Here we go again with hard drive troubles. That happens every so often when dealing with computers. With external hard drives it seems to happen more often than with internal ones. I bought the one that failed on me this week back in 2010. Four years is about how long all of my external hard drives last. And this one didn’t give me any warning. Usually they start acting twitchy and don’t mount properly every time I boot up before they go bad. That’s when I buy a new one and get the info off the old one. This time the drive started clicking and beeping and only mounted one more time before dying for good. I didn’t have time to get anything off it but it was a backup drive so it didn’t have anything important on it. Unless my main hard drive died of course. And my other back up.

I didn’t immediately order a replacement for this drive as I usually do. I wanted to try and test it first. I’ve read that often when external hard drives go bad it’s not always the drive that breaks but the stuff in the case that holds it. Circuit board, power supply, or whatever. When I test a drive I do it in one of my tower’s four hard drive bays. That is a bit of a pain. I have to power down, pull a drive out of a bay, put the drive to be tested into the bay, and restart the computer to see if the drive shows up. So this time I decided to buy a hot swappable hard drive case ($25). I plug it into the computer via USB and then just pop a hard drive into the case. No screws or plastic tabs to worry about as in a regular hard drive case. And no powering down and removing one of my regular drives.

Since the new hard drive case is USB 3.0 I decided to buy a USB 3.0 PCI card to put in my computer (another $25). My tower is old (from 2008) and only has USB 2.0 in it so I figured I may as well. After I put the USB 3.0 card in the computer I powered back up and tested the broken hard drive in the new hot swappable case after I cracked the drive out of its old case. The drive was broken for sure. I then pulled a couple of old hard drives out of the garage to crack them out of their cases and test them too. At 320 and 500 gigs they are smaller than the drives I use nowadays but I wanted to test and see if they worked. Turns out they did. I put the 500 gig drive in the case of my newer broken hard drive and it boots up fine now.

My computer had been running slower than usual all this summer. I think it was because my main hard drive was getting full. It’s a 2TB drive which seems like it should be enough but I have a lot of my image files on that one. I had up to 1.6TB worth of stuff on it. It must have taken five minutes to start up each morning. And often I’d see the spinning beach ball of the computer accessing the hard drive as I was doing my usual work. So I decided it would be that 2TB hard drive, my main one, that I’d replace. I wouldn’t buy another external drive but an internal one. So I ordered and got a 3TB internal drive.

Replacing my main hard drive is always a bit of a chore. But it’s made easier by cloning software. Some people like to make a fresh install of their computer’s OS when they get a new drive but I don’t. That would mean installing a lot of programs as well and finding all their activation codes or whatnot. No thanks. I prefer to clone. I find that easier and have never found an advantage to starting all my software over again. With the cloning software you tell it what drive you want a copy of and what drive you want to copy onto. Simple.

By the way, remember that USB 3.0 PCI card I installed? A friend has since told me that I won’t get USB 3.0 speeds with it since my computer is too old for the bus on the motherboard to handle those speeds. Before I knew that I tested the speed of the 3.0 drive by copying a large file onto it and it seemed to copy a lot faster than with USB 2.0. Maybe it was my imagination or maybe it really did copy faster but when I cloned the 2TB drive onto the 3TB drive it sure didn’t go very fast.

When I did this years ago (with the 320GB drive) I put the new drive in one of the internal bays rather than use USB 2.0 but I got the hot swappable drive and USB 3.0 to avoid that inconvenience. Sure 1.6TB is a lot bigger than 300GB but the whole cloning process took a lot longer than I anticipated. I started it about noon and it went on for twenty four hours. I don’t think I was getting USB 3.0 speed. It also slowed down my whole machine as it copied in the background. I opened up Activity Monitor to see if the cloning program was using a lot of my computer’s power but it wasn’t. It was obviously using up a lot of something Activity Monitor doesn’t measure though.

I may have taken a while but eventually it was finished and so I powered down and swapped out the old drive for the new one. It booted up remarkably fast. It now takes about a minute to start up. Much better. I had to tweak a couple of setting of things that didn’t like to be copied but overall it went remarkably smoothly. I like when that happens. I’m waiting a week or two before erasing and reformatting my old main hard drive though in case something goes wrong. I can’t see anything too bad with a new hard drive happening but when do you ever see it coming?.

Along with the new main hard drive and the maybe not quite as advertised USB 3.0 card I put a new video card in my machine a few weeks ago. I want to get a new machine some time next year or so but until then there is still a lot of life left in this old machine. Now if only my monitor would stop acting up.