Saturday, February 11, 2006

Losing my mind, and data...

So just a couple of days ago, I was once again reminded why it is a good idea to have a regular backup policy in place when you do all of your research on computers. For anyone who doesn't know, here at Dal you are required to do a preliminary report and oral exam around 18 months after you start your Ph.D. program. That time is fast approaching for me, and I have been working hard on completing my report.

Thursday afternoon, my computer started acting a little bit flaky, in that shortly after starting many programs they would crash for no discernable reason. Given the importance of my report, I decided to quickly send it off to my webserver in case my computer decided to crash. Not 1/2 an hour later, I could not even log in. The computer kept crashing and wanting to run scandisk, which said everything was fine. So, although I could keep working on my report, I could no longer access the data I was basing it on, as I had not done a backup in a very long time.

The next morning, armed with BartPE utility to create a livecd, as well as my copy of partition magic to create some boot disks, I set about trying to find the problem. To make a long story short, about 3 hours later I had narrowed the problem down to one of my 512 MB ram sticks having gone bad. All I can say is, thank goodness I have 2 of them. Once I had it up and running, I decided to back up the most important information to CD. Needless to say, I will definitely try to do backups a little more often than once every 9 months or so.

Endnote: For anyone who is wondering how I found the culprit--
So i tried the boot disks by partition magic, one of the floppies wouldn't work. Then I created windows rescue CD based on my XPhome CD and the BartPE utility, but I couldn't even get that to load. After testing the rescue CD on another computer to make sure that it wasn't at fault, I started thinking of the few problems that could keep a livecd that only loads into RAM from working, and that was of course the RAM chips. So, playing with the two chips (taking one and the other out to find the culprit) finally led me to the problem. I was so relieved to finally see my computer boot up and stay running when I had the bad stick out, it was great. So if your computer starts acting kinda flaky, check your RAM.General_

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