Another hard disk crash but we never learn


I have lost count of the number of hard disks I have lost over the years. One would expect after years of repeated mistakes, I am more prepared and the road to recovery should be easy. However, it wasn't. So this is what happend.


I have an year old Acer Aspire X3950, a small form-factor desktop, running Windows 7. A few months back, the first blue screen appeared but Windows 7 restarted without a hitch. Then suddenly, a couple of days back, the system refused to boot. Since most of my important data is backed up on my external 2TB drive, I wasn't too worried. But since my PC came with Windows 7 preinstalled, without any recover disks, my license key was tied with the OEM. There are ways to download a free legit version of Windows 7 and activate it using your OEM key, but it's a bit tricky.

Acer, like most manufacturers these days, keeps the recovery image on a separate hidden partition. You are expected to burn recovery disks on day 1 of purchasing your pc, which I had refused to do, since it took 3 DVDs! Storing disks is a pain. Luckily, I remembered, I had created bootable isos of the recovery disks. I'll share in a separate post, on how to create recovery isos, without actually having to burn them onto DVDs first.

I ordered a new HD on Amazon, this time a 2TB Seegate Barracuda. Hitachi has already failed me couple of time. However, I had never opened this pc case before. Due to its small form factor, removing the HD could be tricky.

The last pain point was reviewing the disk just to make sure everything important was already backed up, before I could switch the hard disk, of anything that was still accessible. A bootable live linux CD would do the trick, which I did not have. My other pc is a MacBook Air, with no optical drive. So burning a disk was out of question.

I'll share details in separate posts but this is what I did.

  1. Created a bootable linux live usb from my MacBook Air of Linux Mint
  2. Booted my desktop to Linux, (which automatically identified all my drives)
    1. Copied important non-backed up data to my external drive
    2. Burnt my recovery isos to actual dvds
  3. Replaced the faulty HD with a new one
  4. Recovered Windows 7 using the recovery disks
  5. Batch Uninstalled all the Acer crapware
  6. Installed the new Cinnamon Linux Mint alongside Windows 7 for the hay days


As you see the process was extremely time consuming. And definitely not something for an average user, which is probably a reason why Macs with Applecare are so popular these days.
On the hindsight, had the drive not crashed, I would have never learnt how to replace parts on my compact desktop. And I would have never tried Linux again, after so many years. A separate post later on my impressions, trying out Linux after such a long time.


Lessons Learnt

1. If you have an OEM version of Windows, which came with your desktop, remember to create a recovery disk

2. Keep a bootable version of linux or windows ready, to take some important backup. Something like UltimateBootCD, could save your day, with it's hard disk and partitioning tools

3. Dissembling your pc, to install a new Hard Disk drive may be tricky, especially if you have a compact small-form factor Desktop. A quick Google of "Acer X3950 Service Guide" gave me a pdf link to the user manual, which showed how to open the case

4. Always back up your important data. You never know when your hard disk could crash