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What to Do When Your Hard Drive Fails While Blogging or Lawyering

By William Peacock, Esq. on February 08, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

“You see that? His eyes bear into your soul, searching for your innermost secrets. Imagine being cross-examined by that guy. Swag. Pure, unadultera …”

[Audible grind. Black screen.]

“Hard drive not found. Press F5 to run diagnostics.”

It’s every computer-user’s worst nightmare. Midway through your mocking of a lawyer’s awful commercial, or midway through your appellate brief to the Supreme Court, your hard drive fails. To be honest, we’ve only experienced spontaneous system failure once or twice on our lives, but you still need to be prepared. What do you do when your system abruptly dies?

"Back That Thang Up"

No, we're not talking about full system backups. Everyone knows those are a necessity, but you're not going to have time, midway through your billable work day, to manually restore a backup. You need to be working now.

Somewhere in your office, you should have an emergency computer. It doesn't need to be fancy - an old laptop or $200 netbook will suffice - but it does need to function. That way, you can hit the power button and start typing immediately. That won't get your 500 words about lawyer marketing back, but it will allow you to start rewriting now instead of waiting a few hours for Windows to install on a new hard drive.

Also, if you've embraced the cloud, most of your documents are likely stored on your cloud storage drive. That means other than the typing since your last save, it'll all be there for reclaiming. Little to no downtime and lost productivity? That's why we love the cloud.

"Touch it ... Stop ... Format it"

Now that you've finished that brief that will change the hearts and minds of SCOTUS, it's time to troubleshoot. Who knows? You might be lucky enough to have your computer back online in a matter of minutes.

The first thing is to check the connections. Unplug the power to your PC, open the case (may require removing screws) and check the cables between your motherboard and hard drive. Don't touch the motherboard itself, as the static from your hand could fry it. Your hard drive looks like this. The cable looks like this.

If you are uber-lucky, it could just be a loose cable. More likely though is the prospect that your drive has failed. After all, cables don't tend to come loose inside of a closed case.

If that fails, your best bet is to stop and bring it to a repair shop, if it is still under warranty. They'll likely replace the drive, format it, and reinstall Windows. (That's why we back up, ladies and gents.) If it is out of warranty, you might want to consider replacing instead of repairing. After all, if the computer is more than a few years old, it's likely dated, slow, and in need of replacement anyway.

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