My daughter and I enjoyed a fine outing to the park and museum Sunday, but when we came home the house was strangely quiet. No music playing in the living room. No music in the kitchen. Xy said it had stopped a couple hours earlier. I checked my computer, whence the music flows, and it was completely unresponsive. I powered down, but when I powered back up, the system didn’t start. The screen displayed a flashing folder icon, something I haven’t seen in many years — since before the advent of OS X, I’m thinking.
My exact words at that moment do not bear repeating.
After trying a couple tricks without success, I hunted down my Snow Leopard system disk and booted from that, then ran Disk First Aid. The hard drive was looking funky. I tried to repair the disk, and it made a few repairs, but after reporting an “invalid node structure” it crapped out and gave up. A second try yielded even quicker results: “invalid B-tree node size.” The program advised me to backup all data and reformat the drive.
A stunned and sickened feeling descended over me as I contemplated the possibility of losing data. That 320 GB hard drive is chock full and has never been fully backed up. I didn’t think it was very important as I tend to put my most important files online in some form or another.
The big exception to that is my music collection. It has taken me years to assemble that, from diverse sources, and there are many tracks that are rare to the point of being literally irreplaceable. I could certainly never recreate that music library from scratch.
And yet, in a strange way, it felt like it could almost be liberating. Curating such a large collection (35K tracks at last count) has consumed a lot of time and attention over the years, especially if you are as anal as I am about meta-data. Occasionally that feels oppressive — as if the collection is managing me rather than the other way around.
Still I was in a state of shock. It occurred to me that I was experiencing the cyber equivalent of either a seizure or a stroke — I wasn’t sure which yet, but I was hoping for a seizure and a quick return to normal.
I called the good old Computer Shoppe, but they are on vacation until next week. The only other option I was aware of was the Apple Store, and I sure didn’t want to go there.
I shelled out a hundred bucks for DiskWarrior. The startup disk is in the mail, but I was able to use my downloaded copy on a laptop to fix my iMac’s hard drive. At first it seemed to work, but the drive continues to have problems, and even when fixed they seem to come back. Must be some bad sectors. I currently can boot up into safe mode only, otherwise I get the “Blue Screen of Death.” And I thought that only happened with Windows. Actually this particular manifestation isn’t even acknowledged by Apple for the Snow Leopard version of OS X. It’s supposed to be a “Gray Screen of Death.” Go figure.
Still, I’m able to boot into safe mode, which is better than nothing. I got a 1TB external hard drive, a LaCie d2 quadra, which arrived with lightning speed from Newegg.com. Yesterday I was able to back up the problem drive using Time Machine. Over the Firewire 800 connection, it only took a couple hours or so to archive 300 GB.
So now I have a little peace of mind. I probably need to reformat the drive now and then restore my data from the backup. The prospect of which makes me only a little nervous.
Update: I did try reformatting the drive but it continued to have trouble. A few days after writing this, it seems to have died the death. The iMac is currently at the Computer Shoppe where I expect they’ll replace the drive unless they find something else amiss. I’d love to replace it myself but after reading up on the subject I decided that’s a little much for me.