wherever you have data, whether it’s on your home computer or your business machine. Whether it’s online on your blog or ‘safely’ stored on thumb drives… PLEASE back it up regularly.

It could happen to you today.

Don’t be like me.

Be smart!

I am a blogger, author, stay at home dad, speaker, web hosting trainer and geek (I was so excited to get an iPad that I actually made up a song and dance about it). I am English by birth, but currently live in California with my wife and our three children. I ran a web hosting business for nine years and found that many, if not most of my clients had never learned how to use any of the functions associated with hosting so I wrote a book to try and teach just those skills. I must admit to having fallen in love with WordPress (possibly a little TOO much) and I honestly find it hard to understand why anyone would use anything different to build a site! WordPress is wonderful! My passion is to help others achieve their goals with their websites/blogs. I believe that, with a little help, anyone can have an awesome site.

12 thoughts on “PLEASE Tell Me You Back Up Regularly – Here’s Why You Can’t Afford Not To”

  1. Dude. That sucks. HOWEVER, thank God in Heaven that you got the data back! I recently had a similar situation, but my Windows partition had disappeared… which meant I couldn’t boot my computer up anymore. Sheesh. Luckily for me, I had spare HDDs with Windows on it that I could use to access the now-hidden files. :/

    Glad to hear everything worked out… even if at a super-costly price.

    1. Yeah… super-costly is the word!

      I’m so thankful to God that I got the Church accounts back and my personal accounts because I would have been lost without them!

      The stuff I didn’t get back is annoying but incidental.

      I’m going to write next week or some time about how to back up. 🙂

  2. Thanks for that sobering reminder. I purchased an external HD to back up all my space eating files like music and photos.

    I saw you were from Hanford. I was born in Visalia and grew up in Dinuba. Been living in Nashville for the past 16 years. My latest blog is about being a CA transplant. Stop on by.

    1. External HD’s are wonderful… if you remember to use them.

      I’m about to purchase one which will sit on my network and automatically back up my files 🙂

      It’s the only way forward for me!

    1. I have a backup hard drive too… and I kept telling myself I needed to back up and then never getting around to doing it.

      When I checked, it had been over a year since I had actually backed anything up!


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  4. I’m not smart. My hard drive also crashed and we lost everything. I didn’t want to even think about sending it off for data extraction. Everyone said it would cost anywhere from $200-$1700 depending on the severity of the damage. That’s too big of a gamble for me. The most precious thing we lost was the pictures of our kids. A lot of them were on facebook and on my parents computer so we got some back. But most of them are lost forever. Someone told me to try to put it in the freezer overnight and see if it would work in the morning. Apparently there is a myth that if you get the hard drive really cold it fakes itself into thinking all it’s internal parts are working. Sounded bogus and then I prooved it to be bogus.

    1. I wish I could have done that but I had data on my hard drive which was irreplaceable both for my Church and my business. 🙁

      The freezer trick does actually work for some hard drive failures. It all depends on what the reason for failure is.

      I know some large businesses whose IT department has a freezer just for that eventuality.

      Freaky but true!

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