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How often is it necessary to buy a new external hard disk?
Thread poster: Astrid Elke Witte

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:53
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Mar 10, 2008

I know that computers do not last much longer than two years, but it never occurred to me that an external hard disk (to which I back up absolutely everything!) would not last so long, either. I bought it in June 2 years ago. Recently it has not been switching off together with the computer, as it normally does, and yesterday evening it even caused me to get a blue screen! In the meantime, my computer works again, but I am not sure whether I should continue to use it to back up everything now, or whether I ought to get a new one. It is called "Western Digital, My Book". How long is it supposed to last?

Astrid


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Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:53
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
Mine must be a super computer Mar 10, 2008

Who can afford a new computer every 2 years?

My computer (Dell) and my external disk (Seagate) are now 7 years old. I´ve never had a problem, I leave it on 24 hours, turn it off once in a while. I update the OS, the anti-virus, and whatever software updates I need. I run diagnostics every night, and reorganize the disk when needed. The only thing I have done is increase the memory to get it up to the speed I need. It is just now that I am thinking about replacing the computer, but not the external disk. Maybe I am lucky.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:53
Member (2002)
German to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Lucky you! Mar 10, 2008

However, I guess I was hoping that someone with some technical knowledge could tell me whether it automatically has to be replaced after it has once caused a blue screen.....

[Edited at 2008-03-10 12:30]

[Edited at 2008-03-10 12:31]


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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:53
English to Dutch
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To be on the safe side.. Mar 10, 2008

Basically, external hard disks do not behave all that differently from internal ones. The symptoms you mention can be signs of trouble, but you never know.

To be on the safe side, back up your data. Does your PC have an option to run a diagnostic procedure on the external hard disk? If it does not indicate any problems, I think I'd empty the entire disk and just try again.
Perhaps reinstall it, if it came with software you had to install.

There is no such thing as a fixed life expectancy for computer equipment. Western Digital is usually good, but if these data are very important for your business and you have the money, I think it would be safest to replace the disk. That's what I would do, anyway.

In Dutch, there is an expression for a product that is ok in 99.9% of all cases, but just this one isn't. It's called 'A Monday Copy/Item (maandagexemplaar)'. The expression is meant to say that because the factory workers have to get back in rhythm and routine after the weekend, something may slip. This hard disk might be such a 'Monday Item'. Sorry to say...


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Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:53
Member (2003)
French to English
Cultural differences Mar 10, 2008

Margreet Logmans wrote:

In Dutch, there is an expression for a product that is ok in 99.9% of all cases, but just this one isn't. It's called 'A Monday Copy/Item (maandagexemplaar)'. The expression is meant to say that because the factory workers have to get back in rhythm and routine after the weekend, something may slip.


Or what we'd call a "Friday afternoon job" in the UK - when everyone's too busy looking forward to the weekend to care!


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:53
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I think it will be cheaper to get a new one Mar 10, 2008

Thanks for your answer, Margreet. As for money, I guess I have no more or less than the majority of people, but it would mean heavy losses for my business (in terms of the time taken to produce the translations) if I were to lose my carefully built-up termbases, since they have already made the translation process a good deal faster. Not to mention the large, now valuable, TMs of litigation, where the same cases go on year after year...

I'll try testing it anyway, as you suggest, as soon as I get a moment to do so.

Best regards,

Astrid


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Marcelo Silveyra
United States
Local time: 10:53
Member (2007)
German to English
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WD diagnostics tool Mar 10, 2008

Hi Astrid,

Try the following software (Data Lifeguard Tools 11.2 for Windows)

http://support.wdc.com/download/downloadxml.asp#1

It's basically Western Digital's diagnostics tool for their hard drives. I haven't used it before (mainly because I have a Seagate hard disk on my desktop and my laptop and external hard drive are way too new to have any serious issues), but if it runs like most other diagnostics tools, it should be able to tell you if your hard drive is about to bite the dust or not. If the problem is mechanical and urgent, you should get a new hard drive ASAP. If it's not, this might buy you some time until you get a replacement (which you should do, just to be on the safe side).

PS. A blue screen doesn't necessarily mean that you have to replace your hard drive and could in fact be due to a zillion different reasons. The fact that it's not switching off together with your computer, however, might not be a good sign. I would suggest downloading the diagnostics tool and running a check now just to make sure.


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:53
Spanish to English
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Blue screen Mar 10, 2008

Do you mean the so-called "Blue screen of death" in which a PC refuses to do anything until you reboot it? Or is it the blue screen you get at startup as the computer checks the integrity of a potentially corrupt hard drive?

