Geotagged at the British Airways Galleries Lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 5 (51.4702,-0.4882)

"Disk Utility Can't Repair This Disk"

"Quis backup ipsos backups?", as the Roman poet Juvenal didn't say but might have if they had had computers in the first century AD.

Like most geeks I pride myself on being able to maintain the computers I use on a daily basis. Just like real men don't eat quiche and real programmers don't use Pascal, real geeks don't call for professional help or technical support.

But then the day comes when one of your hard drives goes crunk, you go through all the tricks of the trade you know, you exhaust searching for possible solutions on the web and you realise that maybe, just maybe, while it's not time to eat quiche or starting coding in pascal, it's probably time to call for some professional help.

Like a lot of people, I've amassed a not inconsiderable amount of digital media over the years, in the form of apps, songs, movies and photos. Most of these live on my laptop and are religiously backed up with SuperDuper! and with Time Machine to external drives, with one of these drives holding the overspill. This aforementioned external drive had given solid, reliable service over the years but had started to act ... quirkily. Fearing a critical mass of bad sectors I decided now was a good time to backup my backups.

Sad Mac

And then it happened. Crunk. The disk died. So I fired up OS X's Disk Utility and verified the disk. It had ... issues. Time to repair the disk. So it chugged and it whirred and the progress bar progressed with glacial slowness until finally, several hours later, I saw the message I dreaded.

Disk Utility can't repair this disk. Back up as many of your files as possible, reformat the disk and restore your backed-up files.

Of course, it was probably my fault. Despite the number of bad sectors and other magnetic media glitches that accumulate over time on a disk drive, the drive itself had still been functioning; probably because I'd never actually tried to read from one of those bad patches recently. But in trying to backup the drive, I was pretty much accessing every sector on the drive with the resulting crunk being pretty inevitable.

So what to do? Most of my photos were already hosted on Flickr. A lot, but by no means all, of my music could theoretically be re-ripped from CD. But my backups of my iPhone and iPad were gone and let's not even begin to talk about the movies. It may only have been under 500 GB's worth of data, which is a drop in the ocean compared to today's multiple terabyte drives, but it was a lot of data to me and it represented a lot of time, effort and memories.

Maybe data recovery was possible? A quick online search for "mac data recovery" had my bank balance wincing in shock. This was going to be expensive, if it was possible at all. Most recovery firms charged to look at the drive and then charged to extract the data from the drive, with pricing being based on the number of files, not the capacity of the drive. Then I found Tierra Data Recovery. Fixed pricing, free analysis of whether the data could be recovered, free courier collection and payment only on successful recovery.

It seemed too good to be true. But a quick phone call, explaining the situation and Tom from Tierra, as he will now be known, calmly laid out my options. So the following day a courier collected my drive and took it to Scotland and a couple of days later I got an email from Tierra with the news that all of my data could be recovered for a little over £300.00, and after shipping a new drive to them, all of my data made its way from Scotland back to London.

Dead Drive

Here in the UK we've become accustomed to being gouged by companies, to expecting poor or no customer service and to be treated like a cash cow. Which makes the speed and quality of the service provided by Tom and Gill at Tierra all the more unexpected and pleasing. I hope I never need the services of a data recovery company again, but if I ever do, Tom from Tierra will be getting my business again without a second thought. If you find yourself in this unenviable position, you should give Tom a call too. Photo Credits: ~inky and Sifter on Flickr.

Gary Gale

I'm Gary ... a Husband, Father, CTO at Kamma, geotechnologist, map geek, coffee addict, Sci-fi fan, UNIX and Mac user