The Value of Losing Your Hard Drive

September 27, 2005

Oh, the joy of a crashed hard drive! Last Wednesday, I had the honor of receiving a crash of all the information my laptop could hold. It was all unavailable to me as I stared at the blinking cursor of death. Nothing would “boot up”, no matter what names I called it. I was at a very important business conference, and since I did have my Ipaq for typing and referencing, I was not entirely without computer power. The PDA even allowed me to access the Internet and my Contact list, so I wasn’t stuck.

But I knew that the vast array of files I am accustomed to accessing was hidden away from me with a long, arduous process of recovery ahead. Don’t misunderstand me: I had most of my data backed up. I used to be anal retentive about backups in the old DOS 3.3 halcyon days of my geekness. Back then, I saved files on diskettes like they were paper. I had at least two backups of everything, knowing that the one time I needed something, it would be on an unreadable disk. However, in the last few years, all my backups have gone on external hard drives, flash drives and PDA redundancies, so I don’t bother to do it all that often. I certainly don’t back anything up daily (except my money accounts) and some things I don’t even save weekly.

This summer, I am working on a book concerning hearing God’s voice. I have done at least four rewrites of every chapter, and reconfigured the outline at least twice since the beginning of August. The “beginning of August” sticks out in my mind because that was the last time I backed up my documents. Some of you computer purists had a shiver snake through your spine. That was the same reptile that lodged in my throat when I realized how much work I probably lost.

My panic sent me into a renewed effort to save everything on the hard drive as soon as I returned from the conference. My twiddling around with the recovery disc lead me to the discovery that I had a hardware problem…likely bad sectors, likely caused by a read head touchdown (as opposed to a football touchdown)…and therefore this wasn’t a simple solution. The boot sector was toast and I decided to rebuild it with a convenient little utility that Windows offers called “Fixboot”. It reconfigured the “boot sector” for me, but informed me it was not in the same place I expect it to be. That told me a lot. First, it meant that the physical address of my boot sector had been damaged.

For those not familiar with hard drives, I will skip the rest of the medical analysis. What it meant was that I probably wouldn’t find my files. It meant that I could no longer log on as myself, and had to come into it as the nominative “Guest”. No documents would show themselves therefore. There was nothing to recover, even though I knew the files were there. I resigned myself to losing most of 100 hours of writing work at that point. I went to Fry’s Electronics, got a nice, fast, big hard drive for the laptop and went home.

Monday morning, I decided to give the file retrieval one more chance. That is when I stumbled on a savior of a utility program. You will want to get this one. It is called “VirtuaLab” and it found every one of the documents I was looking for. It took about ten minutes to accomplish it. Since it had a 30 day trial I was able to accomplish it all for free.

I went ahead and installed the new hard drive. That is when I began to see the value of losing my data and peace of mind. This new hard drive is larger, has a faster interface and head speed, but it has something else as well: A clean start. My old hard drive was getting cluttered with bad idea programs, useless utility programs and older versions of programs I use all the time. As I reload my core elements, I am also upgrading each one. I find that I am now working more efficiently and cleanly, with less hassles and clutter.

This is very similar to what all of us need occasionally in our relationship with God. At the conference, I listened to a speaker who told about a time recentlywhen he realized he needed to make changes for his mental health. He concluded he needed to spend less time on television, Internet and computer games, and get into meditation and talking with his family. He is now running outside more, laughing more and sitting quietly listening to music more. He did all of this because he went through a series of physical breakdowns, not unlike what happened to my hard drive.

So, if you’re crashing these days, how about going to God and asking him what programs have to go, which files need to be permanently deleted and what needs to be recovered?


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