I recently recovered from a computer meltdown. It started with one of those enigmatic error screens that could mean a hundred different things. After trying a few options, I conceded defeat and visited my local PC repair shop. I was convinced it was just a faulty connection somewhere, but the diagnosis came back: failed hard drive. Again.

Having already spent quite a bit of money to replace the hard drive and retrieve my data only a year before, this time I decided to fix it myself. And yes, I also resolved to back up more regularly so that I wouldn't have to deal with the data retrieval issue again in future.

It had been a while since I fossicked in the innards of a PC, but it was a lot like riding a bike and I picked it up again fairly quickly. I purchased an external hard drive enclosure, inserted my failed hard drive, and attempted to retrieve the data via my netbook. No luck. It caused Windows to freeze completely. Reluctantly, I sought professional help once more, but the same thing happened to them and they said they couldn't help. They did, however, give me a brochure for a data recovery firm that could retrieve my data. For $600-$700. Minimum.

Computer Repair

Righto. My resolve was strengthened. I Googled for alternatives, and hit upon a possible solution. Using an external DVD-RW drive with my netbook, I burnt an Ubuntu boot disk for my very first foray into Linux territory! And it worked like a charm :) By reinstalling my old hard drive in the PC and booting up with Ubuntu, I was able to retrieve 99.9% of my files and transfer them to an external hard drive. I was over the moon!

Now I just had to buy a new hard drive, reinstall Windows, transfer my data across, and reinstall my software. There were a few more hiccups along the way (mostly involving Microsoft), but I think I've bored you enough by now. Suffice it to say, I got there in the end with the help of Google and my trusty screwdriver. I even installed an extra DVD drive while I was at it :)

It was great to get back on the bike again and solve technical issues under my own steam. It's easy to convince yourself that it's all too complicated, but it's really not - and there's so much help and support available online, with instructional videos and step-by-step walkthroughs. I felt such a sense of achievement when I'd finally got everything sorted out (and saved a lot of money).

Oh, and I liked Ubuntu :) My netbook still runs on Windows XP, which is no longer going to be supported from April 2014, so my next project will be to switch the netbook to entirely open source OS and software. I'm looking forward to it!

Photo credit to Thomas Hawk.