Looking for a fix


I’ve got the shakes. I’m shivering and sweating at the same time. I feel hungry but the thought of eating turns my stomach. I’m terribly thirsty and I feel like there isn’t enough water in the world. That’s right — I’m going through podcast withdrawal. The second hard drive on my home computer, the one labeled “Multimedia” that has hundreds of documents and home videos, thousands of digital pictures, and my entire iTunes library on it, simply stopped working the other day. I assumed it was a hard disk failure and attempted to run Spinrite on it, only to find that Spinrite refused to do anything with it because the BIOS thought it was a different size than it actually was. I went into the BIOS setup and sure enough, the BIOS thought that my 250 GB disk was 137 GB. Windows XP, however, seemed to know the right size.

So since the drive died, I have not been able to sync my iPod or download any new podcasts. I might have to (gasp) listen to music on my way to work tomorrow! Oh no, wait — a while ago, I downloaded seven or eight older episodes of Security Now, so I will be able to listen to descriptions of how VPNs work or WEP vs. WPA encryption, or stuff like that. Whew.

Anyway, back to the hard drive. The machine is an old IBM NetVista that we bought for the bargain basement price of $10. Gail’s company was getting rid of a whole bunch of these machines, so we picked one up. Shortly thereafter, our last computer died and we replaced it with this one, and it’s been great ever since. I guess I never checked the BIOS when I installed the new disk, or maybe because Windows could see all 250 GB of it, I didn’t worry about the fact that the BIOS couldn’t. Once I downloaded some more pictures from the camera, the disk went over the 137 GB mark, and then everything went all to hell.

I upgraded the BIOS to the most recent one available on the IBM support web site, which is dated 2003. No change. A former co-worker of Gail’s, who bought one of the NetVista machines at the same time, is currently using his as a NAS, with a terabyte of storage, so he must have figured this out at some point. Gail said he bought a $30 PCI SATA card and that’s it, but my drive is an IDE. (He’s away on business or vacation or something right now so I can’t ask him.) I went to a computer parts place in Burlington called Tiger Direct (wow, is that place ever cool) and asked the guy there, and he said that if the BIOS won’t recognize drives that big, then buying a new IDE controller card will not help, so perhaps Bill replaced the motherboard on his machine before adding the SATA card. He did say that if I bought an external drive enclosure and then attached the drive via USB, that should work regardless of the BIOS, so I did that. The machine recognized that there was a drive there, but described it as “offline”, and simply refused to bring it online.

I’m sure that if I kept the disk in the enclosure and reformatted it, life would be rosy, but then I lose the data on the disk. The majority of it is backed up online thanks to Jungle Disk, but not all of it. For example, my iTunes library is not backed up. I decided not to back that up because it’s re-creatable; my iTunes purchases are backed up to a CD, I can re-download any puretracks.ca purchases, and of course I can re-rip all of my CDs. That only took six weeks the first time around.

Feel free to post any suggestions here in the comments!

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