How long does a hard drive last?

spinrite review

If you’re asking how long does a hard drive last, I found this study on hard drive longevity last week.

I take issue with the opening paragraph but the rest of the article is very good. The opening paragraph is a bit deceptive—hard drives were anything but common 30 years ago. Even 25 years ago, they were a serious status symbol. I remember in 1988, a classmate told me his dad had just bought a computer with a hard drive, and swore me to secrecy. Why? Because in today’s dollars, a computer with a hard drive in 1988 cost around $2,000, minimum, and given that his dad was working towards his master’s degree at the time, he probably had a really hard time affording that. If you had a hard drive even in the late 1980s, you were either very rich, or you took your computing very seriously and were willing to make some serious sacrifices somewhere else.

But, like I said, the rest of the article is very good. I’m being a curmudgeon.

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Happy birthday, IBM PC!

The IBM PC 5150 turns 30 today.

IBM didn’t invent the personal computer, but if your computer has an Intel or AMD CPU in it, it’s the direct descendant of the beige box IBM unleashed on the world on August 12, 1981. Without a huge amount of effort, it’s even possible to run most of that old software on your shiny new PC. You probably wouldn’t want to, except out of curiosity, but you can do it.

I wasn’t one of the people who rushed out and got one. At the time, I was still watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. I had my first experience with a computer–a Radio Shack TRS-80–in 1982, and the first computer my family bought was a Commodore 64 in 1984. Even in 1984, there were still plenty of people who questioned why anyone needed a computer in their home. My introduction to the IBM PC and PC-DOS didn’t happen until 1987.

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How to clean an MBR and recover drive partitions

Sometimes it’s necessary to recover drive partitions because you accidentally repartitioned a drive you didn’t mean to, or because your MBR got infected or otherwise trashed. Here’s how to recover them, for free.

Infecting MBRs with malware is popular with virus writers again. And I fully expect chaos to ensue, because that’s what happened the last time there was more than one virus floating around that infected MBRs. They quit doing it for a good reason.

So here’s how to clean up the mess when an MBR gets infected, or when multiple infections blitzes the MBR and the hard drive loses the ability to boot, just displaying a message like Missing Operating System or Operating System Not Found.

We’ll be using the Gparted Live CD. Many Linux live CDs have the proper tools, but GParted works well and it’s a small download. You can try to use another Linux live CD, and it will work fine, but the icons might not all be where I say they are.

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New life for a Compaq Presario S5140WM

I’m fixing up my mother in law’s Compaq Presario S5140WM. She bought it about five years ago, a few weeks after her daughter and I started dating. It’s been a pretty good computer for her, but lately it’s been showing signs it might be overheating.

I took the shotgun approach, replacing pretty much everything that I would expect to be at or near the end of its life at five years.

Rediscovering OS/2

So I picked up a surplus computer from work this week. Honestly, I bought it more because it was cheap than because I needed it. But it was a giveaway price for a good-quality system. Micron’s Client Pro line (its business-class line) is as well-built a PC as I’ve ever seen. The machine didn’t come as advertised, but it was still a good price for what I got: a 266 MHz Pentium II, 64 MB of RAM, a 4-gig Maxtor hard drive, a Lite-On CD-ROM drive of unspecified speed (it seems to be at least 24X), an Intel 10/100 PCI NIC, Nvidia Riva-based AGP video, an ISA Sound Blaster, and an ISA US Robotics 56K faxmodem.

Quieting a noisy PC

Just as PCs seem to (or sometimes really do) get slower as they age, PCs also tend to get louder as they age. Considering many of them are plenty loud when new, that’s not good.