If it's the former, how do you know it's your external drive that's causing it? I agree with Marcelo: run the diagnostics. And back everything up to another drive.

Two years seems a ridiculously short lifespan for any piece of hardware. Businesses tend to replace computers every five to six years, not because of malfunctions but because newer software requires faster processors and more RAM and storage. My 1998 Dell PC works beautifully but it's not robust enough for most current computing purposes. External hard drives should be good for at least five years.

[Edited at 2008-03-10 13:36]


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:53
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
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Backups are VERY important! Mar 10, 2008

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

it would mean heavy losses for my business (in terms of the time taken to produce the translations) if I were to lose my carefully built-up termbases, since they have already made the translation process a good deal faster. Not to mention the large, now valuable, TMs of litigation, where the same cases go on year after year...

Astrid


Just a reminder:
A defect harddisc should in no way mean loss of important data! That's what you do your regular backups for! You do them, don't you?

Kind regards,
Erik


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:53
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Yes, I mean the "Blue screen of death" Mar 10, 2008

Steven Capsuto wrote:

Do you mean the so-called "Blue screen of death" in which a PC refuses to do anything until you reboot it? Or is it the blue screen you get at startup as the computer checks the integrity of a potentially corrupt hard drive?



Dear Steven,

Yes, I do mean the "Blue screen of death". It happened at midnight last night. I switched it off and rebooted it, but nothing happened, I did that three times over and then thought I would have to call in a computer guy this morning.

The situation came about because I had an urgent translation to do that I wanted to start at midnight, after finishing another urgent one shortly before midnight. I wanted to reboot my computer before starting the next one, because then Trados works faster.

I pressed the button to instruct the computer to reboot, and then when it came on again I had the blue screen of death. It is the first time I have ever seen it on a computer of mine. After several times switching the computer on and off, to no avail, I decided I would just have to go to bed and phone the computer guy in the morning. However, then I noticed that my external hard disk was still on, and not only on, but the green button was constantly flashing (like it normally does when backing up something).

I tried to switch it off, but it ignored me and would not switch off. I looked for where it might be plugged in, and then accidentally pulled out the cable from it anyway, before finding where it was plugged in. I pushed the end of the cable back in, and heard something that sounded promising. I switched my computer back on again, and everything was back to normal. I then found a page on the Internet that told me that the blue screen of death came up if a piece of hardware was defective. That piece of hardware appeared to be my - very important - Western digital external hard disk.

Astrid


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:53
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
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How is your external disk connected? Mar 10, 2008

It is hard to see how the failure of an external disk can affect your PC. All the boot information is (or should be) on your internal hard disk. drive C:, not on an external drive.

How is your external disk connected? USB or Firewire?

I have had a similar problem with my external USB drive, because my PC looked there for boot information when switched on. The solution was to unplug the external drive until the PC has loaded.

What happens if you disconnect the external drive?


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Jim Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Hungarian to English
+ ...
More reliable than a hard disk... Mar 10, 2008

... is automatic Internet backup to something like mozy.com. Documents are automatically backed up to online servers at intervals of your choice. One less thing you have to remember, and one less thing for you to buy. It also means you don't have to schlep your backup drive with you on the road, and you can access your files from anywhere with a connection. Furthermore, if (God forbid) your computer equipment should ever be stolen, you won't lose your data.

[Edited at 2008-03-10 14:34]

[Edited at 2008-03-10 15:07]


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
Confidentiality issues Mar 10, 2008

Jim Tucker wrote:
... is automatic Internet backup to something like mozy.com. Documents are automatically backed up to online servers at intervals of your choice.


I figure the fewer companies that have access to my clients' data the better. I back up to an external drive, a laptop computer, and do monthly offsite storage on DVD-RWs.

You may be right about the computer trying to boot from the external drive.

[Edited at 2008-03-10 14:49]


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jmadsen  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:53
My external harddisk died... Mar 10, 2008

...and it was less than two years old, so anything is possible. And yes, I had a trusted professional examine it, and there was nothing he could do to save my data.

I buy new computer equipment every other year but still backup my data on DVDs.

Jørgen


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:53
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Whenever it's necessary Mar 10, 2008

Dear Astrid,

to give an answer to your question: You should buy a new harddisk whenever it is necessary. What I mean is that you should have (at least) two, maybe even set up as RAID (which basically means that they act as one HD, the second one only mirrors the first one). So, when one of them stops working, you still got all your data on the second, and you can replace the broken one. And you don't have to buy a new one only because your harddisk has a certain age and might still work for years without any problems.

Kind regards,
Erik


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